Merkel Won the Election, but the German Opposition Got a Majority in Parliament

A blog about business and economics.
Sept. 23 2013 9:47 AM

Despite Merkel's Triumph, the Opposition Now Control German's Parliament

181663090
German Chancellor Angela Merkel arrives for a press conference on Sept. 23, 2013.

Photo by Alexander Hassenstein/Getty Images

Germany held its election yesterday (see Germany election preview/explainer), and the results are a little bit curious. Incumbent Chancellor Angela Merkel triumphed at the polls, leading her Christian Democratic Union to one of its best results ever and absolutely crushing the opposition Social Democratic Party. And yet, where yesterday Merkel had a working majority in the lower house of parliament, now the combined left-wing opposition has the bulk of the seats. 

The reason is that Merkel's coalition partners, the Free Democratic Party, slipped precipitously in popularity and fell just below the 5 percent threshold needed for representation. The new euroskeptical right-wing party, Alliance for Germany, also came close to 5 percent but fell just short. By contrast on the left side of the aisle, all three parties—the SPD, the Greens, and the Left Party—are over the threshold and represented in parliament. So even though most people voted for one of the three right-wing parties and even though Merkel won a huge result for herself and her party, the CDU is just shy of a majority.

Advertisement

That means coalition time. And it could be a difficult negotiation.  

The main reason is that Merkel is so close to a majority. Her party is about two seats short of what it would have needed to govern alone. That means she's not particularly going to be in the mood to make big concessions to the SPD to put them in a grand coalition. At the same time, there's enormous skepticism inside the SPD about the merits of a grand coalition. And even though the CDU has never governed in coalition with the Greens, the electoral math for a black-green coalition works fine, and CDU leaders will probably want to explore it a little if only to increase their leverage. The SPD and the Greens also combine to hold a majority in Germany's senate, which isn't as powerful a body in the German system as in the United States but still gives them quite a bit of influence. Long story short, Merkel dominates German politics, but her practical ability to make any dramatic shifts in policy is rather limited. 

Matthew Yglesias is the executive editor of Vox and author of The Rent Is Too Damn High.

TODAY IN SLATE

Politics

Talking White

Black people’s disdain for “proper English” and academic achievement is a myth.

The Secret Service’s Big Problems Were Reported Last Year. Nobody Cared.

Tattoo Parlors Have Become a Great Investment

Natasha Lyonne Is Coming to the Live Culture Gabfest. Are You?

A Jaw-Dropping Political Ad Aimed at Young Women, Apparently

The XX Factor
Oct. 1 2014 4:05 PM Today in GOP Outreach to Women: You Broads Like Wedding Dresses, Right?
Crime

Operation Backbone

How White Boy Rick, a legendary Detroit cocaine dealer, helped the FBI uncover brazen police corruption.

Music

How Even an Old Hipster Can Age Gracefully

On their new albums, Leonard Cohen, Robert Plant, and Loudon Wainwright III show three ways.

Hong Kong’s Protesters Are Ridiculously Polite. That’s What Scares Beijing So Much.

This Gargantuan Wind Farm in Wyoming Would Be the Hoover Dam of the 21st Century

Moneybox
Oct. 1 2014 8:34 AM This Gargantuan Wind Farm in Wyoming Would Be the Hoover Dam of the 21st Century To undertake a massively ambitious energy project, you don’t need the government anymore.
  News & Politics
Politics
Oct. 2 2014 11:01 AM It Wasn’t a Secret A 2013 inspector general report detailed all of the Secret Service’s problems. Nobody cared.
  Business
Business Insider
Oct. 2 2014 11:16 AM Some McDonald's Monopoly Properties Matter More
  Life
The Vault
Oct. 2 2014 11:07 AM Mapping 1890 Manhattan's Crazy-Quilt of Immigrant Neighborhoods
  Double X
Doublex
Oct. 2 2014 11:34 AM Alabama’s Insane New Abortion Law Putting teenage girls on trial may finally be too much for the Supreme Court.
  Slate Plus
Behind the Scenes
Oct. 1 2014 3:24 PM Revelry (and Business) at Mohonk Photos and highlights from Slate’s annual retreat.
  Arts
Brow Beat
Oct. 2 2014 11:35 AM Flying Lotus and Kendrick Lamar’s New Video Is Somehow Both Creepy and Joyful
  Technology
Future Tense
Oct. 2 2014 11:41 AM Dropbox Recruiting Video Features Puppets and Data Privacy
  Health & Science
Medical Examiner
Oct. 2 2014 9:49 AM In Medicine We Trust Should we worry that so many of the doctors treating Ebola in Africa are missionaries?
  Sports
Sports Nut
Oct. 1 2014 5:19 PM Bunt-a-Palooza! How bad was the Kansas City Royals’ bunt-all-the-time strategy in the American League wild-card game?