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International media on German election results

September 27, 2021

Expectations of lengthy coalition talks and a crucial role for two smaller parties, as well as nostalgia for Angela Merkel — the international media is following the German election closely.

front page of newspaper, The World
The German vote played a role in Indian newspapers, tooImage: Aamir Ansari/DW

"Germany votes to replace Merkel and gets... more Merkel," writes the UK's Daily Mail, adding that Angela Merkel "could stay on as German leader until the end of the year after the country's election ended in deadlock yesterday."

Many international newspapers see Germany facing long coalition negotiations. "It is unclear who will be the next chancellor. All indications are that it will take weeks or even months before the future governing coalition is in place," the liberal Danish newspaper Politiken comments. "But regardless of that, one thing is clear after Sunday's historic election: by far the biggest task of the next government is to take Germany much further into the climate fight than it has been so far," according to the paper. "That is crucial not only for Germany, but for the entire EU."

Predicting lengthy negotiations

The negotiators face a "difficult task" with regard to "capricious" voters, warns the Belgian daily De Tijd. The "best sign of security for Europe" would be quickly agreeing on a coalition government, — no matter its makeup — the paper continues. "There is no guarantee of the stability we seek, however, as in Germany, too, consensus seems to have been lost," the Belgian paper writes, concluding that "that is not good news, neither for Germany, nor for the rest of Europe."

 Olaf Scholz | Angela Merkel | Armin Laschet
Angela Merkel and the two competitors for the chancellorship, Olaf Scholz (l) and Armin Laschet

Austria's Kleine Zeitung takes a close look at the respective negotiating positions of the four main parties. "With his victory, Scholz now has momentum on his side," the paper argues. "But whether he will ever reach the chancellor's office is by no means certain because the vote was not really clear." The paper blames Armin Laschet, "who was as hapless as he was clumsy," for the conservative parties' worst showing since 1945, adding it would be best for the Christian Democrats that were "ideologically gutted by Merkel" to renew the party by not entering in a government coalition at all. The paper laments that Laschet still has his eyes on the chancellorship. "Ultimately, it will come down to who makes the best offer to the Greens, who stumbled over their own over-confident stance, and the FDP," the paper writes, predicting that "Germany faces months of tough negotiations." The country is on the brink of change, the paper concludes, but it is uncertain whether urgently needed change will really go ahead.

Wistful memories of Merkel

Several papers took the opportunity to honor outgoing Chancellor Angela Merkel — or "the Queen of Europe," as The Independent calls her. During the Trump era, the western world turned to her as a leader and proponent of liberal democratic values, and the old international order based on rules, NATO, and the UN," the British paper writes."She was a kind of antidote to Trump: an unpretentious beacon of the highest hopes of humanity, a bulwark against the wave of populism, and proof that the extremists and haters need not win."

Angela Merkel and Donald Trump seated at a Nato meeting, flags in background
Unlike Donald Trump, Angela Merkel decided not to seek re-electionImage: picture-alliance/dpa/M. Kappeler

"Merkel's steady, cool-headed, and incremental approach has had plenty of critics," the New Zealand Herald reminds readers, only to point out that "to many people the stability she provided was needed in generally unstable times." Merkel, the paper writes, "has blazed a trail, one steady step at a time. The world will be wondering how well Germany can fill those shoes."

Here come the junior partners

India Today, too, expects lengthy coalition talks "before a new government takes office, likely involving the Greens and the liberal Free Democrats (FDP)" in the wake of the tight race "which saw the CDU/CSU slump to a post-war low for a federal election."

Hong Kong's South China Morning Post also expects the two smaller parties — the left-wing Greens and the pro-business Free Democratic Party (FDP) — will play a crucial role in forming a coalition government. "Of all the major parties, these two advocate the toughest line on China," the paper writes, commenting that both parties want to see a "realignment of policy away from a pure economic rationale towards a more human-rights-led approach. They advocate a tougher line on alleged rights abuses in Xinjiang and the crackdown on the pro-democracy camp in Hong Kong."

 Annalena Baerbock and Christian Lindner
Annalena Baerbock (Greens) and Christian Lindner (Free Democrats) — their parties look to be crucial to form the next German government

In Spain, El Pais comments that Germany faces "a new party landscape." The era of parties that received 30 or 35% of the vote and could afford to govern with a single partner is over, the paper argues., adding the election has created the "unusual situation in which two parties hover at 25% and three others hover at between 10 and 15%." The paper comments that if one ignores the far-right AfD, which no one wants to get involved with, two "not-so-small parties are crucial to forming the next government." The Greens and the FDP liberals hold the key in deciding whether the next chancellor will be Olaf Scholz or Armin Laschet, the Spanish daily writes.

The right-wing liberal Neue Zürcher Zeitung from Switzerland is content that the Left party is unlikely to play a role in the formation of a government. A coalition involving the Social Democrats, the Greens and the Left party like the one that has "run Berlin into the ground for the past five years" will not be transferred to a national level "despite all the dreams of a shift to the left by the majority of the members of the three parties." According to the early projections — these lines were written a few hours after the polls closed — "such a worst-case coalition would be several seats short in the national parliament," the Swiss paper rejoices.

'Boring, but good" 

Finally Sme, a liberal paper from Slovakia, comments that no matter who is ultimately involved in the government, "common sense will play the main role in politics." People may debate where Germany is headed after 16 years of Merkel's chancellorship, the paper writes, "we may like that idea more or like it less, but the result will always be that Germany will manage and be a stable, constructive part of the European Union." Does that sound boring?, the paper wonders. "Possibly yes, but that is what a functioning democracy like Germany should look like, in a way that it isn't even threatened by key elections.

"That," the paper concludes, "may be boring — but it's good."

This article has been translated from German.