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An uncertain future for the Merkel government

Herbsttreffen der Medienfrauen 2017 Ines Pohl
Ines Pohl
May 26, 2019

In Germany, at least, Europe-friendly parties are the winners of the EU vote. However, the SPD's defeat is so devastating that it puts Angela Merkel’s ruling coalition in danger, writes DW’s Editor-in-Chief, Ines Pohl.

Andrea Nahles and Angela Merkel
Image: picture-alliance/dpa/Bildfunkk/B. v. Jutrczenka

The fear was that anti-European right-wing populists would triumph in the European elections. In Germany, Austria and the Netherlands, at least, this hasn't happened.

That's the positive outcome of this election weekend.

The polarization between nationalists and pro-Europeans obviously motivated people to go out and vote, with many countries reporting a higher than usual turnout. Also, significantly more people under 30 voted this year than in the previous elections — further evidence that people are interested in the subject of Europe and in the question of how we want to live together. In this age bracket, the clear winners are the Greens, who were able to unequivocally claim the key issue of the future — climate protection — for themselves.

Disaster for German Social Democrats

For Germany's Social Democrats, however, this Sunday has been an absolute disaster. The oldest German democratic party fell to under 16% at European level. And that's not all: Local elections were also held on Sunday in Bremen, a federal state that the Social Democrats have governed for 73 years. No longer, though — the election was won by a CDU candidate for the very first time.

This double setback will not be without its consequences. It's evidence that the party is on its last legs, and that total reorientation is the only way it stands any chance of having a future.

Read more: EU election results ramp up pressure on Merkel's coalition

Early election possible

There will be arguments in Brussels over the coming days about which party gets to fill which of the leading posts. In Germany, the discussions will be more fundamental. The main question is likely to be: How much longer does this governing coalition intend to go on tormenting both itself and the country as a whole? 

Following this weekend, it's entirely possible that, after 14 years, the Merkel era will actually be brought to an end by her SPD coalition partner — and that there will be an early election later this year. It would be an election with many, many open questions, and only one certainty: Angela Merkel is not going to stand again.

Infografik HOCHRECHNUNG 19.28 EU Wahl 2019 - Deutschland ENG
Herbsttreffen der Medienfrauen 2017 Ines Pohl
Ines Pohl Bureau head of DW's Washington Studio@inespohl
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