Germany Swings to the Center-Right

German Chancellor Angela Merkel cruised to victory in federal elections on Sunday with enough votes to form a new center-right government with her preferred partner, the pro-business Free Democrats (FDP).

Merkel’s conservative Christian Democratic Union (CDU) and its sister party, the Bavarian Christian Social Union (CSU), won nearly 34 percent of the votes, according to preliminary returns. At the same time, the classical liberal FDP won nearly 15 percent of the votes, the party’s best showing ever.

With a combined total of around 49 percent, the CDU/CSU and the FDP won a stable majority in Germany’s multiparty system. This will give Merkel the green light to ditch the awkward four-year-old “grand coalition” between the CDU/CSU and her party’s main rival, the center-left Social Democratic Party (SPD), and replace it with a center-right CDU/CSU-FDP coalition.

In fact, the SPD was by far the biggest loser on Sunday, winning only 23.5 percent of the votes, its worst performance since World War II. The result will cast the SPD into the opposition for the first time in 11 years. It will now work to rebuild itself and probably choose new leaders.

During the campaign, Merkel repeatedly stressed that she wanted to govern with the business-friendly FDP, which has been out of power since 1998, in order to cut taxes in a bid to further revitalize a German economy that has been hit hard by the global recession.

In the weeks leading up to the election, the SPD had registered a slight but significant uptick in its poll numbers, due in large measure to the exploitation of fears among German voters that the tax cuts promised by a CDU/CSU-FDP coalition would ultimately lead to a cut in social welfare benefits.

The SPD also tried, unsuccessfully, to boost its poll numbers by exploiting voter unease about the war in Afghanistan. In recent weeks, party leader and Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier (as well as Germany’s sycophantic left-wing news media) had repeatedly raised the issue of Afghanistan, at one point going so far as to present a plan for completely withdrawing German troops from the country.

Moreover, and in stark contrast to Spain in March 2004, German voters were not intimidated by Islamist terrorists. Just one week before the election, al-Qaeda threatened the German electorate by demanding an end to Germany’s military mission in Afghanistan.