German political environment changing? Maybe not … What should we think about this development in Finland?
Germany has had many long-standing chancellors after World War II. Konrad Adenauer, Helmut Kohl and Angela Merkel have been very good examples of a long-term domination of one single politician in German politics. This has been a very common story in Germany after World War II. Angela Merkel became also to some degree Europe’s political leader.
Status quo of the dominating politician and party, currently chancellor Angela Merkel and CDU (Christlich Demokratische Union Deutschlands), has been traditionally strongly supported by germans in parliamentary elections. If citizens have not been satisfied with the politics of the chancellor, demonstrations of dissatisfaction have been shown in regional elections. Chancellor Merkel has during her long career been in this situation few times. Is the situation during the coming autumn’s parliamentary election different than earlier during her career? Maybe not? When it comes to the national election (Bundestagswahl) Germans tend to vote for the current chancelors. A least two hypothesis could be mentionend as reasons for that behaviour. a) Germany is not a tradiotional democracy. It was very long reigned by Kaisers or kings. b) Cultural research has shown (e.g. by Geert Hofstede) that Germany is one of the countries with a very high degree of so called uncertainty avoidance. Germans try to avoid risks wherever possible, one example besides poilitcs is their fear of taking loans if it is not used for buying real estate.
There are a couple issues which might indicate that the situation might be slightly different now. There is a new party, AfD (Alternative fur Deutschland) which was able to get representatives in almost all regional parliaments. AfD looks for an alternative route for Germany. Getting rid of euro is one of their main goals. They are also against current liberal immigration policy. Also the Bavarian counterpart of CDU, CSU (Christlich-Soziale Union in Bayern) has had similar type of criticism towards Chancellor Merkel’s immigration policy. Is this a reflection of a strengthening negative attitude towards immigration in German society? Maybe there can be seen a fracture in the consensus towards a more deepening integration of Europe? Are we going towards more fragmented Europe where national interests dominate politics also in the area of economy? Nationalism has been increasing globally already to the extent where we have to be worried about potential obstacles set for the trade globally. For Finland this would be devastating.
CDU is still biggest party in Germany about four months before the election. AfD has become an established force in German politics. If they gain more power politically they would have more influence on politics also at national level. If there would be more negative attitude shown through parliamentary election towards liberal immigration policy, this could be visible most likely throughout Europe. Would Germany follow the path of president Trump’s USA in trading policy? Most likely not for several reasons: a) Germany is the third largest exporter globally. German national economy depends on liberal trade globally and any restrictions set for the trade would be harmful for German economy. b) Recent trends in Germany have shown that after the Brexit and the election of Donald Trump the European idea gained popularity again, because the value and benefits of a unified continent became clearer for German citizens. It was also shown in Netherlands’ latest election, where the right wing party of Geert Wilders was less successful than expected. Under the name ”Pulse for Europe” In Germany also a series of pro European demsonstrations has been established, where regular citizens participate to promote pro European attitudes and values. c) Also the support for the AfD, seems to erode as they failed in recent regional elections (Saarland). In Nordrhein-Westfalen regional election AfD became the fourth largest party. Also inner-party conflicts about their political direction, in terms of how far to the right they should go have influenced the party image negatively.
But nevertheless the recent political turmoil towards nationalism in Europe is a kind of reminder in Germany for chancellor Merkel that everyone does not agree with the politics of the current government? After September election we know if Angela Merkel will be elected again as a chancellor and whether she can get close to Helmut Kohl’s 16-year term as chancellor. This would definitely strengthen status quo in German politics and Germany’s continuity in current political path which has been chosen by the current government
Ville-Pekka Mäkeläinen, Principal lecturer, Seinäjoki University of Applied Sciences
Thomas Lauer, Prof. Dr., Aschaffenburg University of Applied Sciences
Ville-Pekka Mäkeläinen is a principal lecturer of Seinäjoki University of Applied Sciences. He is a visiting professor at Hochschule Aschaffenburg and Hochschule Flensburg. Thomas Lauer is a professor of Aschaffenburg University of Applied Sciences. He is a visiting professor of Seinäjoki University of Applied Sciences.