Angela Merkel won a fourth term as chancellor in Germany’s elections on Sunday, in a closely watched election in the wake of last’s years Brexit vote and the election of Donald Trump in the US.
At the same time, the far-right party won a presence in the German parliament for the first time in about half a century.
Merkel will now face the task of assembling a coalition government with groups that will likely be reluctant to work with her. Merkel’s conservatives won 32.5 percent of the vote, affording them the largest representation in parliament. Notably though, this number was down from 41.5 percent in 2013. Meanwhile, support for their closest rivals, the Social Democrats (SPD), dropped to 20 percent, the lowest number yet in the post-war era, while the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) party entered third with a stunning 13.5 percent of the vote.
The SPD’s leader, Manuela Schwesig, said her party planned to go into opposition, instead of continuing the current alliance with Merkel’s party.
As Europe’s longest serving current leader, Merkel now stands with Helmut Kohl, who reunified Germany and served as Merkel’s mentor, and Konrad Adenauer, who led Germany after the Second World War, as the only chancellors to serve four terms.
Another option for Merkel would be three-way coalition with the liberal Free Democrats (FDP) and the Greens. Never seen before on a national level, this coalition has been called the “Jamaica” option because the party colors are green, gold, and black, as in the national flag of Jamaica. The Greens and the FDP have publicly minimized the likelihood of this outcome, but both parties have been out of government for years, and could jump at the opportunity.
In any case, Merkel will face four years of governing with a divided parliament, with the resurgence of the FDP and the new ground gained by the Afd. The AfD was started in 2013 by anti-euro academics, but has shifted to an anti-immigration platform in the wake of Merkel’s choice to keep German borders open for refugees, in 2015. Their entry into parliament could spark a more divisive era in German national politics, after many decades of consensus based decision making.
Merkel considered not running for re-election after the AfD did well against her conservative party in regional elections last year. But with the controversy surrounding the refugee crisis contained, Merkel campaigned vigorously as a stable choice for Germany in chaotic times.