To analyse

From left to right, Olaf Scholz, Minister of Finance and Social Democratic Vice-Chancellor, SPD candidate, Annalena Baerbock leader and candidate of the Greens and Armin Laschet, CDU candidate during a televised debate in Berlin, the September 12, 2021.

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The suspense maintained in recent weeks for the German federal elections after Angela Merkel has not completely died down with the first estimates coming out of the polls. While Germany counted its last ballots, Sunday evening, the Social Democrats (SPD) of Olaf Scholz slightly ahead of the conservatives (alliance CDU-CSU) of Armin Laschet. The two candidates each claimed to be in a position to form a government. This election is nonetheless much more painful for Angela Merkel’s Christian Democrats, on departure, than for the SPD.

Did a fate similar to the French Socialist Party await their German cousins? This was to be feared after the 20.7% in the 2017 election, when Martin Schulz led the campaign. Its 25.8 to 26% of Sunday (estimates of the chains ARD and ZDF at midnight), the best score of the party since 2005, are a form of rebirth for the SPD. All the more so since it has reached the essential: to arrive just in front of the conservatives (CDU-CSU). “This is a victory for the SPD, based on the defeat of others, believes Paul Maurice, researcher at the Study Committee on Franco-German Relations (Cerfa) at Ifri. He has shown that he was not totally buried. ”

The SPD owes this return to the foreground to its leader, Olaf Scholz. The Minister of Finance, current vice-chancellor, campaigned without fail. Taking advantage of the missteps of his opponents, he capitalized on his image as a good manager, calm and measured. And he managed to convince centrist voters that he was Angela Merkel’s natural heir. He has also benefited from the unwavering support of the left wing of the majority party, even as he defends positions considered far too liberal by part of his base. These dissensions could reappear during the negotiations of the weeks and months to come to form a new government, of which Olaf Scholz hopes to take the head.

This September 26, 2021 will remain a trauma for the conservatives (CDU-CSU). Never have they scored so low in a federal election: between 24.1 and 24.2% (estimates), against 32.9% in 2017 and 41.6% in 2013. “The losses are bitter” a recognized the Secretary General, Paul Ziemiak, from the announcement of the first polls out of the polls. However, their candidate, Armin Laschet, clung to the idea that they could still “form a government under (their) direction”. A scenario that cannot be ruled out if the SPD does not manage to come to an agreement with the Greens and the Liberals of the FDP to form a coalition.

The head of the North Rhine-Westphalia and Christian Democrats (CDU) region nevertheless bears a heavy responsibility in this debacle. He has multiplied the blunders since he took over the representative of the Bavarian Brotherhood Party (CSU), the popular Markus Söder, to lead the campaign. He was notably seen laughing during an official visit to one of the areas affected by deadly floods in July. He also paid for Angela Merkel’s lack of support. The outgoing chancellor only got involved in the days leading up to the poll. “Despite the difficulties of his candidate, the conservatives have shown a certain capacity for resilience, points out Paul Maurice. We gave them 20% a few days ago and they finally did more.”

With between 14.3 and 14.4% of the votes, the “Grünen” do much better than in the last election (8.9% in 2017). This makes them a partner of choice for the winning party, as part of a three-party coalition. However, the glass is also half empty. They are far, finally, from the 28% of voting intentions they counted in April. They paid for the failures of their candidate for chancellery, Annalena Baerbock, accused of plagiarism in her book, of having forgotten to declare a bonus to the tax authorities and of having embellished her CV. The Greens, during the summer, also failed to take advantage of the flood disaster in the west of the country in July, which experts link to global warming.

They had refused to participate in the last government, considering that their demands were not taken seriously enough. The Liberals are doing a little better than in 2017: 11.5% rather than 10.7%. With the Greens, they become privileged partners for the next coalition. “Especially since they appealed to the ecologists to come to an agreement together before discussing with other parties, a way of making themselves essential together,” notes Paul Maurice. Their leader, Christian Lindner, knows that he can no longer afford to be choosy, as in 2017. But he has two key requirements for the negotiations to come: the post of Minister of Finance and the absence of a hike. taxes, defended, precisely, by the SPD and the Greens.

As the night set in, Die Linke did not know if he would exceed the 5% mark and be able to keep a few deputies in the Bundestag. Such an outcome would exclude a left coalition with the SPD and the Greens, agitated like a red rag during the campaign by the conservatives. These elections confirm the decline of the anti-capitalist party at the federal level (11.9% of the vote in 2009, 9.2% in 2017). In the east, on his land, while his electorate is aging, young people prefer the extreme right. Above all, in a prosperous Germany, its image is still too associated with the Socialist Party of the former GDR.

With its anti-immigrant program, the AfD made a sensational entry into the Bundestag in 2017, obtaining 12.6% of the vote. Four years later, the far-right party is down slightly, to 10.5%, after a campaign in which migrants, this time around, have not been a subject. Faithful to the cordon sanitaire, the other formations kept it away from the debates. However, it came out on top in the regions of Thuringia and Saxony. The AfD, founded by anti-euro economists, is also paying for its extremist turn. In these federal elections, he defended an outright exit from the European Union, driven to more radicalism by his increasingly influential identity wing.