Global Independent Analytics
Lionel Baland
Lionel Baland

Location: Belgium

Specialization: Euroscepticism, Patriotic parties of Europe

Under migrants’ pressure, German politics becomes less governable

If mass migration did not have an impact on the German political system until now, with the arrival of many migrants in the last months, a new picture emerges

The patriotic AfD (Alternative für Deutschland -Alternative for Germany) is growing as are other opposition parties, and some are reaching the 5 % election threshold  needed to win at the national or regional level.

After WWII, the political system in Germany was orientated around three parties: the Social-Democrats of SPD, the Conservative Christian-Democrats of CDU and the small center liberal FDP. (In Bavaria, one of the 16 states of the country, the CDU is not active: the strong Conservative Christian-Social CSU, a brother party of the CDU, is the main party with around one-half of the votes.) The FDP was the needle that tipped the balance between SPD and CDU/CSU. Between 1969 and 1982, the five successive governments of Germany were composed of SPD and FDP. Helmut Kohl of the CDU managed to attract FPD away from SPD and between 1982 and 1998 the CDU/CSU/FDP governments took power.

In the 1980s, the Green Party started to emerge in West Germany and began to win seats in the parliament beginning in 1983. The Greens took part in two SPD governments between 1998 and 2005 with SPD's Gerhard Schröder leading. Less than one year after the fall of the Wall and the Iron Curtain at the end of 1989, Germany reunified in October 1990. The Socialist Unity Party of Germany (PDS), the main political party of the Communist system, became in 1990 the Party of Democratic Socialism (PDS) and in 2007, merged with the Labour and Social Justice – The Electoral Alternative (Arbeit und soziale Gerechtigkeit – Die Wahlalternative, WASG), The Left (die Linke). This party is strong in the Eastern part of the country and weak in the Western part but got some good results there too.

The AfD (Alternative for Germany) was founded at the beginning of 2013 and got in the same year 4.7% of the vote in the national elections, falling short of the 5% electoral threshold. But in the 2014 European election, the AfD got 7.1% of the vote and 7 MEPs. In 2014 and 2015, the AfD entered five German state parliaments.

There is a now a situation where we have a system where there are a lot of parties competing for  seats at the national or regional level: CDU/CDU, SPD, FDP, Green Party, die Linke and AfD.

Until some months ago, at the national level or in the 16 Regional Parliaments in Germany, not every one of these parties got the 5 % needed to enter parliament. (The FDP got 4.8 % at the 2013 national elections and is no longer in the Bundestag.) But with the new deal, the CDU is losing popularity in the opinion polls. The opposition parties are growing and these parties are at more than 5% at the national opinion polls. At the regional level opinion polls, the CDU in 15 states, the CSU in Bavaria, the SPD, the Green party, the AfD in all the states, and die Linke in 13 of the 16 states -  are at 5 % or more. The FDP is in 9 states at 5 % or more.

This situation, where there are multiple parties in the different assemblies, will lead to complications: the CDU will have to work with the SPD in a kind of center coalition and this alliance is favorable for the other opposition parties; or three or more parties will have to go together but will have difficulties agreeing on a common cause. This also leads to high divergences between the policies of the different 16 states: for example, in Thuringia, the die Linke-SPD-Green Party are in government and are in favor of immigration, but in Bavaria, the ruling CSU is in favor of  limiting migration.

This phenomenon of divergences exists in different countries. More and more people are rejecting the main parties but don’t agree on where to go next and there is a multiplication of parties sitting in the assemblies. This situation makes the political system less and less governable.

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