Bavarian Election Results Could Shake Merkel’s Coalition

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Germany is no longer a refuge from the storm of voter dissatisfaction sweeping across Europe. Sunday’s regional elections in Bavaria have proven that beyond the shadow of a doubt. Yesterday, the Christian Social Union (CSU) received 36.8% of the vote, and lost its absolute majority in the Bavarian state parliament. In the last elections, held in 2013, the CSU received roughly 46% of the vote. Yesterday’s results mark the worst performance for the party since 1950. CSU’s decades-long domination of Bavarian politics is apparently over. Bavarian voters  rejected the party and moved their support to the left and right. The Green Party captured 17% giving them second place. The right wing anti-immigration party AfD won 10.3% of the vote, giving them a visible presence in Bavaria, an area hard hit by the migrant crisis. AfD’s position is particularly remarkable given that the party did not even participate in Bavaria’s last regional election.

Sunday’s election results will have an adverse effect for Angela Merkel’s ‘grand coalition’ and German national politics as well. The civil, but tense relations, and policy disagreements between the member parties are already coming to light less than a day after the election. The German Social Democrats (SPD) is viewing the results as a wake-up call amid fresh concerns about the survivability of the coalition’s alliance at the national level. SPD’s head has all but called for the resignation of Horst Seehofer, CSU’s leader. The party wants the way the coalition works to be improved and believes the best way to achieve that goal is through personnel changes. SPD also suffered major losses on Sunday with its support in Bavaria cut in half.

Looking at the big picture, Merkel’s coalition has been dealt a massive blow. Her allies have been greatly humbled and their power sapped. SPD’s role in the coalition is up in the air right now, and if the coming regional elections in Hesse go badly for the party, as well as for CSU, it could bring the coalition crashing down. With it will come Angela Merkel’s chancellorship, and her long-running position as the leader of Europe’s most powerful nation-state.

 

Saturday 30 June, 2018 Update: EU Migration Deal Saves Merkel….For Now

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The European Union’s 28 national leaders hammered out an eleventh hour deal on migration after twelve hours of talks. The deal,  though somewhat vague, appears to be enough to appease German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s rivals and keep her fragile coalition government in power for the time being.

The deal proposes screening potential asylum-seekers for their eligibility before they reach EU soil. Middle Eastern and North African nations that agree to set up screening centers will be granted EU financial aid to cover the costs. EU Leaders also agreed to toughen internal checks to prevent asylum-seekers from freely choosing an EU nation to apply for asylum. 3 Billion euros will also be paid to Turkey as part of the 2016 compensation deal with the Turkish government to pay for Ankara’s efforts at keeping migrants away from Europe.

The EU deal is less than perfect, though it does promote more stringent future efforts on the part of the union to contend with irregular migration from the Middle East and North Africa. Many questions remain unanswered, such as the timetable for implementation. How quickly the terms of the deal can be become reality will influence Merkel’s own political fortunes.

For now, German Interior Minister Horst Seehofer and his allies appear to be satisfied with the EU deal, and what it will do to help correct Germany’s asylum policy woes. If there are any delays, or disruptions in implementing the deal, however, Merkel could pay a steep price. Seehofer still has to sell the deal to his party, the Christian Social Union. CSU will face a heavy challenge from the far-right AfD (Alternative for Germany) party in the coming October state election in Bavaria. If the party deems this deal to be ‘too little, too late’ Seehofer himself might be replaced as party head. The rumor mill in Berlin points to Bavarian State Premier Markus Söder as the next chairman if Seehofer falters.

If that scenario becomes reality, the CSU could bring Merkel’s brittle coalition government crashing down.