• 30 Sep - 06 Oct, 2017
  • Shahed Sadullah
  • London Eye

As I write this, the results of the German elections are just coming in and the news is somewhat daunting as there has been a more than expected rise in the fortunes of the far-right Alternative for Deutschland (AfD) party.

Germany is the economic powerhouse of Europe and what happens there affects not just Europe, but the rest of the world. Over the last year and a bit, the German coalition government of Angela Merkel’s centre-right Christian Democratic Union (CDU) along with its sister party the Christian Social Union (CSU), together with the centre-left Social Democrats or SPD, had allowed over a million refugees from North Africa to enter Germany. It was a hugely bold step for which no amount of praise can be enough for Mrs Merkel, but the German electorate was not happy with that. As the results came in – albeit based only on exit polls – it was clear that this was payback time.

Top candidate of AfD Alexander Gauland (L) and Alice Weidel celebrate during an election night event in Berlin during the general election on September 24, 2017.

Mrs Merkel’s CDU/CSU were expected to get around 36 or 37 per cent of the vote but the exit polls have them struggling at 32 or 33 per cent. The Social Democrats have had their worst result since the war, and have come out with just 20 or 21 per cent of the vote. By far the biggest gainers have been the AfD which was expected to get around 10 per cent of the vote but appear to have come out with 13 to 14 per cent.

Germany has a very complex political system. Their parliament or Bundestag consists of 631 seats out of which 299 are directly elected on a first-past-the-post system and the rest through a system of proportionate representation. Thus on the basis of the exit polls, Mrs Merkel’s CDU/CSU can expect to get around 219 seats, down from 255, while the Social Democrats or SDP may get around 135 seats, down from 193. The real winners, the AfD, would get around 87 to 89 seats while they had none in the previous Parliament.

The rise of the AfD is bad news for Germany’s Muslims and the spillover would be bad news for Muslims all over Europe. This is a party which has openly said that Muslims have no place in Germany and that they are antithetical to German culture. All the other German parties have refused to work with them in the Bundestag which could mean that they would be the largest party in the opposition. Perhaps fearing that role would be misused by the AfD to further its poisonous brand of politics, the SDP has announced that it will, in all probability, not sit in coalition with the government and that it will be in the opposition which would make the SDP leader Martin Schulz the leader of the opposition and reduce the AfD to noise makers.

But it would make Mrs Merkel’s job of getting together a coalition rather more difficult, although certainly not impossible. The Greens and the Free Democratic Party have got around nine to 10 per cent votes which some of the minor parties could give Mrs Merkel a working majority but it would be a slim one and she would have to make many concessions. One of them would almost certainly be a harder line on immigration.

While Mrs Merkel’s CDU is defined as a centre-right party, as is the Tory party here in the UK, there is a huge amount of difference between them. The British Tory party has nothing ‘centre’ about it and the way it is going about the Brexit negotiations shows it. Mrs Merkel, who was one of the more sympathetic politicians towards the UK on the Brexit issue, may now find it difficult to be quite as sympathetic and that would be bad news for the UK. In fact, if one were to look for good news on Brexit, one would really be looking for little bits of scrap and would be lucky to find even that. The British Prime Minister Theresa May had a much advertised speech on the Brexit issue delivered, for some reason which few have been able to fathom, in Florence. She accepted that the matter regarding the rights of EU citizens in the UK, the question of the Irish border and the divorce settlement would have to be settled first before the UK’s new trading position with the EU could be discussed. Some reports even suggested that she is willing to pay as much as •40 billion as the divorce settlement which would hit the UK pretty hard. While this figure may not be entirely accurate, it shows that the UK will have to pay a substantial sum and the attitude of some people, including foreign secretary Boris Johnson who had said that the EU could go whistle for their money, was naïve to the point of being idiotic.

German Chancellor and CDU party leader Angela Merkel (C) addresses supporters with her party colleagues after exit poll results were broadcasted on public television.

But nothing is official on this or any other front and to be quite honest, nobody is any the wiser today about which way Brexit is going than they were before Florence. With the negotiating teams from the EU and the UK due to meet soon, make or break time is fast approaching, with break looking as a far more likely outcome than make. •