I still remember the first time I got into politics. It wasn’t the Blair years because I was barely a fetus at the time, with an intellect to match. It was in fact in 2009 when walking back from the shops in a sleepy Swiss town that I have now called my home for 11 years. I saw a poster of a woman in a burka in front of minarets sticking out of a swiss flag, saying yes to a minaret ban in the canton of Zurich. Then I was shocked to hear that the bill had passed. I then saw another the year later with a load of white sheep, kicking a black sheep out of Switzerland, the caption being “Safety Secured”. I then knew that European politics is far more black and white than more tempered views from across the channel. This can also be seen in Germany, with the coming of the Federal elections.
I must admit that after the democratic rigmarole that was 2016, I felt like the world could use a breather. Like a Gazelle being chased by the third lion of the day, the feeling of “oh here we go again” is immense.
This was the case in Germany as the populace went to the polls to give both the leading established parties a bloody nose. Angela Merkel, Germany and indeed Europe’s iron chancellor has suffered her first stumble in her 12 year reign. As leaders have come and gone in other European states, she has always been the guard dog that is always there to usher them in. The elder stateswoman to invite you in to tell you that she rules the roost. Now it seems her mandate has lost its momentum to the rise of new far-leaning parties as her Christian Democratic/Social Union Coalition Party lost seats to both left and right. Even the new Social Democratic candidate and Brussels veteran Martin Schulz has steered his party into the iceberg with his party’s worst federal election result ever.
Alternative for Germany’s far-right, eurosceptic views has captured the establishment’s attention with capturing 12 percent of the vote and securing 94 seats in parliament. In the same way that Germany’s far left party (ingeniously called “The Left”) increased their share of seats to 69. This change shows the trend toward a so called “anti Merkel” vote on both sides of the spectrum.
Living in northern Switzerland, around 20 minutes from Germany for most of my life, I regularly went to Germany to visit and take advantage of the fact that everything is 50 per cent cheaper over the border. More recently I have seen a demonstrable change in the content of society and the attitudes in German culture. After the migrant crisis started to develop, Germany has welcomed over a million migrants into the country and has distributed them around every state, whether they were prepared for them or not. This meant that in the places where unemployment and poverty were already issues, migrants arrived to places where they were not welcome at all. Making integration and assimilation near impossible. In Switzerland and Southern Germany, I have seen signs and people saying “Auslanders muss Weg” a colloquial way of saying that foreigners had to go. The rise in immigration has challenged some citizens idea of what German culture is, for better or worse. That means that people are joining these parties in protest of Merkel’s “let them in and hope for the best” policies. They couldn’t find their voice within the establishment so they had to look elsewhere.
Chancellor Merkel has since pledged to get right-wing voters back to her party. However with her commitment to the ideals of the European Union and her commitment to her party at home, she is stuck between a rock and an even harder election defeat.