On Sunday, September 24, 2017, Angela Merkel, the embodiment of western culture, was re-elected as Chancellor of Germany. As she begins her fourth term and twelfth year in public service, she solidifies her title as the longest leader in the European Union.
Sunday’s election validated the work Merkel has put into Germany over the past decade. She has significantly decreased unemployment rates, strengthened the economy, and, controversially, opened the country to refugees. Many believe her refugee decision left some of her supporters questioning their candidate.
However, Merkel’s victory was not unhampered. The Alternative for Germany (AfD) party, a right-wing nationalist group, won 12.6% of the seats in Parliament, as compared to the 4.7% won in 2013. The AfD ran on an anti-Muslim, anti-immigrant, and anti-European Union. Leaders of the AfD have been criticized for their condemnation of Berlin’s Holocaust Memorial and intense anti-Muslim sentiments.
Germany’s political system is unique and somewhat complicated. It functions as a Parliamentary Republic, in which the government’s executive branch gains power from Parliament, while simultaneously held accountable to it. Additionally, there is no United States-styled presidency. Instead, there is a head of state and head of government. The head of state (president) has little power, relies on entirely on Parliament, and acts more as a face of the nation. Contrarily, the head of government (chancellor) holds the executive power.
Within Germany, there are two majority parties, the Christian Democratic Union of Germany (CDU) and the Social Democratic Party of Germany (SPD).
The CDU is based on the principles of liberal conservatism. However, the terms “liberal” and “conservative” have different connotations, dependent on the country they are used in. For example, in Germany, liberal conservatism ideals support the idea of a strong state to enforce laws, maintain order, and create a sense of duty, loyalty, and obligation. However, liberal conservatives also believe in little government intervention and free markets. It is generally considered politically centered and a bit to the right.
As Germany’s oldest political party, the SPD has played an important role throughout the country’s history. Despite a plunge in membership in the early 2000s, it is one of the most prominent parties in Germany, and often represents the working class. It holds pro-European Union views, and tends to be considered politically centered and a bit to the left.