More than 50 German speakers witnessed the results of the German Bundestag Election Sunday, Sept. 24, at the German Cultural Center (Goethe Zentrum) in Midtown, which returned Angela Merkel as chancellor for the fourth time, but also gave a far-right party seats in the German parliament for the first time in half a century.
The results were screened live from Germany and a panel of Atlanta-based experts provided commentary and answered questions from the attendees.
The panel was composed of Volker Franke, a professor of conflict management at Kennesaw State University; Olaf Ladegast, deputy head of mission at the German Consulate General and Marcus Marktanner, an associate professor of economics and international conflict management at Kennesaw State.
Ben Brumfield, senior science writer and media relations representative at the Georgia Institute of Technology, served as the panel’s moderator.
Mr. Ladegast told Global Atlanta following the panel discussion and question and answer session that although Ms. Merkel should be considered the victor, with her party the Christian Democrats (CDU) and their allies the Christian Social Union having won more than 32.5 percent of the vote, she would have a difficult time forming a new government.
Ms. Merkel now joins Helmut Kohl and Konrad Adenauer as post-war chancellors to win four national elections. However, according to Mr Ladegast, her coalition member for the past four years, the center-left Social Democrats (SPD) suffered a new post-war low gaining only about 20 percent and is not apt to remain tied to the CDU.
Most of the discussion, Mr. Ladegast said, was focused on the 13.5 percent gained by the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) party, finishing third and entering the parliament for the first time.
“Nobody wants to say this is like a National Socialist Party,” he said of the AfD’s Euroskeptic, anti-immigrant and anti-Islam views, “but we haven’t seen such views since 1945 and we all thought they would be over.”
Ms. Merkel’s only option in view of the election “blow” that she received, he added, was to form a coalition with the pro-business Freedom Democratic Party , a center right party, and the Green Party, the country’s environmentalist political party, which have quite different views.
Such an arrangement would provide Germany with another first, he said, that of a ruling coalition being composed of three parties. Such an agreement might take “many months,” he added, citing the problems that the CDU and the SPD had in forming the most recent coalition.
He predicted that it wouldn’t be surprising if the new government wouldn’t be formed until the first few months of 2018.