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Stronger divided

5 September 2016 By Olaf Storbeck

For a region with just 2 percent of Germany’s population and 1.3 percent of its GDP, rural Mecklenburg-Vorpommern is punching above its weight in political importance. On Sept. 4, the right-wing populist party Alternative for Germany (AfD) won more seats than Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union (CDU) for the first time in a German state election, securing a fifth of all votes on Merkel’s political home turf.

The euro-sceptic, anti-immigrant AfD was founded just three years ago but is now present in nine of the 16 regional parliaments. It is poised to enter the Bundestag after the federal election in 2017. Pollsters see it at around 12 percent on a national level. Yet while a growing number of voters want radical political change, what they most likely will get is more of the same.

With support for all established parties on the wane, a grand coalition between the CDU – still the largest party on a nationwide level – and the centre-left Social Democrats increasingly looks like the only viable option to form a government. The stronger the AfD gets, the less likely the coalition partners are to rock the boat.

The lack of a credible challenge to Merkel from within her party, and the influx of refugees into Germany abating, make the status quo more likely to persist. From a medium-term perspective, that could be a problem in itself, if voters start to get antsy for change. For now, political stability is good news not only for Germany, but also for the wider euro area.

 

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