Talk in the Park

Following the Mega Election Year in Germany and Europe: Where Do We Stand?

An election that has resulted in the right-wing AfD party taking seats in the German Bundestag, difficulties in forming a four-party "Jamaica" coalition government, and certain expectations and demands of the country’s partners across Europe: Where does Germany stand at the end of this mega election year? These were the topics addressed by Karl-Rudolf Korte, Professor of Political Sciences at the University of Duisburg Essen and expert in election analyses, at the Robert Bosch Stiftung’s "Talk in the Park."

At the event, hosted at the Robert Bosch House in Stuttgart, Mr. Korte observed that with the outcome of the national elections, Germany had chosen its own particular path: Contrary to other European nations and the U.S., none of the German candidates had adopted the role of change-maker. Rather, German politicians were seen to cater to the voters’ preference to support the long-standing political elite and choose continuity. Consequently, the elections demonstrated a distinct centrist momentum – toward a center, however, that ultimately is now much more fragmented and occupied by a larger number of parties.  

Speaking to an audience drawn from politics, business, and society, Mr. Korte seemed optimistic about the formation and future success of the Jamaica coalition. "This kind of diversity is an opportunity," the political scientist emphasized. Nevertheless, such an exotic constellation of parties must be wary of simply working with the lowest common denominator. What is needed instead is a shared and comprehensive idea on which to build the cooperation. Given the climate of "concerned contentment" prevalent in Germany, "safety and identity" should be at the center of such an idea, with each party defining these terms as appropriate to the situation of their voters and developing proposals accordingly.

The decisive value of the Jamaica coalition, according to Mr. Korte, lies in the opportunity to deliver answers to a new social divide prevalent in all of Europe that has impacted party systems as well. It is the line being drawn between the winners and losers of globalization, between cosmopolitans and nationalists who seek stability in clear-cut communities. Mr. Korte summarized the core question currently circulating throughout Germany and Europe as follows: "At what point does the sense of We end? How much disparity can we live with?" Finding answers to these questions will be critical to lawmakers’ and governments’ success in dealing with the protest movements in their nations.

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