In results Sunday left official Washington and most major world capitals speechless, German voters went to the polls to pick a successor to retiring Chancellor Angela Merkel and chose…..no one.
In an unofficial count that would almost surely change as more votes came in, the SPD (Socialist) Party had 202 seats in the 730-seat Bundestag (parliament) to 197 votes for Merkel’s ruling CDU (conservative) Party and its Bavarian junior partner CSU (Christian Social Union).
So as of late Sunday afternoon, it was unclear whether CDU leader and North Rhine Westphalia Minister-President (Governor) Armin Laschet or Finance Minister and SPD leader Olof Scholz would be chancellor after Merkel—after 16 years, the first chancellor in the history of post-war Germany to retire.
Depending on the coalition they would forge with one of the smaller parties, either Laschet or Scholz could emerge in the chancellor’s chair.
Placing third with 115 votes is the environmentalist Green Party. When the campaign began earlier this year, the Greens actually led in some polls and were thought to have a chance at forming the next government.
But in large part because negative publicity enveloped its chancellor candidate — Annalena Baerbock, who apparently plagiarized portions of a thesis and book she wrote—the Greens lost ground to the traditional parties.
They are still expected to be part of the next ruling coalition, especially if Scholz and the SPD form it.
But a coalition must have at least 366 seats, a bare majority in the Bundestag, in order to rule. This means that, for the first time in Germany, the next government will include three parties instead of two.
Most likely to play that role is the Free Democratic (libertarian) Party, which so far has 93 seats. Some observers point out that its small government and no tax policies would almost certainly clash with the commitment to a major climate change agenda backed by both the CDU and SPD.
Rounding out the race is the nationalist, anti-illegal immigration Alternate for Germany (AfD) Party with 87 seats and Der Linke (The Left), the lineal heir to the Communist Party of the former East Germany.
Merkel, Laschet, and the CDU have, in no uncertain terms, ruled out any partnership with the AfD. Scholz and the SPD have not ruled out bringing in Der Linke in a new government, although the party’s commitment to taking Germany out of NATO clashes with the SPD’s pro-NATO platform plank.
To find any precedent for these latest and most complicated returns, one has to go back to 1969 when the CDU/CSU under then-Chancellor Kurt Kiesinger won the highest number in the popular vote (46.1 percent) and led in the number of Bundestag seats (242).
With the SPD coming in second with 42.7 percent of the popular vote and 224 seats, they were able to form the government when the Free Democrats dropped their historic alliance with the CDU and joined them to make West Berlin Mayor Willy Brandt the first-ever socialist chancellor.
John Gizzi is chief political columnist and White House correspondent for Newsmax. For more of his reports, Go Here Now.
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