2021 German elections: Merkel’s legacy

27 September, 2021

Scholz (SPD), Baerbock (Greens) and Lindner (FDP) probable members of a coalition government after this German elections 2021.
Scholz (SPD), Baerbock (Greens) and Lindner (FDP) probable members of a coalition government after this German elections 2021.

The 2021 German elections tested Merkel’s strategy to revamp the political apparatus, to contain the revolt of the angry petty bourgeoisie which had uplifted the far-right (AfD) but also to prepare the apparatus to promote the Green Deal and a strengthened EU centralized around the interests of German capital.

Table of Contents

The 2021 German elections are Merkel’s latest triumph: the reconduction of petty-bourgeois revolt expressed as “populism”

2021 German election result. The AfD loses more than two points, Die Linke does not reach the minimum of 5% and will not be present in the new Bundestag.
2021 German elections result. The AfD loses more than two points, Die Linke 4,3

Analyses in the German and European press talk about “coalition chaos” today. Undoubtedly the Parliament that emerges from these 2021 German elections does not offer clear majorities nor is to the total liking of any party leadership.

But as Le Monde points out, the most remarkable thing about the 2021 German elections is not that, but the success of Merkel’s strategy to put a ceiling and marginalize the AfD -and incidentally die Linke- or in other words, to redirect the electoral expression of the petty-bourgeois revolt, which destabilized the whole of Europe in the run-up to the pandemic and during it, towards the institutional parties.

The good results recorded by liberals and environmentalists show that the attrition of the parties in power does not automatically result in a populist protest or vote.

Le Monde

But the political apparatus is feeling the wear and tear

Possible government coalitions in light of final results. With die Linke out of parliament, the chances are getting lower for the SPD.
Possible government coalitions in light of final results of 2021 German elections . With die Linke out of parliament, the chances are getting lower for the SPD.

Despite the “success”, the results speak of containment, not of overcoming nor of integration of that rebellious petty bourgeoisie whose discontent was challenging the political apparatus of the German bourgeoisie.

Merkel’s strategy to ward it off was to split play with the environmentalists and resurrect the liberals (FDP), two minor institutional parties that align well with the main currents within the German ruling class.

The environmentalists agree with Merkel and the SPD on the two key points that are going to be fundamental in the coming years: accelerating the Green Deal and giving an extra push towards EU centralization as a way to keep German imperialist interests afloat in the face of accelerating trends toward bloc formation around China and the U.S..

The Liberals, on the other hand, are reluctant to a European “debt union” and align with the Nordists on a return to “austerity” and while they want to slow down on anything affecting the auto industry, they line up on anything that means higher costs for consumers (bringing home heating into the CO2 emissions market, for instance) with SPD and the Greens.

The final result of the 2021 German elections represents a success -although not a total one- of Merkel’s strategy. The Greens remain as the third force, although far from replacing the SPD as a government alternative as it seemed for a few months. The Liberals remain as an unavoidable counterweight in any possible government of the SPD.

That said, the core of the political apparatus, the two big state parties, clearly felt the blow in these 2021 German elections: the CDU-CSU and the SPD, for the first time since 1949, get less than 50% of the vote. In 2017, they totaled 53% and in 2013, 67%. It cannot be said that the political apparatus has come out unscathed in these 2021 German elections.

The most important thing… is not being talked about

Annalena Baerbock
Annalena Baerbock

But not everything – not even the most important thing – is about the petty bourgeoisie. The pre-election surveys on “concerns of the electorate” made transparent the growing unease among the German working class: the two central issues were the future of Social Security and employment.

They were obviously not going to focus the campaign on coming labor reforms that cannot please workers who will see their pensions reduced and their job stability eroded. Nor, of course, on the costs that the Green Deal will mean for the living conditions of a working class that will make its implementation profitable for German capital.

Everything focused on climate change and the floods of this summer as if the Green Deal was the only possible solution and without mentioning its consequences for the workers.

In the light of the outcome of these 2021 German elections and in view of the possible coalition governments everything seems to suggest that the strategy of the German bourgeoisie during the next years will be to leave the political costs of the Green Deal to the Greens and the costs of the predictable social rejection of the coming labor and pension reforms, as well as of the tax “cuts”, to the liberals. They hope that, unlike what is to be expected with SPD and CDU, their electoral bases and framing capacity will not suffer too much as a result.