Sometimes in our Cornell bubble, it can be hard to feel present with events going on in the nation, and even more so, the world. But even if you spent the last week and a half buried in study guides and textbooks instead of the news, you may have heard about some political happenings in Germany. There are many issues and opinions regarding the recent election, but the basics will suffice. Here is a brief summary of the issue, that should help you gain some worldly knowledge.
On Sunday, September 24th, Germany held an election for chancellor (the head of its government, like a prime minister). Angela Merkel, who became Germany’s first female chancellor in 2005, was elected for a fourth term. During her tenure, she has gained prestige as a main influencer of global politics and the European Union through numerous periods and instances of political turmoil.
So what was all the fuss about? The election was a big deal because even though Angela Merkel and her party, the center-right Christian Democrats won overall, the far-right populist party, Alternative for Germany, won nearly 13 percent of the vote.
Still not following? In case you missed it, mainstream populist parties and politics have been on the rise in the recent year or so. See: Brexit, America’s own election of Donald Trump, a far-right French candidate almost winning the presidential election, the Dutch populist candidate failing to win prime minister but gaining party seats. With this election, Germany is yet another example of the changing course of western politics.
Some think the rise of populism is not as sudden as it seems; it’s been steadily rising for decades, but only now is becoming more pronounced. Some thought Germany would escape such a fate, due to its strong economy and financial footing in the European Union. Regardless, the election could have far-reaching effects for German and European politics as a whole.
One notable issue the German populist party and those in other countries bring up is immigration. Merkel and her party have stood on an especially strong pro-refugee platform, such as opening the country to refugees in 2015. Backlash from such policies has come in the form of more Europeans joining anti-immigration parties, and gaining influence in government. In Germany specifically, the far-right party that is now the third largest in the nation as of this election, is not-so-subtly reminiscent of World War II-era Nazi Germany, according to some leaders.
Issues such as immigration and nationalism, and the governing of the eurozone will continue to be subjects of debate and importance for these far-right and center-right parties. As the parties continue to disagree, we may soon see a redefinition of European politics and political economy. Sounds like a lot at stake. We in America, as students at Cornell, will not just be watching from the sidelines, but living through a changing course of times.