Europe’s last great party: this is the end

Peter Akopov

Angela Merkel’s legacy is divided into two parts: government and party. And if the first, that is, the chancellor’s chair, is needed by everyone, then the second has turned into a problematic asset.

Merkel led the Christian Democratic Party for 18 years – two years longer than its founder Konrad Adenauer. Only Merkel’s patron Helmut Kohl led more than her , but during the quarter of a century that he headed the party, she was in power 18. Merkel did not break Kohl’s record – neither in terms of leadership of the party, nor in terms of time spent in the Chancellor’s chair. But on the other hand, she set an absolute record for the unsuccessful choice of an heir – after leaving the post of leader of the CDU in 2018, Merkel ensured the election of Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer . And at the beginning of this year, the former favorite of Merkel was replaced by Armin Lashet – but under his leadership, the CDU lost the elections to the Bundestag, and on Thursday he announced his resignation from the post of party chairman (Laschet will also lose his prime minister’s chair in his native North Rhine – Westphalia, because he became a member of parliament).

In December, at a congress in Dresden, the CDU will have to elect a new chairman – only the tenth in its history, but already the third party successor to Merkel. And this time there is a great chance that the party will be headed not by a protégé and “continuation of the course”, but by an anti-Merkelist. Otherwise, the CDU will face a sad future.

Why is the fate of the CDU important and revealing? Because it is, in fact, the last of the big European political parties. The British party system should not be compared with the European one: although it has become in many ways a model for the continent, it stands alone. Party life began in Europe in the 19th century, and closer to its end. But the current party-political system was constructed already in post-war Europe – primarily in Germany , France and Italy . In the 90s, the Italian one collapsed (almost all the key parties disbanded-reorganized-collapsed), then, already in this century, the French one began to fall apart. The German held out the longest – but she swam too.

First, in 2013, the anti-systemic and anti-elite “Alternative for Germany” entered the Bundestag, and then the “people’s parties” began to lose their status. There were two of them: the CDU and the SPD. If before the 1990s, they together collected up to 90 percent of the vote, then in the last two elections together they attracted only half of the voters (53 percent in 2017 and symbolically important 49.8 percent this September). That is, the German party system is transformed from a two-party system (in fact, and not in terms of the number of parties) into a multi-party system.

Moreover, it is not at all a fact that 50 percent for two is the lowest point for the two former “people’s parties” – the rating of the SPD, which won the current elections, has recently dropped to 15 percent and can always return to these figures.

That is, the German party-political system is becoming not only less stable – it is turning into something completely different. This is partly similar to the situation in the Weimar Republic, but there were two strongly growing radical parties – the communists and the fascists. Now there is nothing of the kind (only biased propaganda can call the “Alternative for Germany” radicals), and Germany no longer belongs to itself. In the sense that Berlin is the engine and center of European integration, that is, the future of the European Union depends on the situation in the German government .

To strengthen European integration, a strong German government is needed, relying on a large part of German society. Brussels institutions by themselves cannot govern the European Union – all the same, everything is decided in Berlin (with some participation from Paris , of course). But if Germany is entering a period of weak parties and rapidly changing governments, who and where can it lead?

Laschet’s resignation puts an end to the disputes over the name of the future German chancellor and the composition of the coalition – the government will be headed by Social Democrat Olaf Scholz . Yes, he has yet to complete negotiations with future coalition allies, “greens” and liberals from the FDP, but it is already clear that it is this option, that is, the “traffic light”, that will rule Germany.

And the CDU says goodbye to dreams of “Jamaica” (that is, a coalition under its leadership) and goes into opposition.

In order to work on mistakes and get rid of merkelism?

No. Even if the party is finally headed by Friedrich Merz, who has the best chances now (whom Merkel bypassed in the struggle for leadership at the beginning of the century, and in the past three years she also prevented him from winning the election of the party chairman), the CDU will wait for a split in the ruling coalition and a chance to return to power even before 2025, when the next elections will be held.

Indeed, it is much easier to destroy a three-party coalition than a bipartisan one, especially since the yellow light will be constantly blinking in the traffic light, because the liberals from the Free Democratic Party are ideologically much closer to the CDU than to their partners from the new government. So the CDU will sit in ambush and wait for the moment, and not fight to regain the trust of voters and the status of the people’s party.

So the defragmentation of the German party system will continue, which means a weaker and more susceptible European Union to manipulation by the Atlanticists. Proceeding from this, Russia will build its policy in relations with Germany in particular and with the EU as a whole.

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