Photo by Christoph Braun (Wikimedia Commons)
So this election was a nail-biter after all. I'm writing this with dust still settling and votes still being counted, but Angela Merkel had a triumphant night, and almost, almost got enough votes to govern the country on her own, something that hasn't happened in Germany since the 1950s and Konrad Adenauer – another unimpeachable figure in the German consciousness.
It seems that Merkel's ultra-passive leadership style has been so successful that she has become basically a monarch, a figure serenely elevated above politics, impossible to attack and yet taking credit for all of Germany's prosperity. (FDP Health Minister Daniel Bahr could not resist the bitter sarcasm: "Apparently everything that this coalition achieved was done by the CDU.")
There's no other way of explaining the fact that so many people really do vote for the CDU. Surely it can't be because of her policies, which have often looked pretty uncertain: the U-turn on nuclear power, the Syria foreign policy debacle, and now the euro crisis is about to come back this autumn. Merkel has imposed misery across the continent by bailing out banks and forcing states to cut budgets. At the Linke's Wahlparty at the Kulturbrauerei, people were nonplussed, at a loss, aghast: "I mean, sure, if I owned a company I'd probably vote CDU too," one woman said. "But 42 percent? We don't have 42 percent rich people in this country." She was fassungslos.
But on the other hand, Merkel has also been stumped by her own success: a few correspondents noted that, in the moment of her triumph, with supporters whooping and hollering her name, Merkel looked pretty subdued. That might be because she realized that she got almost all her new votes – and Der Spiegel says it was as many as two million – off the FDP, who tanked so badly that they probably won't limp into parliament. They're crumbling morass. Their Wahlparty was a funeral. And so Merkel has no one to govern with – the SPD will be leery because they will look even weaker and more pussy-whipped in a coalition with someone so powerful, and the Greens might do it – but that would mean offering Jürgen Trittin the foreign ministry and forcing them to give up all their principles. So what do we do now, Mutti?