Germany’s neighbors and allies must have found this election campaign – and watching the results come in on Sunday – confusing and disorienting. How could it be that a country that prizes stability so much has become so politically fragmented? And how could the most powerful country in Europe spend so much time discussing whether a candidate had lightly exaggerated her qualifications, and so little on the future of Europe, NATO, and world order?
After the election, it seems clear that if Germany’s politics are more diverse and volatile, they also remain basically centrist; the extremist parties have lost traction. As for Germany’s future foreign and security policy, it now looks likely to be set by a chancellor Olaf Scholz at the head of a “traffic light” coalition with the Greens and the Liberals. A look at their party programs suggests that none of these parties comes fully intellectually prepared for coming challenges. However, there would have been no European Recovery Program and no global minimum taxation proposal without Scholz. And that should give Germany’s neighbors considerable grounds for hope.
Dr Constanze Stelzenmüller is currently the Fritz Stern Chair and a senior fellow in the Center on the United States and Europe at Brookings.