Given that Germany is the most powerful country in the eurozone and exercises complete control over the common currency bloc while also entertaining ambitions of a more international role, the magnitude of the defeat sustained by the established right-wing in Sunday’s elections was much greater than the percentage collectively secured by the Christian Democrats and the Christian Social Party.
That the losses of the country’s traditional conservative parties were not even greater is without doubt due to Wolfgang Schaeuble, whose management as finance minister of the debt crisis and the deficits in the eurozone helped amass the wealth of Europe in German coffers.
Schaeuble is indisputably a respected man, not just among the German right, but more generally among the German electorate. Nevertheless, he was eventually “convinced” to abandon the post of finance minister in order to seek the presidency of the Bundestag, where he will certainly receive an impressive majority.
In one sense, Schaeuble is a tragic political figure. He was widely considered as the unrivaled heir to former chancellor Helmut Kohl, but the statesman chose Angela Merkel for the role instead. He coveted the presidency, but Merkel chose Frank-Walter Steinmeier in his place.
Schaeuble preferred to remain as Germany’s – essentially the eurozone’s – finance minister, but was promoted to the second highest-ranking office of the country, and some expect, that with his elevated prestige, he could neutralize the impact of the nationalist AfD party, which has now become the third most powerful party after Sunday’s election.
It is doubtful whether the president of the Bundestag would be able to inhibit the impact of the AfD on society, despite the predictable speculation by analysts.
The coalition between the Christian Democrats, the liberals and the Greens which is expected to take over governance is a disparate formation of parties that have conflicting goals and disparate views on a number of key issues.
This is particularly true as regards the two smaller parties. What it will ultimately come down to is Merkel’s skill at handling these differences.
Nevertheless, when a country reaches such a point, a crisis is not far off. And since this is Germany we’re talking about, then the issue concerns Europe as a whole.