Reliable and organised.
Meticulous and systematic.
These are the people of superior engineering, punctual trains, Miele washing machines. But not, it seems, efficient elections.
For the past 16 years, Angela Merkel has dominated politics, both within Germany and on the world stage. However, as she steps down as Chancellor, the German political landscape is becoming more like haphazard British roadworks than the well-oiled Autobahn. And I for one hope that you, a young person, took no notice of the German election that was held on Sunday 26th September 2021.
Some of the outcomes weren’t surprising: under 30s swarmed to the Greens and the liberal FDP. Some gave hope: extremist parties on both the left and the right reduced their vote share (in the short term), and the far-right Hans-Georg Maassen (a former head of domestic intelligence) was kept at bay by the Social Democrats. And yet others were symbolic: Merkel’s former seat flipped to the Social Democrats, won by a 27-year-old university staffer who wasn’t even alive when Merkel first took the seat 31 years ago.
But the main outcome? Well, we don’t know yet. The only thing certain about the future is that it seems beige as the Social Democratic Party (SPD) and Angela Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union (CDU) race to negotiate a coalition government, for the third time in 8 years.
Whilst the SPD narrowly won, with their 25.7% vote share just beating the CDU’s 24.1%, neither have enough of a majority to rule outright and so they must turn to the Greens or the FDP to solidify their claim to power.
But this somewhat bland affair scares me. It’s this sort of stuffy, over-complicated election that alienates young people from voting and taking an active interest in politics. The German election gave a fierce, nail-biting fight between two big, centrist parties… but then what? There’s not yet a clear winner or president, and for the 3 million young people who were eligible to vote, that will be disheartening. More than that: it will be disillusioning.
The example this election sets is that even if you get out and vote, it may not matter in the grand scheme of bureaucracy. Voting should be exciting, but for young people who are already frustrated with the establishments’ handling of matters such as climate change and race, this lack of conclusion adds fuel to fire.
Maybe the election was what Europe needed, following the rise of extremist parties in France and elsewhere. Both parties managed to fend off attacks from the far right, and their reliance on the Greens and FDP for a coalition might mean that the voices of more young people are heard. But these benefits may be an all too thin silver lining.
So, I hope you don’t pay attention to the German election, at least not this one, because politics – and more specifically, voting – can be much more exciting than this: it can enact real change.
Image Credit: Flickr