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The Future of Germany's Social Democrats

Out of Government, Into the Wilderness?

Removing an election campaign billboard showing Social Democratic Party leader Martin Schulz, Berlin, September 2017. Christian Mang / REUTERS

Germany has voted, and Chancellor Angela Merkel once again stands ready to form the country’s next government. But her Christian Democratic Union has taken a hit. Together with its sister party, the Christian Social Union, the CDU will control only 246 seats in Germany’s parliament, compared to the 309 it held before the election.

The most dramatic outcome of the election was the unprecedented entry into parliament of the right-wing Alternative for Germany (AfD) party. Yet the hollowing out of Germany’s political center could also prove consequential. The center-left Social Democratic Party, led by Merkel’s main challenger, Martin Schulz, took 20.5 percent of the vote—its the worst result since 1945. On Sunday, Schulz called the election a “bitter day” and pledged to lead his party into opposition.

Merkel now has two unprecedented choices. She can attempt to forge a minority government or she can try to form an coalition

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