Merkel’s CDU seat held since 1990 snapped up by young SPD candidate

The German conservatives' historic election drubbing was all the more bitter after some of Chancellor Angela Merkel's closest allies lost their constituencies - while Merkel's own region also went to SPD.

Merkel's CDU seat held since 1990 snapped up by young SPD candidate
Merkel's constituency went to the SPD's Anna Kassautzki. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Stefan Sauer

Merkel’s centre-right CDU-CSU bloc sunk to a historic low in Sunday’s vote, their worst election showing in post-war German history.

Among the major upsets, the centre-left Social Democrats (SPD) flipped Merkel’s own constituency on the Baltic coast in Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, taking a seat Merkel had held uninterrupted since 1990.

Her would-be conservative successor, Georg Günther, was soundly beaten by 27-year-old Anna Kassautzki, who was promptly dubbed “Merkel’s heir” in local media despite hailing from a competing party.

Merkel, who’s stepping down as chancellor when a new government is formed, had continuously won a direct mandate in the electoral district 15 of Vorpommern-Rügen – Vorpommern-Greifswald I since it was created after reunification in Germany.

Anna Kassautzki, the direct candidate of the SPD for the Bundestag election in constituency 15 stands in Greifswald on Monday. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Stefan Sauer

Merkel held a goodbye tour in the area last week, ahead of the federal vote plus the state elections in Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania which were held on the same day. The Social Democrats emerged as the winners of the state vote. 

Across the country, German voters clearly weren’t inspired by the conservative team without Merkel. 

Economy Minister Peter Altmaier, from Merkel’s centre-right CDU-CSU bloc, was defeated by Foreign Minister Heiko Maas from the centre-left Social Democrats (SPD) in a duel for the district of Saarlouis.

READ ALSO: Five things you need to know about the German election

In the same state of Saarland, Defence Minister and former CDU leader Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer lost her Saarbrrücken constituency, also to a rival
from the SPD, the party that narrowly won Sunday’s general election.

Merkel’s chief of staff and close confidant Helge Braun suffered the same fate in Giessen in the western state of Hesse.

Under Germany’s complex electoral system, which sees voters tick a box for their constituency candidate and another one for their preferred party, MPs who lose a direct mandate still have a chance to stay in the parliament thanks to the overall number of seats allocated to their party.

But the ignominy of losing several high-profile direct mandates adds to the pain for conservatives, who came second in Sunday’s tight race with 24.1 percent of votes, trailing SPD’s 25.7 percent.

Their showing casts a shadow on Merkel’s political retirement after 16 years in power, exposing the veteran leader to criticism that she failed to
properly prepare her succession.

EXPLAINED: Who will be in Germany’s next coalition government

Was there any good news for the CDU?

There was better news for CDU heavyweight Wolfgang Schäuble, the country’s parliamentary speaker and former finance minister, who defended his seat for the 14th consecutive time.

Merkel’s old conservative foe Friedrich Merz is set to make his parliamentary comeback after snatching a direct mandate from an SPD candidate.

Health Minister Jens Spahn from the CDU, who has been steering the country through the coronavirus pandemic, easily held onto his seat in the state of North Rhine-Westphalia.

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Germany’s ‘traffic light’ parties sign coalition agreement in Berlin

Two and a half months after the federal elections on September 26th, the three parties of the incoming 'traffic light' coalition - the SPD, Greens and FDP - have formally signed their coalition agreement at a public ceremony in Berlin.

Traffic light coalition
Germany's next Chancellor Olaf Scholz (front, left) on stage in Berlin with other members of the new coalition government, and their signed agreement. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Michael Kappeler

The move marks the final stage of a 10-week week process that saw the three unlikely bedfellows forming a first-of-its-kind partnership in German federal government. 

The SPD’s Olaf Scholz is now due to be elected Chancellor of Germany on Wednesday and his newly finalised cabinet will be sworn in on the same day. This will mark the end of the 16-year Angela Merkel era following the veteran leader’s decision to retire from politics this year. 

Speaking at the ceremony in Berlin on Tuesday morning, Scholz declared it “a morning when we set out for a new government.”

He praised the speed at which the three parties had concluded their talks and said the fight against the Covid crisis would first require the full strength of the new coalition.

Green Party co-leader Robert Habeck, who is set to head up a newly formed environment and energy ministry, said the goal was “a government for the people of Germany”.

He stressed that the new government would face the joint challenge of bringing climate neutrality and prosperity together in Europe’s largest industrial nation and the world’s fourth largest economy.

Green Party leader Annalena Baerbock spoke of a coalition agreement “on the level of reality, on the level of social reality”.

FDP leader Christian Lindner, who managed to secure the coveted role of Finance Minister in the talks, declared that now was the “time for action”.

“We are not under any illusions,” he told people gathered at the ceremony. “These are great challenges we face.”

Scholz, Habeck and Lindner are scheduled to hold  a press conference before midday to answer questions on the goals of the new government.

‘New beginnings’

Together with the Greens and the FDP, Scholz’s SPD managed in a far shorter time than expected to forge a coalition that aspires to make Germany greener and fairer.

The Greens became the last of the three parties to agree on the contents of the 177-page coalition agreement an in internal vote on Monday, following approval from the SPD and FDP’s inner ranks over the weekend.

“I want the 20s to be a time of new beginnings,” Scholz told Die Zeit weekly, declaring an ambition to push forward “the biggest industrial modernisation which will be capable of stopping climate change caused by mankind”.

Putting equality rhetoric into practice, he unveiled the country’s first gender-balanced cabinet on Monday, with women in key security portfolios.

“That corresponds to the society we live in – half of the power belongs to women,” said Scholz, who describes himself as a “feminist”.

READ ALSO: Scholz names Germany’s first gender-equal cabinet

The centre-left’s return to power in Europe’s biggest economy could shift the balance on a continent still reeling from Brexit and with the other major player, France, heading into presidential elections in 2022.

But even before it took office, Scholz’s “traffic-light” coalition – named after the three parties’ colours – was already given a baptism of fire in the form of a fierce fourth wave of the coronavirus pandemic.

Balancing act
Dubbed “the discreet” by left-leaning daily TAZ, Scholz, 63, is often described as austere or robotic.
But he also has a reputation for being a meticulous workhorse.
An experienced hand in government, Scholz was labour minister in Merkel’s first coalition from 2007 to 2009 before taking over as vice chancellor and finance minister in 2015.
Yet his three-party-alliance is the first such mix at the federal level, as the FDP is not a natural partner for the SPD or the Greens.

Keeping the trio together will require a delicate balancing act taking into account the FDP’s business-friendly leanings, the SPD’s social equality instincts and the Greens’ demands for sustainability.

Under their coalition deal, the parties have agreed to secure Germany’s path to carbon neutrality, including through huge investments in sustainable energy.

They also aim to return to a constitutional no-new-debt rule – suspended during the pandemic – by 2023.

FDP cabinets
Volker Wissing (l-r), FDP General Secretary und designated Transport Minister, walks alongside Christian Lindner, FDP leader and designated Finance Minister, Bettina Stark-Watzinger (FDP), the incoming Education Minister, and Marco Buschmann, the incoming Justice Minister. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Michael Kappeler


Incoming foreign minister Annalena Baerbock of the Greens has vowed to put human rights at the centre of German diplomacy.

She has signalled a more assertive stance towards authoritarian regimes like China and Russia after the commerce-driven pragmatism of Merkel’s 16 years in power.

Critics have accused Merkel of putting Germany’s export-dependent economy first in international dealings.

Nevertheless she is still so popular at home that she would probably have won a fifth term had she sought one.

The veteran politician is also widely admired abroad for her steady hand guiding Germany through a myriad of crises.