Image: Marcus Spiske/Flickr
As an American living in Germany, this was a very interesting campaign to follow. While there are quite a few differences between the electoral and political systems, Germany was reeling from a wake-up call after Sunday September 24 just as the US was reeling from the election of Donald Trump last November.
From a communications perspective, there are a lot of lessons to be learned.
First is that you need to be able to really take the pulse of the people and not just try to ignore it and then be shocked when the results are not what you expected.
Second, clearly there is a need for more dialogue. Strong rhetoric and polemic on all sides doesn’t mean dialogue. And it is clear that there are a lot of people in Germany that have problems with the way things are going and they don’t feel heard (well at least the 13% that voted for AfD don’t). Shades of the US election, there. This is most apparent in that Merkel is now calling for a dialogue with everyone to move Germany forward. Yet this is something that she could have done beforehand.
In another disruption, the co-chair of the AfD, Frauke Petry, as well as her husband Markus Pretzell, the AfD chair in the state of North-Rhine-Westfalia, have said they are leaving the party and there are rumours they may start their own party. This is like the Brexit supporters who, after Brexit passed, suddenly disclaimed all the “facts” they had been using to push for it.
From a very personal perspective, it seems debate and disagreement are going the way of the dodo. Nothing is black and white and you have to understand all sides of an issue to really have a pragmatic discussion.
It will be interesting to see how the German coalition talks proceed. Will the Greens and FDP really want a coalition with CDU/CSU? If not, will the SPD be persuaded to join another “Great Coalition”? Hopefully at least one of these will happen; otherwise a new election will not be far off.
Erik Meyers is Head of Global Communications for the Performance Chemicals division of a global chemical company and a member of the EACD since 2015.