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The German election - from Lykke Friis' perspective

Prorector — On research leave, UCPH prorector for Education Lykke Friis recently travelled through Germany to gain a first-hand impression of the election. The University Post got the chance to ask her how she experienced the election 'in situ' and if it surprised her.

In August this year, UCPH prorector for Education Lykke Friis went on research leave. She wanted to fully re-engage with her old field of European politics. So, the German election came right on time.

Over the last couple of weeks, Lykke Friis visited several cities throughout Germany and participated in many different election campaign meetings. She went from Berlin to Frankfurt (Oder), Cottbus, Görlitz, Brandenburg an der Havel, Freiburg, Hannover, Hamburg and beyond. According to Lykke Friis, most of those gatherings were relaxed, and people stayed calm.

However, she still noticed a change in atmosphere when visiting cities in the Eastern parts of Germany.

»The atmosphere was very tense. People reacted very emotionally and even screamed at Chancellor Angela Merkel. I haven’t experienced such hatred at a political meeting in Denmark.«

Nevertheless, Lykke Friis was positively surprised that in Germany, you still go “on the street” during the election period – whether it is politicians for their campaigns or citizens who turn up to listen, comment and try to make up their own minds.

No need to worry

Lykke Friis was not that surprised with the election results.

»I think it was pretty obvious that CDU/CSU would become the biggest party, even though the mood changed after the one (and only) TV-Duel. After Angela Merkel won the duel it seemed that the ship has sailed and that suddenly all the attention was directed to the smaller parties. That is maybe also the reason – together with Merkel’s refugee policy – why CDU/CSU lost quite a lot of votes in the end. Merkel’s campaign centered around beating Schulz. Just take her campaign poster: ‘In a Germany where we like to live’« says Lykke Friis. She continues:

»I was also expecting that the SPD would not be as strong as in previous years – especially their election campaign seemed weak. In a time of economic prosperity, social justice was not a vote-winner and since Schulz hardly mentioned immigration or terrorism, he didn’t have a message for potential AfD voters either.«

The atmosphere was very tense. People reacted very emotionally and even screamed at Chancellor Angela Merkel. I haven't experienced such hatred at a political meeting in Denmark.
Prorector, Lykke Friis

However, Lykke Friis did not expect that the AfD would get a total of 12,6% of the votes. This means that the AfD will be the third biggest party in the German Bundestag. Despite that and the fact that SPD refuses to be a part of the future government, Lykke Friis still stays optimistic:

»Yes, Merkel has to rethink and come up with new strategies. But, in my opinion, Germany did have and will still has a stable government – there is no need to worry. Berlin is not Weimar to paraphrase a German Classic.«

Being a former politician as well as a political scientist herself, Lykke Friis is looking forward to seeing a new composition within the German Bundestag.

»From a scientist point of view, I am very curious about the idea of a coalition between CDU/CSU, FDP and Die Grünen. The joker in the negotiations will undoubtedly be Merkel’s Bavarian Bavarian sister party, CSU. They lost even more votes than Merkel and next year Bavaria has regional elections« says Lykke Friis.

I would love to see more students being interested in learning the German language or deciding to do a semester abroad in Germany.
Prorector, Lykke Friis

Lykke Friis finds German politics interesting and diverse and thinks it would be valuable for Danish students to look into.

»I would love to see more students being interested in learning the German language or deciding to do a semester abroad in Germany. I think, it is very important to understand the political activities in Germany to get a picture of the country itself. Because in my eyes, you won’t get to know Europe if you don’t understand the importance of Germany’s political interactions. Being on the ground also changes your perspective. Or as the Germans say: ‘Wenn jemand eine Reise tut, so kann er was erzählen’.«

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