Sunday’s election in Germany ended an astonishing campaign run, unprecedented in the country’s postwar history. Angela Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union party experienced a landslide defeat, not only losing about a quarter of its vote share, a number of important constituencies – including the one that Merkel herself held – but also ending up in third place in three of the eastern states of Germany, behind the Social Democrats and the rightwing, populist AfD.

Since 2015, the Christian Democrats have gone from being the dominant force in German politics, almost invincible and the only remaining dominant party or Volkspartei, to a party in disarray, with major internal power struggles, depleted of policy ideas and rocked by corruption scandals, with CDU politicians found to have made personal gains from the pandemic through controversial mask deals.

The Social Democrats, largely written off as a serious contender for the…

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