Angela Merkel secured her fourth term as chancellor Sunday after German voters handed her center-right Christian Democratic Union (CDU)—and its Bavarian sister party, the Christian Social Union (CSU)—the largest share of votes, a largely anticipated result marking the end of a race that several observers had written off as “boring.”
They weren’t wrong. In the weeks leading up to the race, most polls appeared to predict Merkel’s electoral victory as an all-but-foregone conclusion. According to early exit polls, Merkel’s CDU/CSU received 32.5 percent of the vote, slightly lower than experts had predicted. Merkel’s main opponent, the center-left Social Democrats (SDP) led by Martin Schulz, trailed behind with their worst-ever election result of just 20 percent of the vote. They were followed by the far-right Alternative für Deutschland (AfD) with 13.5 percent, the pro-business Free Democrats (FDP) with 10.5 percent, the Greens with 9.5 percent, and the left-wing populist Die Linke with 9 percent.
This election wasn’t supposed to be so easy for Merkel. From the backlash against her divisive open-door policy towards refugees to the nomination of newcomer Schulz as the SPD’s chancellor candidate, many predicted this election would mark the beginning of the end of Merkel’s 12-year reign. But those challenges proved surmountable for Mutti (the German word for “mother,” as Merkel is affectionately known), whose ranking in the polls eventually recovered from the “Schulz effect,” a boost buoyed by a marked drop in the number of asylum-seeker applications in 2017.