Students on German federal election: ‘This is our last chance to hit the brakes’

24 Sep 2021

This Sunday, Germany is holding its federal election that will mark the end of sixteen years of Angela Merkel as its chancellor. Three German Radboud students talk about what this election means to them – and why it might be the last chance for climate action. ‘Merkel’s departure is a big change.’

Natascha Köcher, 19, Psychology

‘I’m voting via letter this year. It has been too much stress moving to a new place, so anything else wouldn’t have been possible. But I believe that every vote counts, so it is immensely important to me. Especially with this particular election. We can either take a new path or have the CDU (Christian Democratic Union, the Christian-democratic and liberal-conservative party currently in power, ed.) for another sixteen years.’

Natascha

‘Climate change is obviously a pressing issue. The flood this summer has shown that. And I hope that this will put climate issues high on the agenda of the older generation. But I also think that the question of how to rebuild the economy after the Corona-crisis will be an important challenge. Angela Merkel always seemed like a competent person in her position – I doubt that Armin Laschet (the candidate of the CDU, ed.) or Olaf Scholz (the candidate of the SPD, the Social Democratic Party, ed.) will be able to fill those shoes. I voted for Die Grünen (the Green Party, ed.), so I’m hoping that the next chancellor will be Annalena Baerbock, but I don’t believe that this will happen.’

Mandana Bayat, 19, Psychology

‘I’ve been politically active in the SPD since last year. I always wanted to be more politically involved, so when I graduated high school last year, I finally had the time for it. Because of that, the past few weeks before the election have been particularly busy for me – and also quite exciting. If you would have asked me two months ago if we had any chance to win this election, I would have seriously doubted that. But the polls look good right now, so a win could be realistic.’

‘A lot will be built on Angela Merkel’s work’

Mandana

‘Angela Merkel has been a very strong force in international politics – and she has been the German chancellor almost my entire life. So her departure is obviously a big change. But I think that, in any case, a lot will be built on her work. I am personally a bit afraid that Armin Laschet is going to be elected – even though Angela Merkel and he are from the same party, they couldn’t be more different. Climate change is the most pressing issue for me and I don’t think that Laschet will pursue this as a top priority. A lot will obviously also depend on the coalition formed between the elected parties, so I’m hoping for Red-Green (a coalition between the SPD and Die Grünen, ed.).’

 Jill Homberg, 21, Comparative European History

‘Because questions of climate change and animal rights are the top priorities for me, I already knew beforehand that I would vote for Die Grünen. But I still looked through the social media pages of the other parties – even the AfD (Alternative for Germany, a German nationalist and right-wing populist party, ed.). The issue with social media is obviously that the information presented there is often the result of a lot of cherry picking. But I also think that social media has been increasingly important in politics – especially since 2015 or 2016.’

Jill

‘If I would measure the importance of this election on a scale of one to ten, it would be a ten for me. It feels like this is our last chance to hit the brakes when it comes to climate change. I read a nice metaphor somewhere a while ago: we’re putting our children in a school bus that is driving at fifty kilometers an hour into heavy traffic. Now, we can still stop the bus. But if we continue this course, we will hit the traffic full speed. If we only change something in four years during the next election, it will be too late.’

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