In Germany’s Sept. 27 national elections voters solidly backed Chancellor Angela Merkel, who has demonstrated leadership in coping with the economic crisis and diplomatic challenges. By winning 33.8 percent of the vote, her Christian Democrats (CDU) and its sister party, the Christian Social Union (CSU), managed to remain as the No. 1 political group. In contrast, the Social Democrats (SPD) received just 23 percent of the vote — its worst showing in the postwar period.

The SPD, a member of the four-year grand coalition with the CDU-CSU, now appears to be suffering from an identity crisis. Following conservatives’ decisive win in European Union parliamentary elections four months ago, the SPD’s defeat underlines the difficulty faced by European social democrats.

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