What German politicians are saying about the US election

All eyes are on the US as vote counting continues. German politicos haven't been shy to weigh in on the developing situation.

Keeping mum for now: Merkel and Trump at a 2019 NATO summit.
Keeping mum for now: Merkel and Trump at a 2019 NATO summit.AP Photo/Evan Vucci

Berlin-The relationship between Germany and the US is one of historic importance, and the twists and turns of this year's American election have become big stories here too. But what do Germany's political bigwigs have to say about its dramatic aftermath: what's their take on Trump's premature claim to victory and unfounded conspiracy theories on electoral fraud, and what does it all mean for transatlantic relations? We've compiled the highlights.

Angela Merkel (chancellor, CDU)

Perhaps unsurprisingly, Merkel is biding her time to make a full statement on the election. Don't expect to hear anything from her until the result is announced. However, her spokesperson Steffen Seibert said: "The German government has faith in the USA's democratic tradition and state institutions." The majority of Germany's political establishment is understood to favour a win for Joe Biden, and Merkel is no exception.

Merkel welcomes then vice-president Biden to Berlin in 2013.
Merkel welcomes then vice-president Biden to Berlin in 2013.dpa

Heiko Maas (foreign minister, SPD)

Germany's foreign minister (SPD) has stopped short of directly addressing the ongoing results of the election, saying it would be premature to do so. However, he seemed to take a stance indirectly in a series of tweets. Having praised America as a "strong democracy" with durable "checks and balances", he added that the situation currently unfolding "doesn't entirely reflect the culture of democracy we know from the USA." He continued that "voters have the last word" and the importance that "everyone accepts the result."

Whilst not naming Trump, it seems pretty clear who Maas was tweeting about. "It's easy to be a winner, but sometimes much more difficult to be a loser," he wrote. "Gracious losers are more important for the functioning of a democracy than beaming winners. The USA is more than a one-man show. Anyone who throws oil on the fire in the current situation is acting irresponsibly."

Saskia Esken (chairwoman, SPD), Olaf Scholz (vice chancellor, SPD)

The centre-left SPD released a statement condemning Trump's actions. Party boss Esken said: "A candidate who calls for votes in an election to not be counted is acting anti-democratically, even if that candidate is the incumbent president." Olaf Scholz, the finance minister and the SPD's candidate for chancellor next year, said every vote must be counted, and said the debacle made the case for more "European sovereignty" in future policy.

Norbert Röttgen (chair of Bundestag Foreign Affairs Committee, CDU)

Röttgen, a candidate for the CDU leadership and potential successor Angela Merkel in next year's election, had some damning words while speaking to CNN's Christiane Amanpour. He described Trump's behaviour as "unbelievable" but "without any surprise". He emphasised that Germany could not have become the democracy it is today without the USA's support in its foundation, so it was a cause of "great sadness to many, many Germans to witness this behaviour... challenging the very basic rule of democracy".

He also expressed concern that Trump supporters could turn to "means and actions which are beyond the democratic process" as a result of the president's words. He said the last four years had been characterised by "unpredictability" with Germany treated "more or less as an enemy". In the event of a second Trump term, he said he would expect a doubling down on this policy by "an unshackled president who could not run for office once again". In a separate interview, he said Germany was "not prepared" for four more years of Trump.

Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer (defence minister, CDU)

Outgoing CDU leader AKK spoke out soon after Trump claimed to have won the election, even though votes were still being counted. "This is a very explosive situation," she said on ZDF's Morgenmagazin. "This is a situation that could lead to a constitutional crisis in the US, as experts are rightly saying. This is something that must cause us great concern." She said Trump's casting of doubt on the legitimacy of the election showed that the election campaign itself was not yet over, and that Germany would have to "prepare for an uncertain situation." 

Robert Habeck and Annalena Baerbock (co-leaders, Bündnis 90/Die Grüne)

Green party bosses are concerned too. Co-leader Robert Habeck said the closeness of the result had proved "Trumpism is more robust than we thought, and isn't going anywhere." He added that a second Trump win would be "a watershed moment that would fundamentally change the current global order."

Baerbock said the ongoing counting of results and Trump's statements had given her "a queasy feeling." She emphasised that "every last vote must be counted", and that this could still take some time. She described the last four years as "intense", causing deep division in America and damage to relations with Europe, and although she hoped a Biden presidency would bring "a chance to heal those wounds," she said the choice must lie with US voters. 

Katja Kipping (co-leader, Die Linke)

The leftwing leader did not hold back in her assessment of a potential second Trump term. Kipping said the idea of four more years of Trump was "frightening", and attacked the president as an "open racist" who had promoted white supremacy, worsened social division in the US and whose corona policy had cost hundreds of thousands of lives. She repeated her warning against "arrogance" and "over-confidence" of a Biden win while results are still being calculated.

Christian Lindner (FDP leader)

The leader of the business-friendly FDP expressed deep concern for the "alarming" situation, which he said could have "unforeseeable consequences not just for the American people, but for the whole world and therefore us in Europe too." He said Trump's behaviour demonstrated a break with "tradition and rules", but warned against "naivety" that the substance of American politics would change after the election, and said the time was right for Germany and Europe to become "more independent" and carve out "an autonomous role."

Beatrix von Storch (deputy leader, AfD)

The rightwing Alternative für Deutschland (AfD) is the only large German political party to back a Trump win. Von Storch told Deutschlandfunk radio that the political and media mainstream who saw Trump as an "accident of history" had been proved wrong. "This hasn't just happened once, this may now happen for a second time," she said. 

Repeatedly asked by interviewer Christoph Heinemann if she viewed Trump's allegations that postal votes submitted after the election are being counted as undemocratic, she doubled down on the claims - for which there is no supporting evidence - and said she wouldn't want to see the same thing happen in Germany at next year's election. She wants to restrict early postal voting only to "the necessary cases."

She also claimed some polling stations had suddenly started recording 100 per cent votes for Trump or Biden - but couldn't name any concrete examples. "There are regularities that we can all see," she said. "There have been things that are extremely conspicuous and that is why I think it is appropriate for a constitutional state to have such things properly checked."

Von Storch also pushed conspiracy theories concerning Biden's health and capability to meet the demands of the presidency, predicting he would quickly be replaced by running mate Kamala Harris. She cited "numerous videos" purportedly demonstrating his weakened physical and psychological condition. "There are numerous moments like this which of course haven't been portrayed in German media," she claimed. 

Alice Weidel (parliamentary leader, AfD)

Weidel attributed the high continued support for Trump to his success in delivering his 2016 campaign promises and disrupting the establishment. She did acknowledge that a result can only be confirmed once all votes are counted - but also claimed too many had "underestimated" Trump and the pre-election polls had got their assessment badly wrong. She described his portrayal in the media as "exaggerated", and said that whilst Trump counted among the US presidents who hadn't initiated war, the "real scandal" was the lack of media scrutiny of corruption accusations against Biden in light of his son Hunter's business connections in Ukraine.