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Germany’s elections are of global significance under normal circumstances. As the European Union’s biggest economy and political powerhouse, Germany plays a huge role in shaping the bloc’s policy, which in turn has major implications for global trade and geopolitics. But several factors made the circumstances surrounding Sunday’s elections exceptional. To begin with, after 16 years in office, Chancellor Angela Merkel was not running for reelection, a decision made after her conservative Christian Democratic Union’s disappointing showing in the last elections, held in 2017.
But the regional picture and global context surrounding this year’s elections were also out of the ordinary. After four years of Donald Trump’s presidency in the U.S. and a tumultuous first few months of Joe Biden’s term, the strength and future of trans-Atlantic ties have been called into question to an unprecedented degree. And China’s growing assertiveness combined with the coronavirus pandemic has created an uncertain and challenging geopolitical environment for the EU and its member states to navigate.