The German elections are a disaster for the left - Germany now has a five party political system and the three parties of the left: the Social Democrats, the Greens and the Left have managed to come off worst. Chancellor Angela Merkel has got her way. She can drop her Social Democrat allies and form a coalition with the free market Liberals (FDP).
Why has the left done so badly during the recession?Above all because it is divided. There are the Greens, a middle class protest party which has survived beyond the 68ers but has still has only managed to poll around 10 per cent and has no vision beyond an end to nuclear power. Then, there is the Left or die Linke, an uneasy combination of old east German communists and left wing social democrats such as Oskar Lafontaine and finally the Social Democrats themselves who sank in this election to a record postwar low with only 23 per cent of the vote.
Despite Angela Merkel's win though, it is not the greatest night for her Christian Democratic Union, which used to be the other dominant party. They have polled lower than in 2005 and have now been forced into an alliance with the FDP. It used to be that the CDU had four or five times as many votes as the FDP who remained clearly the junior party. In this coalition they and their leader Guido Westerwelle are likely to be much more powerful and call a lot more of the shots.
There is no comfort from this election for Gordon Brown, but there is a warning for those fighting over the future of the Labour Party. To splinter is catastrophic.