The German election results are in, with Angela Merkel reelected to the chancellorship at the head of a new ruling alliance. The bigger news in the election was the dramatic decline the the Social Democratic Party, still No. 2 in terms of seats, which some observers are hailing as the "end of an era for the European left." How have the elections changed Germany's direction, and what does it mean? Here are five takes:

  • The 'Decline' of Democratic Socialism  "Is the time of democratic socialism coming to an end?" asks the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung's Daniel Deckers, looking at the Social Democratic Party's tremendous losses. In a word: yes. Though the SPD will retain control of of a number of key ministries, as well as the second largest number of seats in parliament, Deckers says that "the party is a shadow of its former self." It can no longer keep "its promise of greater social justice through redistribution."
  • So Much for the Global End of the Free Market  Bentley University economics professor Scott Sumner sees this as one more sign that the financial crisis, far from discrediting the free market worldwide, has in fact hurt socialism. "The key," he writes, "is the performance of a third party, the Free Democrats." They gained a large number of seats, and "are the closest thing Germany has to a libertarian party."
  • Hardly a Merkel Victory  "If, ultimately, a black-yellow [Christian Democratic Union and Free Democratic Party colors] coalition lies ahead, then that is the success of the FDP," declares the editor-in-chief of Die Welt, Thomas Schmid. "The Union lost profile and influence," he notes. "Almost none of Angela Merkel's success radiated onto her party."
  • Merkel Goes Free Market?  As the Wire recently reported, some, including the Economist, have thought a CDU-FDP partnership more likely to preside over economic reform, including a pruning of regulation and the "excessively generous welfare state" that the Economist argued was "hold[ing] back job creation and inhibit[ing] entrepreneurship." But the BBC's Gavin Hewitt isn't so sure. "At one time," he writes, the free-market FDP members "would have been [Merkel's] ideological allies." But "will a more radical Merkel emerge? Probably not." She is, he notes, cautious by nature.
  • Trivia: A Gay Foreign Minister  Blogger Matthew Yglesias, immersed in the election through his trip to Germany, brought up one aspect of the results that others completely overlooked: this may "lead to FDP leader Guido Westerwelle taking over as Foreign Minister of Germany. He’s openly gay and a big believer in tax cuts. I don’t think the world has ever had an out gay man in such a senior role in a major country." Also, Yglesias notes, he's "really not a foreign policy guy at all."