The Germans have voted. Their European partners, who allegedly awaited the elections to a new Bundestag with the nervousness of an Englishman awaiting the penalty shootout in a major international football match, can breathe out again: it is over and done with, even if the most exciting phase for both players and onlookers – the cobbling together of a new government in Berlin – is still to come.

The tension that lies in the question of who is likely to end up holding the reins of political power in the heart of Europe is not unjustified. It is bound up, after all, with the events and the experiences of the past four years, stamped by the European sovereign debt crisis, by the worry over the state of the monetary union and the row over how the euro could be permanently secured. Germany has played an important role in that, a role many would label as critical and dominant.

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