As the death toll rises to nearly 205, the ruling CDU party is facing stiff opposition for neglecting early warnings from climate experts, dimming its electoral prospects in the September federal polls.
Local and European early warning systems had flagged dangerous floods in western Germany several days before heavy rains filled up narrow rivers and streams, causing widespread flooding across several small towns and villages.
The damage just to the road and rail infrastructure stands at nearly 2 billion Euros and the death toll is yet to rise with hundreds more still missing.
But for many in the ruling Christian Democrats Union party (CDU), the risk of losing their electoral gains in the upcoming federal elections looms large – pushing many politicians and state representatives to forcibly deny responsibility for ignoring a series of international and local warnings.
According to the opinion polls conducted by a German broadcaster before the floods, the CDU/CSU coalition was leading the race to the Chancellor's office with 28 percent vote share and the left-wing Green party taking the second spot with a 20 percent vote to form the next government.
Thomas Sparrow, an independent analyst on German politics, says the situation is still very finely balanced, with it being too early to make definite calls on who will benefit politically from these very devastating floods.
“It all depends on how can the CDU manage this catastrophe, for now they haven't exactly done a great job, Chancellor Merkel is out in the flood region doing political damage control, meeting people and reassuring government support to them. But then there have been a few difficult points too, all these reports coming out that the government ignored flood warnings will not go down well”, says Sparrow.
Hannah Cloke, professor of hydrology at Reading University in England, and co-developer of one of the most precise flood forecast models in Europe says that her model had already recognized the first signs of heavy rain over the affected areas in Germany ten days ago.
Cloke says "people should have been warned and it should have been ensured that people understood the warnings and took them seriously”.
Prof Cloke says Germany has a "fragmented" system involving many different authorities in different states, resulting in varying responses.
Criticism of political leadership has been fierce, with calls for resignation coming from diverse political spheres.
There have been widespread calls for investigations into what went wrong with the early warning system and why a system, which integrated everything from sirens to SMS messaging and televised warnings, failed.
Sparrow says that the Armin Laschet laughing episode will not bode well for the CDU.
The leader of the CDU, Armin Laschet, was seen sharing a joke with a colleague while standing at a distance behind the German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier as he announced the grim news of a major death toll due to the floods, video and pictures of which spread across front pages of German newspapers and television news programmes.
“Laschet is known for his political faux pas and there is a lot of scepticism towards his leadership after the laughing episode - the German national psyche suggests that a leader comes across as sober and humble at these kinds of events, plus Laschet is from North-Rhine Westphalia, which is one of the worst-hit regions,” says Sparrow.
According to Sparrow, how Laschet manages this natural disaster is going to determine everything, the CDU cannot rely on the out-going Chancellor Merkel to rescue them through the public pressure that has started and will only get heavier.
Poor Green Credentials
The ruling CDU's green credential will also be questioned as the floods have once again thrust the climate change debate top of the election agenda.
Although Germany has reduced its dependence on fossil fuel for domestic and industrial consumption, 24 percent of its energy needs still come from burning coal.
While Laschet has acknowledged that climate change is man-made, he sees no reason to bring forward the coal phase-out date, he has also warned that green alternatives should not hurt Germany's industry.
The Greens’ election manifesto policies extend from lowering carbon emissions and promoting ‘green’ innovation, social, environmental, energy and food policies but they risk politicising the floods.
Sparrow says, “the Greens, who are currently second in the opinion poll, risk scoring political points if they speak too hard or too soon, they should let their policies do the talking”.
The Greens' policies are likely going to go down well with voters in the flood-hit region, who have traditionally voted for the CDU. The Greens have remained largely true to their 40-year-old founding principles of environmental protection, especially the fight against climate change, the party says it wants to cut greenhouse gases by 70 percent by 2030, a major target extension compared to the current government's plan, which aims to achieve a 55 percent reduction.
To meet this target, it will have to ensure a rapid expansion of renewable energies and put more electric cars on the roads.
While investigations into the current flood disaster and how the damage could have been mitigated could take months to begin - come September, Germany could see one of its most hard-fought federal elections in history, every small step or misstep could see a swing within the most loyal vote bank of the country's traditional political setup.