When are the elections?
On September 26, Germany will vote for the postwar 20th parliament, after which Angela Merkel will resign as chancellor after 16 years.
Voting booths in the country’s 299 electoral districts will open at 8 am and close at 6 pm. Holders of a German passport who have lived in the country for at least three months are eligible to vote; German citizens living abroad can apply to participate in elections remotely and can vote under certain conditions.
Due to the pandemic, more people are expected to vote by letter than ever. In Germany’s last federal elections in 2017, 28.6% of the votes were votes by mail; this year, up to 50% of eligible voters in some regions have already requested a vote by mail, although fewer had been posted by mid-September than in previous years. years.
As soon as the voting booths close at 6 pm, broadcasters will post an exit poll, followed by projected results based on public counts in representative electoral districts.
Who is standing?
There will be 47 parties listed on the ballot sheet, allowing each voter to cast two votes: one for a candidate running in their constituency and one for a list of party candidates in their federal state.
A 5% threshold limits the number of parties that can send a delegate to the Bundestag after the vote. Six matches are expected to overcome the hurdle: the traditional two Popular festivals who have ruled in a “grand coalition” for the past eight years, namely the center-right Christian Democratic Union (CDU) and the center-left Social Democratic Party (SPD), the Green Party, the pro-business Free Democratic Party (FDP)), the right-wing populist Alternative für Deutschland (AfD), and the left-wing Die Linke, who have hastily approached the 5% hurdle.
One politician who will not stand for election is the outgoing Chancellor, for the first time in Germany’s history: Merkel will not run to represent the Vorpommern-Rügen-Vorpommern-Greifswald I constituency, which she has continuously held ever since. It was created after reunification in 1990.
Three parties have nominated official candidates to replace her, although their names will not be noted as such on the ballots: the CDU has introduced its party leader, Armin Laschet, the current Finance Minister and Vice Chancellor, Olaf Scholz, to the SPD, and the Greens. his co-leader Annalena Baerbock.
What are the big problems?
With the outgoing government pledging for Germany to become greenhouse gas neutral by 2045, one of the overriding questions has been how Europe’s largest economy will do to curb carbon emissions from its industry.
The Greens and Die Linke want to achieve the same goal sooner, in part by phasing out coal-fired power plants by 2030, eight years earlier than currently planned. The FDP wants to achieve climate neutrality by 2050, while the AfD rejects the scientific consensus on man-made climate change and has not come up with a climate policy.
Whether environmental objectives will have an impact on daily behavior has been one of the high points of the campaign. While the CDU and FDP emphasize emissions trading, SPD, Greens and Die Linke want to introduce speed limits on German motorways and make short-haul flights unattractive or even illegal.
The economic consequences of the pandemic are another dominant theme. Despite the fact that Germany has taken on large amounts of debt to withstand the effect of two protracted lockdowns, the CDU and the FDP reject future tax increases, and subsequent far-reaching promising cuts. The SPD and the Greens, on the other hand, say they want to offer tax breaks for small businesses, but also re-introduce a wealth tax of around 1% for people with high incomes.
Some issues have been conspicuous by their absence. While all the major parties, apart from the AfD, express their commitment to the European project, their manifestos in this regard have been short on details.
Who will win?
This electoral race has been one of the most open in recent times, with three parties that at different stages have taken the lead in opinion polls. After the CDU and the Greens presented their candidates in the spring, the environmental party briefly surpassed the Conservatives to the top spot. When Baerbock’s star faded, following accusations that he had plagiarized passages from a book and inflated his CV, the CDU restored the pole position it had enjoyed during the first year of the pandemic. But CDU candidate Laschet has proven error-prone and weak within his own party, and in recent weeks the SPD has stepped up to become the new surprise favorite.
Crucially, neither party is expected to win more than 25-27% of the vote at most, which means that the winning party of the night will not automatically nominate the next chancellor unless it can build a coalition that has a ruling majority. .
With 6-10% of the votes expected this year for parties that fall below the parliamentary threshold, that majority may need as little as 46% of the votes.
Even then, current polls indicate that the next German government will require a power-sharing agreement between three different parties, such as a coalition between the SPD, Greens, and the FDP (dubbed the “semaphore coalition” after the party’s traditional colors) or CDU, Greens and FDP (nicknamed “Jamaica coalition”).
What happens next?
If no party has an absolute majority, two or more parties enter into exploratory talks to determine their willingness to form a coalition with each other. If a basic desire to cooperate can be established, the parties enter into coalition talks to determine which party occupies which ministry, culminating in a coalition treaty. While these talks are ongoing, the old government remains in power in an interim role, potentially for months: there is no time limit for the formation of the government, although parliament must meet for the first time at least 30 days after the voting, to elect the new president. The new chancellor is elected only after the coalition government has reached an agreement.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism