German Federal Election – What can we expect?

Written by Felix Schulz, Member of the Editorial Team of Libertas 

 

After sixteen years in power, Angela Merkel is about to step down and make room for a new political leadership. The two biggest questions are firstly, will the conservative CDU/CSU alliance remain in power, and secondly, what kind of coalition will govern the country the next four years? In the light of climate, digital and financial policies, the new government will be leading the way into the 21st century. 

Throughout the summer, the polls have been quite volatile and the general mood has changed a lot. While the CDU/CSU were the strongest party in the beginning of June, with approximately 30 points, the socialist SPD started the race to catch up. At the moment they are two to three points ahead of the CDU/CSU, averaging around 25 points. The Greens, however, seem to have missed the opportunity to maintain their voter support, gained throughout the last two years. In contrast, the liberal FDP has managed to remain in the same position, at about 11 – 13 points, over the past few months. The two parties at the extreme ends of the political spectrum, the rightwing Alternative für Deutschland (AfD) and the leftwing Die Linke, have failed to increase their support among voters and are at around 11 and 6 points respectively.

What topics have dominated the political discussion until now? Before the summer it seemed like the coronavirus crisis and climate change would dominate the public debate. But in the end, it was the  personal attacks of the Spitzenkandidaten, or leading candidates,  which caused the most damage. At first, Annalena Baerbock, the promising candidate of the Greens, was attacked because of inconsistencies in her CV, which she failed to adequately explain. Afterwards she was accused of plagiarism in her latest book making her even more unpopular. The CDU/CSU candidate Armin Laschet’s  approval ratings plunged after being inadvertently filmed laughing in the background of an interview with German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier, as Steinmeier offered his condolences to the victims of heavy flooding in western Germany. Finally, SDP candidate Olaf Scholz managed to avoid the spotlight for several weeks, but lately his involvement in the Cum Ex tax scandal is being debated again, with the spotlight falling on the role played by his Finance Ministry in impeding investigations into Finance Intelligence United. In short, none of the major candidates can be described as having a spotless record: and consequently, none of them stands out as being universally popular.

Consequently, this campaign is proving to be highly frustrating for the electorate. Germany is at a crossroads, where the policies of the next government will pave the way for the next 10 – 15 years and lay the foundation for a digital and climate friendly future. Furthermore, the financial situation of Germany should be emphasized more in the public debate. The corona crisis let the government borrow an additional 218.5 billion euro, in order to tackle the economic impact of the corona crisis. Additionally the future of the German pension system looks also bleak. There is already a yearly subsidy of 100 billion euro from the federal budget needed, in order to keep the system running. With all these daunting issues it is really surprising that there is not a bigger debate about the future of the country. When would you want to discuss the most pressing problems and put forward your ideas, if it is not during federal elections?

One possible reason for these empty debates is the time period after the 26th of September. Finding a coalition will be more difficult than ever. So it might be advisable not to eliminate possible coalition partners with unrealistic demands. In essence, there are three coalitions possible, named according to the brand colours of the parties: Jamaica (CDU/CSU, Greens and Liberals); a left alliance (Socialists, Greens and Die Linke); and Angola (Socialists, Greens and Liberals). Considering the polls, the winner of the election might not form a government. Such a situation occurred in 1976 when the CDU/CSU won the election but the SDP and FDP continued their coalition. The percentage of votes afforded to small parties, which do not meet the 5% threshold necessary to take seats in the Bundestag, could nevertheless play a pivotal role as they deprive larger parties of crucial leverage. That is going to determine the absolute majority, which could be, depending on the results, already achieved at 46 points or less.

Predicting or estimating the election results has never been so challenging. A good outcome for the FDP would be that they are afforded the position of ‘kingmakers’, with the potential to decide the next German chancellor and to play a role in the new government. All that we know for sure is that it will be a close race.

 

About the author:  Felix Schulz is a young liberal from Germany. Since 2015, he is a member of the FDP in Germany and joined the young liberals in the beginning of the year, where he is also a member of the editorial team. Just after his studies, he went to Ukraine for the Friedrich-Naumann-Foundation.

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September 21 2021

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