Federal Elections in Germany


Eric Thorndyke, Writer

On September 26, voters in Germany will head to the polls to decide the country’s future. The results will determine the makeup of the countries legislature, the Bundestag, whose members will then vote on the next Chancellor. Because a single party almost never wins a majority, talks to form a governing coalition of multiple parties usually take place after the election. Most analysts expect the center-left SPD to win the largest share of any party, though that “large” share isn’t likely to amount to more than 30 percent of the seats in the Bundestag.

What are the parties?

Unlike the two-party system in the United States and Great Britain, politics in Germany are usually dominated by six different political parties:

Who will win the most votes?

Polling averages for most of the year had the centre-right CDU with a commanding lead, followed at a distance by both the Greens and the SPD. That has changed, however, after several gaffes by the current head of the CDU, Armin Laschet. Now, the SPD is projected to finish first, with about 26% of the vote, followed by the CDU with about 22%, and the Greens around 16%.

Which parties will make up the governing coalition?

As the likelihood of a single party winning an outright majority is nearing impossible, parties have to “team-up” in order to govern. The following graphic shows the seven most likely options.

Of these seven, the two that are most likely are the “Traffic Light” coalition and the “Red-Green-Red” coalition. Both possibilities include the centre-left SPD and the Greens, but as these two parties alone would not reach a majority, they will have to rely on a third. In the “Traffic Light” coalition, that’s the pro-business FDP, a centrists party that could help the group appear more favorable to the general public. The “Red-Green-Red” coalition incluses Die Linke, a far-left party that has never been a part of a government. Coalitions with Die Linke (like with the AfD) are taboo.

The Bigger Picture

For the past 16 years, German Chancellor Angela Merkel has gotten Germany, as well as the European Union, through crisis after crisis. She has little charisma, and she’s almost neverĀ been described as energetic, but she does her job well. Whether the times are good or bad, she carries the weight of a continent on her shoulders. The financial crisis, migrant crisis, Euro crisis, Brexit, and Covid have all required steady leadership, and she has provided it. The next Chancellor, appointed by the Bundestag, will need to have at least a fraction of her tenacity to get Germany, and the Union, through any future crises.


Resources (linked):

The New York Times

The Guardian

The Financial Times


Deutsche Welle