For the first time in more than a decade, German voters will enter the polling station for Sunday’s federal election, but it is not clear which party will win, who will become the next prime minister, or what kind of governing coalition will be formed.
According to the latest polls by the Allensbach Institute, the center-left Social Democratic Party (SPD) and the conservative Christian Democratic Union (CDU) and its Bavarian sister party, the Christian Social Union (CSU), have nothing but a sharp show. Competitors are 26% and 25% respectively.
Other opinion polls published in recent days show that the lead of the Social Democratic Party is 2 to 4 percentage points, with a margin of error of about 3%.
Experts urge caution when interpreting poll data because of the uncertain impact of historically high numbers of undecided voters and the expected surge in mailed votes.
The voting will be announced at 6pm local time (16:00 GMT) on Sunday, and the results of the export poll will be announced throughout the night.
Angela Merkel’s decision to step down as Chancellor after 16 years upended German politics and led to the most unpredictable election in years. At all stages of the campaign, the Social Democratic Party, CDU/CSU and Green Party led the polls.
Climate change dominates party plans and television debates more than any other issue.
On Friday, more than 100,000 protesters participated in the “Friday for the Future” demonstration outside the German parliament building in Berlin. The activist Greta Thunberg told the crowd, “No political party has done enough.” To avoid climate disasters.
Other points of contention include social welfare spending and raising the minimum wage, overhauling Germany’s shaky digital infrastructure, and the country’s role in the NATO alliance.
The success or failure of the election campaign depends to a large extent on the ability of party leaders to portray themselves as the natural heir to Merkel, who remains the most popular politician in Germany.
CDU leader Armin Laschet’s gaffe led to a sharp drop in his approval rating, and allegations of resume filling and plagiarism made Green’s candidate Annalena Baerbock’s game deviate Up the track.
The Minister of Finance and Social Democratic Party candidate Olaf Scholz played on his reputation as a boring, pragmatic centrist, with great results.
A recent poll found that 47% of voters support him as prime minister, while Raschelt and Belbok have support rates of 20% and 16%, respectively.
“The issue of inheritance may become the most important campaign issue,” Kay Alzheimer, professor of political science at the University of Mainz, told Al Jazeera.
“Voters are more worried or more interested in who is most capable and who is most capable of managing Germany and the future of Germany. Therefore, individuality has become the main focus of this movement.”
How the election works
A total of 60.4 million voters over the age of 18 are eligible to vote on Sunday. The polling station will open at 8 am (06:00 GMT) on Sunday and close at 6 pm (16:00 GMT).
Under the German electoral system, voters cast two votes for the Bundestag, which has 598 basic seats.
The first is that the candidate represents one of the 299 regions in Germany, which is determined according to the British-style first-pass-first-selection system.
The second is a party. These votes are allocated to each party that passes the 5% threshold based on proportional representation, and they select 299 candidates from the internal list to represent them.
If there is an imbalance between the directly elected seats of a political party and its share of voters, there will be many “unresolved” seats. This feature leads to the expansion of the Bundestag.
The total number of seats rose to 709 in 2017 and is expected to rise again this year.
The states of Berlin and Mecklenburg-Vorpommern will also hold state elections at the same time. Berliners will get a further referendum to expropriate the capital’s largest landlord and nationalize nearly 250,000 houses.
German federal election officials told local media that the number of votes submitted by mail will reach at least 40%, and may even double the 28.6% in 2017.
He added that the COVID-19 pandemic is not expected to reduce voter turnout, and pointed out that there was no significant drop in the regional elections earlier this year.
Form an alliance
In the next few weeks and months, German parties will negotiate with each other to form a coalition that can govern with a majority in the new Bundestag.
Merkel’s favored Social Democratic Party and the CDU/CSU “major coalition” are not interested in renewing contracts, so opinion polls show that three parties are needed.
There are no formal rules governing coalition negotiations, and negotiations will continue until MPs vote for a new government and a new prime minister.
The CDU and the Social Democratic Party stated that even if they did not come out at the beginning, they would seek to lead a coalition.
The most likely choice, named after their party color, is the so-called “traffic light” combination of SPD, Green, and the Liberal Democratic Party (FDP); or the CDU/CSU, the “Jamaica” coalition of the Green and Liberal Democratic Party.
The pro-business FDP wants to exercise strict fiscal control over the finances, which complicates the marriage with the Social Democratic Party and the Green Party, and they bet their campaign activities on increasing spending on social welfare and climate protection.
“This may be a very big question, whether we will increase taxes or increase taxes,” said Ursula Munk, dean of the Tuqing School of Political Education.
“Liberal Democrats, they promised voters to cut taxes.”
If the latter removes the 5% barrier to entry into Parliament, the left-wing coalition of the Social Democratic Party, the Green Party, and the Left Party may be mathematically possible. The plan of the left has more in common than the FDP, but its opposition to NATO is the main obstacle for the big party.
“It will take a long time,” Munch said. “It is impossible to form an alliance before November. If we form an alliance in February, we will be very happy.”
If Merkel continues to serve as interim Chancellor until December 17, she will surpass her mentor and former CDU leader Helmut Kohl to become Germany’s longest post-war leader, thus making history.