German federal election Odds

Next Chancellor after Angela Merkel

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Party/Coalition to obtain most seats at the German federal election 2021

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The Left

German federal elections 2021

The next German federal election is expected to be held on 26 September 2021 and is likely to be one of the least predictable since the modern Germany was established in 1949.

German elections are conducted using a mixed system of direct election and a list-based system of proportional representation, meaning parties’ representation in the Bundestag matches their level of support in the country. It has produced a remarkably stable political system dominated by the two larger parties able to lead coalitions. Since the first election in 1949 the Christian Democratic Union (CDU) has been the senior partner in coalitions for over 50 years. Their dominance being broken twice by Social Democratic Party-led (SPD) governments from 1969-1982 and 1998-2005.

However, this appearance of stability has hidden underlying shifts in party political fortunes. Since Angela Merkel became Chancellor in 2005 her CDU-led government has seen two changes of junior partner in 2009 and 2013. A third change was only avoided in the last election in 2017 after the German President pleaded for unity to avoid further elections.

The 2017 election was transformative. The two main parties suffered heavy losses, while the far-right Alternative for Germany party (AfD) won 94 seats in their first election to become the third largest party in the Bundestag. With both main parties having ruled out a coalition with the AfD and none of the other parties — the liberal Free Democrat Party (FDP), left-wing Linke and the Green Party — having enough seats to form a coalition with either the CDU or SPD, a continuation of the CDU/SPD grand coalition was the only viable option.

The election seems to have upset the usual order to German politics. The SPD appear to have been replaced as a major party by the Greens who have consistently polled second since 2018, at one point vying for the lead with the CDU. The SPD now find themselves fighting for third place with the right-wing AfD while the traditional third party, the FDP, fights it out with Linke for fifth place. Perhaps the most significant change after the election was that Angela Merkel, after 12 years dominating German politics as Chancellor, announced that she would be standing down before the next elections.

If that were not enough of a shake-up Coronavirus has now been added to the mix. Merkel has seen her fortunes transformed, being generally regarded as providing calm leadership and an effective response to the virus. While no longer led by her, the CDU have seen their ratings shoot up by 10% as a result, seemingly cementing them as the dominant party again, while the other parties continue to skirmish as also-rans.

But will this still be the case when voters when the go to the polls late in 2021? Will coronavirus still be the big issue, or will a vaccine have changed that? Will environmental concerns continue to benefit the Greens, or will the re-opening of borders mean that the German flirtation with the AfD develops further? And as Merkel is applauded off the stage, will her personal popularity continue to rub off on a CDU under new leadership? Whatever happens, with a new Chancellor change is definitely coming, it’s just a question of how much.