The Election System in Germany
The Bundestag, or the Federal Parliament of Germany, held elections on Sept. 26, 2021. German citizens cast two votes. They each voted for a direct representative, with the majority winning the seat. Additionally, each citizen voted for a political party, with the number of votes per party proportional to the number of seats won in parliament. The parties are now discussing potential negotiations to form coalitions. After a coalition forms the majority in parliament, a new chancellor will be appointed. Earlier this year, Chancellor of Germany Angela Merkel stepped down after 16 years in power. Merkel’s resignation begs the question: will the new chancellor build on Merkel’s policies or will Germany change directions?
The Election Results and What They Mean
The votes for each political party were distributed as such: Social Democratic Party (25.7%), the Christian Democratic Union (24.1%), the Green Party (14.8%), the Free Democratic Party (11.5%), the Alternative for Germany Party (10.3%), and the Left Party (4.9%).
The Social Democratic Party, a center-left party pushing for economic modernization and the expansion of social services, had the highest number of votes in this election and will have substantial control over the next coalition government. Still, this party has lost support in recent years. The Christian Democratic Union, a centrist party, which Chancellor Merkel was a leader of, performed similarly, losing 49 seats from the previous election.
It is likely that the Greens and the Free Democrats will have a strong influence in coalition negotiations and the appointment of the new chancellor. Support for the Green Party has grown considerably in recent years, winning 51 seats. Many young voters and those living in Western Germany voted for the party. In this election, climate change was a primary concern for many, given the recent floods in Western Germany. The Free Democratic Party also attracted this young environmentally-conscious voter base, with their platform promoting new green technology. Although the Free Democratic Party, focused primarily on promoting business interests and personal freedom, did not experience the same substantial growth in voter support, gaining just 12 seats, they will likely form a coalition with the Social Democratic Party, influencing the election for chancellor.
In this election, the Left Party also lost support, with voters shifting to the Alternative for Germany party instead. The Alternative for Germany Party has gained momentum, especially in East Germany. In 2017, after Merkel welcomed migrants into Germany, this party, with its anti-immigration platform, rose to prominence. Although support for the party decreased in this election, having lost 11 seats, their support in East Germany remains strong.
Possible Coalitions and the Future of Germany
Because no party has a majority in Parliament, parties will have to negotiate and form coalitions to elect a chancellor. Since the election, parties have been discussing potential coalitions. The most likely coalition to form is the “traffic light coalition,” with the Social Democratic Party, the Free Democratic Party, and the Green Party. The “traffic light” party leaders will decide on whether to continue onto formal coalition talks by Friday. The “Traffic Light Coalition” would promote more progressive policies on climate change and social issues. Given the FDP’s pro-business stance, the parties may disagree about tax reform and climate change policy. While there may be some disagreement on issues, this coalition is likely to form.
Still, there are other possibilities, like the “Jamaica” coalition (the Christian Democratic Union, the Free Democratic Party, and the Green Party). The government under the “Jamaica” coalition would smoothly transition from Merkel’s more moderate leadership, as Merkel was a member of the CDU. In this coalition, however, the parties would likely struggle to agree with the Green Party against many of the CDU and FDP’s policies on the economy, climate, and social issues.
We do not yet know how these election results will shape the Bundestag, coalition negotiations, and the appointment of a chancellor. Still, undoubtedly, with Merkel’s resignation and shifting party support, there will be great changes in German politics.