Following the announcement of the retirement of Angela Merkel, Germany held a federal election on September 26, 2021, the first without its Chancellor in almost 16 years. According to The Guardian, Germany uses a system in which voters cast two votes, one directly for a representative and another for a party. These votes then translate into seats within the Bundestag, where parties, through the formation of coalitions, choose the next Chancellor.
The Social Democratic Party (SPD), led by former finance minister Olaf Scholz, has seemingly emerged victorious, winning 25.7 percent of the vote. Scholz’s pragmatic center-left politics have won over a large share of voters, especially in the East, where the SPD made substantial gains. This strong election performance has put Scholz and the SPD in a strong position for coalition negotiations, the process by which Scholz could assume Chancellorship. As The Associated Press reports, following the announcement of the election results, Scholz stated he had “a very clear mandate to ensure now that we put together a good, pragmatic government for Germany.”
Meanwhile, CNN reports that the Christian Democratic Union (CDU), the party of Chancellor Angela Merkel which has run Germany for almost 16 years, suffered its most devastating election result in modern history, securing only 24.1 percent of the vote. Led by Armin Laschet, the decrease of 8.9 percent in the vote share has put doubt in his leadership, though Laschet maintains that he and his party retain a mandate to govern. Nevertheless, in coalition talks, the CDU.CSU is in a weak position and will undoubtedly have to make concessions on their center-right conservative policies if they are to govern.
The Greens, led by Annalena Baerbock, who had been polling high in the spring, performed worse than hoped, securing only 14.8 percent of the vote. However, this was still a 5.8 percent increase since the last election, consequently placing the Greens in a solid position to play a role as kingmaker in coalition talks with the SPD and CDU/CSU. As Euronews reports, their center-left environmental policies appealed to many German voters who saw the environment as a priority issue in this election.
Hoping to increase their vote, the Free Democratic Party (FDP) managed a decent showing in the election, slightly increasing their vote share from the previous election, winning 11.5 percent of the vote. Like the Greens, they have gained enough seats in the Bundestag to play a vital role in creating Germany’s next governing coalition.
Though several coalitions are possible, most political analysts believe that the two most likely possibilities are a “traffic light coalition” between the SPD, Greens, and FDP or a “Jamaica coalition” between the CDU/CSU, Greens, and FDP. As Deutsch Welle reports, “the process of forming could take weeks, or even months.”
With the SPD as the coalition leader, a traffic light coalition would most likely lean center-left, prioritizing a Green environmental policy and moderated by the tax-averse FDP. As Reuters reports, the coalition would be progressive regarding social issues. Still, due to the influence of the FDP, the SPD may have to moderate its more progressive economic proposals, such as the $13 minimum wage and the 1 percent wealth tax.
On the other hand, a Jamaica coalition, with the CDU/CSU, would likely govern to the right of center, favoring policies that increase investment in technology and implement more laissez-faire economic policies, such as a 25 percent corporate wealth tax cap. Reuters also reports that the CDU/CSU have hinted at courting the Greens by creating a special environmental spending bond separate from the German budget. Additionally, the CDU/CSU would have to moderate its social policies due to pressure from Greens and FDP.
Many German voters and foreign leaders now eagerly await the creation of a governing coalition and the inauguration of a new Chancellor. Though it is unclear which party has the ruling mandate, both the SPD and CDU/CSU will have to make concessions with Greens and FDP if they desire the chancellorship.