News about the German election
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The Germans went to an historic election on Sunday that will determine who will succeed Angela Merkel as Chancellor of Europe’s largest economy.
Polls published in the last few days suggest one of the closest races in a generation, with the center-right CDU / CSU taking the lead from the left-wing Social Democrats. Much of the electorate remained undecided.
The SPD, currently a junior partner in a âgrand coalitionâ with the CDU / CSU, is 25-26 percent ahead of the CDU / CSU with 22-25 percent, the Greens with 16-17 percent and the liberal Free Democrats at 10.5 -12 percent.
Most pollsters expected that the election would lead to Germany’s first tripartite coalition of the modern era, in which either the SPD or the CDU / CSU would form an alliance with the Greens and the FDP.
Merkel’s departure from the political arena after 16 years as Chancellor leaves a significant void in European leadership that could prove difficult. The election on Sunday also marks the first time in German post-war history that an incumbent chancellor is no longer standing for re-election, and voters have focused much more on the personalities of their successor candidates than on the politics of the parties they represent.
This benefited the social democrat Olaf Scholz, known to voters as finance minister and vice chancellor, who steered the German economy through the coronavirus pandemic.
The other main candidates are less known to the Germans: Armin Laschet from the CDU / CSU, governor of the industrial state of North Rhine-Westphalia; and Annalena Baerbock from the Greens, a 40-year-old MP with no government experience.
Their campaigns were marred by slip-ups that hit their parties’ polls. Laschet was caught laughing in front of the camera in July during a trip to one of the areas in western Germany affected by the summer flood disaster, while Baerbock was accused of plagiarizing parts of a book she published in June and embellishing her rÃ©sumÃ©.
The 60,000 polling stations in Germany open at 8 a.m. on Sunday and close at 6 p.m. when the first election is expected. 60.4 million Germans are entitled to vote, of which 2.8 million are taking part in an election for the first time. New parliaments are also being elected in the urban state of Berlin and in the northeast of Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania.
Merkel campaigned alongside Laschet in his hometown of Aachen on Saturday. The Chancellor had planned to keep campaign appearances to a minimum, but had to take a more active role due to the falling polls of her party.
In Aachen, Merkel praised Laschets government leadership in North Rhine-Westphalia, the commitment to the unity of the EU and the ability to “build bridges and take people with you”.
Laschet warned that an SPD vote would pave the way for a left, âred-red-greenâ coalition with the Greens and the Left, a radical left group that NATO wants to dissolve. He said an SPD victory would bring “ideological experiments” in economic policy.
Scholz promised a higher minimum wage, stable pensions, affordable housing, a climate-neutral economy and a better digital infrastructure on Saturday in Potsdam near Berlin. âThe next decade must mark a fresh start with a big wave of investment,â he said.
Baerbock also advertised in downtown Potsdam. “A quarter of the voters are still undecided,” she told ARD television. “That’s why I’m out here until the last minute – because it makes a difference how strong” [the Greens] are in the next Bundestag, for the climate and also for the renewal of this country. “
Christian Lindner, FDP leader, warned that the Greens wanted âmore state and more regulationâ.
“The FDP stands for the exact opposite,” he said.
The stark differences between the Greens and the FDP point to the likely complexity of the negotiations on forming a coalition after the election on Sunday.