German Election Guide – Atlantic Sentinel


The Reichstag building in Berlin, Germany (Unsplash / Fionn Große)

The Germans elect a new Bundestag Sunday, who will elect Angela Merkel’s successor. It is the first time since 1983 that a chancellor in office does not seek his re-election.

If the polls are right, Merkel’s center-right Christian Democrats will lose power to the center-left Social Democrats for the first time since 2005.

Here’s all you need to know.


  • The Social Democrats (SPD) should overtake the Christian Democrats as the biggest party.
  • Their preferred coalition partners are the Greens, but they will likely need a third party for a majority: either the Liberal Democrats (FDP) or the Socialists The Left.
  • A left-wing coalition would align itself more closely with Italy, France and Spain on economic and political integration into the EU, but spend less on defense.

Electoral system

About sixty million Germans have the right to vote. A third is expected to vote by mail, up from the previous record of 29% in 2017. The turnout rose from over 90% in the 1970s to between 70 and 80% in the last elections, in part because of the low rate of participation in ex-communism. East Germany.

The Germans cast two votes: one for a candidate and one for a party. A simple plurality is required to win in any of the country’s 299 electoral districts. The seats are added and filled by the candidates of the general party lists according to the second votes. Since most constituencies are won by a Christian or Social Democratic candidate, hundreds of additional seats must be added to reflect the party preferences of the national electorate. There are currently 709 legislators, making Germany the fifth largest parliament in the world.

Representatives of the sixteen German state governments form the upper house, or Bundesrat.


53 parties are vying for the election, six of which are expected to cross the 5% electoral threshold. (Counting the “Union” of the Christian Democratic Union, which competes in fifteen states, and the Christian Social Union of Bavaria as one.)

Party Ideology Seats Polls
â–  union Christian Democracy 245 162-182
â–  SPD Social democrat 152 186-227
â–  AfD Nationalist 87 86-100
â–  FDP Liberal 80 91-113
â–  Left Socialist 69 50-57
â–  Green vegetables Ecologist 67 131-148


The main challenges of this election are as follows:

  • Budget and taxes: Left parties would raise taxes and release Germany’s debt brake (limiting structural deficits to 0.35% of economic output) to finance investment. The Union and the FDP are opposed to getting into more debt.
  • Climate and energy: The Union and the SPD maintain that the policies of their outgoing coalition are sufficient to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels by 2045. The Greens want to go much further. Free Democrats have more confidence in innovation.
  • Defense: The Union and the FDP want to meet NATO’s spending target of 2%. Left parties prefer to spend more on foreign aid.
  • Digitization: All parties call for investments in digitization, with Christian Democrats setting a nationwide target of 5G by 2025.
  • Economy and business: All parties want to encourage business creation, but where the Union would give startups a first year “without bureaucracy”, the Greens believe that the solution is more government funding. The Liberals want both.
  • Europe: The four main parties support further European integration, although the Christian Democrats and the FDP are wary of the “transfer union”. Christian Democrats and Greens would switch to majority voting in EU foreign policy. The FDP is against European taxes.
  • Lodging: The SPD and the Greens seek to control high costs with price controls or a rent ceiling. The Union and the FDP are calling for more housing construction, in particular by relaxing the laws on town planning.
  • Migration: The SPD, Greens and FDP would move to a Canadian-style points-based system to encourage more skilled immigration than family reunification.
  • Mobility: All the mainstream parties want to encourage Germans to buy more electric cars and travel more often by train than by plane, but the Greens are by far the most aggressive. The Union and the FDP oppose the ban on diesel cars and the reduction of speed limits.
  • Russia: The Union, the SPD and the left are relatively favorable to Russia and support the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline. The Greens and the FDP are more hawkish.

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  • The Greens interrogates first in April and May, but were marred by questions about the competence of their leader, Annalena Baerbock, and their stigma as Verbotspartei: a party that wants to ban diesel cars, domestic flights and single-family homes in working-class neighborhoods.
  • The Union has fallen from a high of 40% in the polls after appointing the irrelevant Armin Laschet to succeed Merkel.
  • The FDP profited from the collapse of the Union, but the SPD gained even more. They can turn voters away from the Union like Greens. Their candidate, Finance Minister Olaf Scholz, is seen as a safe pair of hands.

German polls are generally reliable. In the last election, pollsters’ final figures were less than 2 points from the election results.

Possible coalitions

  • SPD + Greens + FDP: Risky for the FDP, which would face opposition from both the center and the far right, and politically difficult on budget, business, climate and housing policy.
  • SPD + Greens + Left: Risky for the SPD and the Greens, who want to be moderate and politically difficult in defense and foreign relations.
  • SPD + Greens: A minority government, possibly with a trust and supply agreement with the left. Unprecedented in post-war German history, but similar coalitions reign in Spain and Sweden.
  • Union + Greens + FDP: Failed in 2017, when the Liberals balked. It could be a pro-European modernizing government seeking technological solutions to the climate crisis.
  • Union + SPD: Another “grand coalition” would barely muster a majority and neither party wants it.
  • Union + SPD + Greens: The tangle option. Unattractive to all three parties.

No other party wants to rule with the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD).

The SPD and Greens combination is the favorite with 15-17% support in recent polls. A tripartite coalition with La Gauche gets 7-10 percent support.


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