As part of our coverage of Sunday’s German elections, in partnership with Europe Elects, we are running a series of posts to help our audience understand the German electoral system and the state of the race. We’ll have results starting after polls close at noon eastern/6pm in Germany.
You can see parts one and two of our preview series here on our site.
.In the final pre-election post, we take a look at the state of the race and what comes after election day, with less than 48 hours before voting ends.
By Tobias Gerhard Schminke, founder of Europe Elects
Germany’s election show-down is just around the corner. After introducing the somewhat edgy electoral system and potential post-election government coalitions, we are now looking at what to expect on 26 September 2021.
Europe Elects’ polling average currently shows the centre-left Social Democrats (SPD-S&D) at 26.0% (2017: 20.5%). The centre-right Christian Democrats (CDU/CSU-EPP) drop from 32.9% in 2017 to 21.5% (with about 5% going to CSU and 16.5% going to CDU based on the latest polls provided the pollster INSA). The Greens come third, averaging in polls at 15.5%. That would be their best election result ever, however well below the summer polling levels of around 26%. The liberal FDP (RE) is at 11.3% (2017: 10.7%), just two decimal points ahead of the right-wing AfD (11.1%; 2017: 12.6%). The Left stands at 6.3% (2017: 9.2%), and the centrist Free Voters party would reach 2% (2017: 1.0%) and fail to meet the 5% to enter the national parliament. The most recent polls of this week showed a slight upward trend for CDU/CSU. The other parties had a more mixed record.
Germany’s post-election government coalitions have colourful names based on the national party colours. Based on the proportional representation, Europe Elects projects that, SPD–GRÜNE–FDP (“Traffic Light Coalition”), SPD–CDU/CSU–GRÜNE (“Kenya Coalition”, in line with the colours used in the national flag of the African country), and CDU/CSU–SPD–FDP (“Germany Coalition” have a 100% probability to achieve a mathematical majority. The CDU/CSU–GRÜNEN–FDP (“Jamaica Coalition”) has a 98% chance to reach a parliamentary threshold. A Grand Coalition made up of SPD and CDU/CSU has a chance of 88% to achieve a government majority. The incumbent government consists of these parties, albeit Angela Merkel’s CDU/CSU is currently the larger partner. A left-wing government SPD–GRÜNE–LINKE has an 81% chance of getting a majority based on current polling. SPD and GRÜNE have a 0.3% probability of winning a majority by themselves. Other options involving only two partners have no chance to win a majority.
It can take months for the parties to agree on a coalition. After the September 2017 election, it took until 14 March 2018 until a new government was elected. Parties need to decide which party controls which cabinet position and a formal agreement needs to be designed laying out what the goals of the coalition will be for the upcoming legislative period (“Koalitionsvertrag”).
As per current models, the overall size of the national parliament Bundestag will significantly depend on the first vote-second vote ratio of the Bavarian CSU (EPP). As the data related to this ratio is limited, different pollsters project vastly different sizes for the Bundestag. INSA, for example, projected on 20 September that the overall size of the Bundestag would reach 835 seats. Forsa projected just one day later that the size of the Bundestag would inflate to only 762 seats. Europe Elects projection for EURACTIV situates itself between the two extremes and projects a size of 783 seats. However, there is significant uncertainty related to this. The model assumes CSU at 42 FPTP seats with a vote share the second vote of 28.5% (as per Infratest dimap and INSA). The shift of the second vote by only two points and a stagnant FPTP seat number could mean that the Bundestag is 30 or more seats bigger or smaller than we currently project.
Based on the assumptions, the data shows 220 seats for SPD, 143 seats for CDU and 42 seats for the CSU, 131 seats for the Greens, 96 seats for FDP, 94 seats for the AfD, and 53 seats for Linke. Keep in mind that one seat might go to the Danish minority party SSW; however, there the recent data available sufficient to project that is not available.
All post-election government coalition options remain on the table, and hence it remains unclear who will succeed Angela Merkel as federal chancellor and head of government. To put it with the words of well-known political science professor Thorsten Faas after he answered the question (probably not for the first time this week) which coalition option he thinks is the most likely to form after the election, he repeated what all experts are admitting at the moment: “I really don’t know.”