Wednesday, August 10

Now what ?: questions and answers about the German elections

Victory by the minimum of the German Social Democrats in a tight federal election. Germany is almost certainly heading to form a three-party coalition to govern. There are various alliances on the table and both the Social Democratic Party (SPD) and the conservative CDU / CSU bloc (the Christian Democratic Union and its brother in Bavaria, the Christian Social Union) have said they want to govern.

Olaf Scholz, the ‘Merkelian’ Social Democrat

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Arduous negotiations are ahead to decide who will occupy the chancellery. If there is one thing for sure, it is that the country is at a turning point: the Angela Merkel era ends after 16 years, and something new begins.

Who has won?

In an exciting head-to-head, the SPD has won the elections by a narrow margin of 1.6 points to the conservative bloc CDU / CSU, according to the preliminary results. The Social Democrats, with the current vice chancellor and finance minister as chancellor candidate, Olaf Scholz, have obtained 25.7% of the votes, while the conservative bloc, led by Armin Laschet, has reaped 24.1%.

The percentage represents an improvement of 5.2 points compared to the 2017 elections, when the SPD obtained its worst result to date with 20.5%.

The SPD had been leading the polls after staging a surprising comeback, but recent polls had shown a much closer race, close to a technical tie, with the CDU closing the gap down the stretch. The rise of the Social Democrats has been largely attributed to Scholz, a politician from the centrist wing of the party, perceived as experienced and competent, and a well-known figure. He has also had the ability to present himself to the public as Merkel’s heir. Many analysts consider it the most merkelian of the three main candidates, and they believe that it has been favored by the mistakes of its opponents.

What has happened to the conservative bloc?

The crash by the CDU, the party of outgoing Chancellor Angela Merkel, and the CSU, which have ruled since 2005, is another of the big news of the night. The conservative bloc has suffered a historic defeat, with its worst result in seven decades, despite having come back slightly in recent days. They fall almost nine points compared to 2017.

The CDU candidate and Prime Minister of North Rhine-Westphalia, Laschet, has been prone to gaffes – for example, he was caught on camera laughing during a visit to an area devastated by the July floods – and weak within his own party. Some analysts believe that he was already a gray candidate and has failed to capitalize on Merkel’s popularity and work.

How have the Greens been?

The results have confirmed the rise of the Greens predicted by the polls compared to the 2017 elections, with 14.8%, 5.8 points more. It is the party that rises the most and becomes the third strongest political force in Germany, with the best result in its history. Everything indicates that, together with the Liberals, they will be key pieces for the formation of the Government. The Greens were already in the federal Executive before the arrival of Merkel, with the Social Democratic Chancellor Gerhard Schröder.

Paradoxically, given their high expectations at the beginning of the year, the formation is among the losers of the elections. However, if you look at the results of 2017, they are among the big winners: at that time they were the smallest parliamentary group with 8.9%.

The leadership in the polls at the beginning of the year and the priority to its central theme, the protection of the climate, caused the Greens to name a candidate for chancellor for the first time. But Annalena Baerbock’s mistakes have taken their toll on her. The formation has tried to position itself more broadly to open up to other groups of voters. It is worth noting the support of young people: the surveys indicate that those under the age of 25 mainly voted for the Greensas well as liberals.

And the liberals?

The Liberals of the FDP, a pro-business party that has traditionally acted as a hinge, has reaped 11.5%, and grows slightly, 0.7 points more than in 2017. In the electoral campaign, the FDP has focused on economic policy and fiscal. He has been clearly opposed, for example, to tax increases. The FDP is likely to play an important role in the formation of a new government. In 2017, exploratory talks with the CDU / CSU and the Greens failed and the party is determined to join the Executive this time, preferably with the Union.

What has happened to the extreme right?

The far right, Alternative for Germany (AfD), has fallen compared to the 2017 elections, when it first entered Parliament as a third force. AfD loses its position as the main opposition party, but the fall is not very big, of just 2.3 points, and they will rejoin the Bundestag with 10.3% of the votes. Some analysts believe that they have been affected by the internal schism, they have moved badly in the institutions in recent years and have focused on issues that do not mobilize votes beyond their electoral base.

In any case, the extreme right does not enter the coalition pools due to the strict sanitary cordon to which it is subjected. But it has become the strongest party in Thuringia and Saxony, to the east.

And The Left?

The Die Linke party, The Left, has been on the verge of being left out of the Bundestag. At 4.9%, he has fallen below the 5% barrier to enter Parliament. But it has been able to defend three seats obtained by direct mandates in the elections, so they will be represented again. In 2017, the formation had obtained 9.2% of the votes.

Who is going to rule?

It is not known. The alliance of parties that will govern Germany and under which chancellery remain unclear at the moment. The narrow margin prompts complicated and probably lengthy exploratory and coalition talks.

The German Chancellor is not directly elected, but is chosen by a vote in the Bundestag. Merkel could stay in office for weeks, if not months, while the parties try to form a coalition. After the last elections, in 2017, it took more than six months to reach an agreement and form the current “grand coalition” of Conservatives and Social Democrats.

Both the SPD and the CDU have said that they want to try to form a government, and that they want there to be a new one before Christmas. In the televised debate between the leading candidates on election night, traditionally called the “elephant round,” Scholz has said he has been mandated by voters to lead the next government. Despite his poor performance, Laschet has insisted that he can build a coalition despite finishing second.

This Monday, Scholz insisted that the CDU / CSU not only lost a considerable number of votes, “but also received the message from the citizens that they should no longer be in government, but should go to the opposition”

Everything indicates that Greens and liberals will have the key. One of the evening news was that Christian Lindner, leader of the FDP, has suggested meeting first with the leaders of the Greens before entering into coalition talks. But they may have a hard time agreeing.

What coalitions can be formed?

In Germany, coalition pacts are the norm. After years of bipartisan alliances, the new government will almost certainly need three parties. Tripartites are common in regional parliaments, but they have not been seen at the national level since the 1950s, according to the AFP agency.

Currently, would add in seats in the Bundestag both a “semaphore” coalition, between SPD, Liberals and Greens, – towards which Scholz leans – and the “Jamaica”, between CDU / CSU, Liberals and Greens. The red-green-red, tripartite of the left, does not have a majority. Theoretically, it would still be possible to reissue the “grand coalition” between Social Democrats and Conservatives, which would have a sufficient majority, but many analysts consider it unlikely in political terms.

And now that?

Many analysts have made it clear that the battle for power does not end this Sunday. Rather, remember, it has only just begun. There are no formal rules for forming a government. By tradition, the strongest part invites you to speak, remember the Süddeutsche Zeitung. But there have also been elections after which the second strongest force has formed a coalition. So nothing prevents exploratory conversations in parallel. In this initial phase there is no time limit.

Now, the parties will try to know each other’s red lines and know if they can work together. There will be meetings. According to AFP, the SPD and the CDU-CSU are scheduled to meet on Tuesday and the Greens have called a party congress for next Saturday in which they could decide with whom they will engage in exploratory talks.

Next, you have to define the details. If the parties agree to form an alliance, they must initiate formal coalition negotiations, with various working groups meeting to discuss political issues. At the end of these negotiations, the parties decide who will be in charge of each ministry and sign a coalition agreement, reports the French agency. The current government remains in office while in office.

The parties then appoint who they want to be chancellor before the official vote in the Bundestag. The head of state, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, must propose to Parliament a possible chancellor. The candidate will need an absolute majority. If this is not successful, a second vote is held two weeks later. If there is still no absolute majority, there is a third vote in which a relative majority is sufficient.

What happened in Berlin and Mecklenburg-Antepomerania?

In addition to the federal elections, this Sunday elections were also held in the city-state of berlin, as well as in the “Land” of Mecklenburg-Antepomerania, in the northeast. In both, the SPD has won. In the capital, the option of expropriating large real estate companies has also expired in a specific consultation.