German Election: An Extremely Close Race To Succeed Angela Merkel

German voters went to the polls on Sunday and it is now looking like we will find out on Monday who will be the next Chancellor of Germany. This election has been an extremely close race, with four candidates representing different political parties all vying for the chance to become Angela Merkel’s successor. Unfortunately the polling was not very accurate, with some polling companies over projecting for last week’s Bavarian election. The CDU/CSU, led by Angela Merkel, has recently gained voters back from the FDP and AfD. It does now look like they will be able to form a coalition government, but it may need to rely on another party to do so.

The SPD, led by Martin Schultz, has been hemorrhaging voters all over the country and will only end up with about 21% of the vote. The FDP, led by Christian Lindner, ran a campaign that finally broke with Merkel’s CDU/CSU and took away some critical votes for the coalition parties. The Greens, led by Cem Oezdemir, have been slowly gaining support since their founding in the late 1970s. They will end up with around 14% of the vote and are expected to make gains in future elections. And finally, there is the AfD (Alternative for Germany) which has recently grown to become Germany’s second largest party. They campaigned on a platform of limiting immigration, but recently have been tarnishing their image by saying that Germany needs to stop atoning for its Nazi past. The leader of the AfD, Alice Weidel, also has been exposed as being an extremely homophobic person with some very racist views against foreigners living in her own country.

All of those numbers may change as the ballots are counted and so we will not be able to give you a definitive answer about who won on Monday. However, what we can do is take a look at the range of coalitions that each party needs in order to become chancellor and provide some insight into how likely it is to happen.

The only party that would be able to form a government without needing another party’s support is the CDU/CSU with around 35% of the vote. If we take away any seats they get from their coalition partners, this number dips below 30%, meaning they will need an additional partner in order to continue governing. At this point, there are three options for them to consider. The first option is to form a Grand Coalition with the SPD (21%) like they have done during the last four elections. If this happens, Martin Schultz will need to decide if he wants to become Merkel’s Vice Chancellor or not; because it appears that Merkel will remain chancellor even if the CDU/CSU needs to rely on the SPD. This coalition is likely considering they are currently in this position and it will make it easier for them to continue with their policies, but Schultz may need some concessions from Merkel (such as immigration reform) if he wants to win back some of the voters that have defected over the last few years. The next coalition that they could form would be with the FDP (10%) and the Greens (9.5%) to create a Jamaica Coalition. This is very unlikely considering how polarizing these two parties are among voters, but it might yield better results in future elections if they only need 33% of the vote instead of 38%. And lastly, there is a possibility that they would form a Black-Yellow coalition with the FDP (10%) and the Christian Union (9.5%) in order to reunite the party under one flag. This is also unlikely considering how much time has passed since these two parties worked together, but again it might be better for them to come together if they are unable to form a majority government.

The next coalition that they could consider is the SPD, FDP, and Green Party for a so-called ‘R2G’ Coalition. This would mean that Martin Schultz would have to step down in order to allow Cem Oezdemir or Katrin Goring-Eckhart(Spokesperson of the Greens) to become chancellor. If they can form this coalition, it would be a very strong signal that Germany wishes to continue on its path towards renewable energy and investment in new technologies; however, there are plenty of stumbling blocks that they need to overcome before reaching the goal of governing together (such as environmental reform).

The next coalition that the SPD would consider is the CDU/CSU, FDP, and Green Party. This will likely be their first choice because it gives them a lot of power to reform some of Germany’s past policies as well as work on renewable energy. However, they have to worry about getting enough votes in order to win elections in the future and this may not be the best choice for them.

Last, but not least, is a coalition between the CDU/CSU and the Green Party (9%). The only reason why they might take this route is because it’s better than having to rely on another party in order to continue governing when their vote percentage drops. The problem with this coalition is that they will not be able to enact as many reforms as some of the other parties and it may anger some voters in the future.

So now we hope you have a better idea of how coalitions work and what scenarios could play out, now let’s take a look at who might become chancellor. If these numbers hold, this is what a possible future cabinet could look like if they choose to govern with the CDU/CSU at the helm.