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Germany Votes: Where To Now

Written By: - Date published: 7:00 am, September 26th, 2021 - 22 comments
Categories: Deep stuff, Europe, leadership - Tags:

Germany is up for Federal election tomorrow and it’s pretty important for the stability of the European Union.

In a more clear-cut version of the New Zealand system, if your party doesn’t get 5% of the vote you just don’t get in. Zero seats.

It will take a few months of argument before they form a new government, in part because there are several stable variations this time that could be formed. There’s a “Jamaica”, a “Traffic Light” and a few more colour-of-your-party variants in play.

It marks the end of Angela Merkel’s remarkable 15-year run as German Chancellor, and bets are hard to pick on who might replace her. There’s still an outside chance that one of the minor party leaders like the Green’s Annalene Baerbock, though unlikely. In fact which coalition the Greens go with is itself one to watch.

Germany’s election is of crucial importance to sustain stability within the German government, which in turn is important to keep the strength of European Union momentum. Germany was one of the leading forces in last years’ decision to issue common European debt to support the bloc during the corona-induced virus. What became known as the Next Generation EU plan was achieved with real speed. This was unusual in the otherwise often sclerotic bureaucracy. The plan is designed to raise up to EU800 billion, and has already been deployed across the 27 nations. Debt is of course the key to forming deep and multi-generational common interest between all nations in the EU. It’s been used really badly before in the aftermath of the GFC, but much more effectively this time around and with much greater support. If the SPD social democrats and the Greens form the basis of government in Germany, that EU debt instrument is likely to continue and to grow.

Angela Merkel’s long and gradualist leadership has generated high trust in many EU nations over time, and that makes her pretty good contender for EU President at some point. Beyond the personalities, Germany’s contribution to the strengthening policy evolution of the EU can only get stronger. Merkel’s gradualist approach has succeeded whereas the bold proposals of France’s Macron haven’t taken root.

Key policy questions for a new German government include:

  1. Sustaining Cosmopolitanism.
    Whether a new government can resist and then overcome the growing sentiment in Germany’s eastern states against immigrants and the stubborn growth of the Alternative for Germany (AfD) Party. I would hope Germany sends much stronger signals of condemnation against Victor Orban of Hungary, for example. But it also needs to show that fine balance between bringing in the right people at the right time to do the right things, and also targeting high social redistribution and very low unemployment in states where resentment remains stubbornly high.
  2. Social Cohesion Under COVID
    The Querdinker (“lateral thinker”) movement has opposed COVID-19 measures and pushed far-right conspiracy theories. The growth of climate change and environmental damage impacts continue to generate tensions with key power nodes in Germany such as coal producers, car producers, labour unions, and different kinds of environmental activist. The new government will need to respect how hard and how important it was for Angela Merkel to sustain political and social cohesion under such a sustained and unplanned crisis.
  3. Germany’s Fresh Role
    I remember being in Paris at midnight 1998 when they changed to the Euro, and there was the biggest fireworks display I’d ever seen and all the bridges were lit up in EU colours, and everyone was running around with gay abandon yelling Bon Annee Bon Annee! Immediately a candle at Notre Dame went from a couple of Francs to a full Euro. But to step back for a bit, from that point where Germany and France felt like co-EU leaders to now, and then Germany shifting its capital from Bonn to Berlin and revolutionising Berlin from the inside out, the strengthening of the EU through successive crises right through to the end of the Merkel era … well that kind of feels like the end of one chapter.

Germany must surely articulate a clear shape to the next chapter. It can’t rely on any other EU country to make the running on that.

What will a bold new government dare to achieve for Germany? Might there be a time to strengthen and unify foreign policy resolve with Germany’s leadership?

Can it rise to meet the challenges of Big Data throughout the economy and clearly regulate social media?

Can a bolder Federal German government show greater skill in supporting Ukraine and other close-by countries facing tyranny?

Can it reassert a stronger role for decarbonised energy production and energy use throughout society? Indeed can it save its forests and river valleys from disease and destruction?

How can Federal government assist an ageing and more diverse German society find common purpose in the next decade?

Will it seek to increase the influence of Germany on the post-BREXIT world stage by encouraging EU membership by Albania, North Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia, and Turkey? Even Ukraine, again?

The decline of so many democracies world wide means we must take every open election as a great opportunity to celebrate the vote as an exercise in distributing power, momentarily and decisively, into the hands of the millions. But that’s especially the case in Germany, a country that after Brexit takes on a far greater global role than Britain can.

This time it is also by proxy a vote on post-Prexit Europe and its future leadership and scale and ambition. That makes it doubly important in a world where federal and multilateral agreement across states and across nations is, like democracy itself, under sustained attack from all who would strip such powers of resistance away. Even small states like ourselves need Germany to assist with our trade agreements and trade opportunities. As a politics and as a land, New Zealand now has more in common with Germany than it does with England.

Germany, for those reasons, is holding the world’s most important election of 2021.

22 comments on “Germany Votes: Where To Now ”

  1. Ghostwhowalksnz 1

    Germany still can have MPs who gain an electorate seat only

    This current Bundestag has very small partys with 3 electorates and 6 list seats. (They used to be for non german speaking area. Danish or Dutch but dont seem to be in current parliament)


    As well the way list seats are distributed by each Federal state means the overhang seats is massive giving 100 or so extra which favours the CDU/CSU ( which in a few states wins all the electorate seats, ie Baden Wurtemberg CDU has 34% of vote but 40% of seats.)

    Also they do exclude some partys from running , DKP the German Communist party amoung them


  2. Ghostwhowalksnz 2

    I think you are right about the 5% rule. I looked back over previous elections . Last election there was no independents elected , so the 9 they have now must be renegades from existing parties.

    Even though the electorate and lists are done by state a party has to get 5% nationally to take up its possible list seats.

    Back in 2002 the PDS ( predeccesor of Die Linke) won 2 electorate seats but wasnt over 5% nationally so thats all they had. They would have had more than 5% in some states.

  3. SPC 3

    The big issues in Europe at the moment that Germany has a big say on

    1. high gas prices with less supply from Russia (an irony given the new pipeline to Germany) – and this long before they reach winter.
    2. Macron wanting to establish a European defence force and and enable capability independent of NATO
    3. Germany having committed (as with other NATO members) in 2014 to spending 2% GDP on defence by 2024 and yet still being at 1% levels in 2021.
    4. What to do about Biden not cleaning up the mess Trump made of the WTO (when this is how they trade with the UK and others the EU has no FTA with).
    5. Has German dominance of the determination of the ECB role served Germany well but not the EU so much?
    • Ghostwhowalksnz 3.1

      Nordstream 2 is complete but its still in its testing phase – the plant at either end of the connection.

      It consists of twin pipelines from Russia , just outside St Petersburg to Griefswald.

      The earlier Nordstream 1 is twin pipeline roughly in same area of Baltic. They reduce the substantial transit fees paid to Ukraine and Poland especially

  4. Gezza 4

    There’ll be lots of coverage – analysis & commentary, & some panel discussions among pundit – on Al Jazeera tv.

    I’ll be taking an interest.

    “Mutti” Merkel has been Deutschland’s mum for so damn long…

  5. Ad 5

    CDU/CSU (kind-of like National) 24.5%

    SPD (kind-of like Labour) 25.5%

    Greens 13.8%

    FDP (kind of like ACT) 11.7%

    AfD (anti-immigrant party) 10.9%

    Left 5%


    My bet would be a Grand Coalition of CDU/CSU and SPD.

    • Ghostwhowalksnz 5.1

      FDP could be described as being like ACT, but its role has sometimes been like NZ First as they have in the past been partner to Union or SPD. I dont know the current leadership but it could be more amenable to the SPD ( remember the german system has union reps on company boards)

      Some other things to consider is Greens are more centrist than here as Die Linke is the furtherest left party-

      The SPD is more centrist than Labour as their left wing faction split off some years ago to merge with then PDS to form Die Linke

      My bet will be SPD-FDP -Green if they can get to 51%

      • Ad 5.1.1

        They were approximations as I said.

        And the current leader of the SPD is Olaf Scholtz, who has since 2018 been Deputy Chancellor under Merkel and also the Minister of Finance. That makes their arrangements a lot more fluid than ours.

        I'm not sure about your comment on the German Greens. They just lost over 20 points in two months and would have made for a very interesting Federal German government for the first time in a very long time. They want to get rid of all nuclear power, and rely solely on renewables. At 13% they are simply back to their longer-term average. I don't find them that easy to pick ideologically.

        • SPC

          The Greens oppose the gas pipeline arrangement that the current coalition supported, which may incline the SDP to choose continuity.

          • Ghostwhowalksnz

            The pipeline is finished and is in commisioning stages.. It doesnt really change anything except avoid the gas coming through Poland and Ukraine instead.

            I doubt that Greens would push to get the valves turned off as the gas prices have spiked this last month as it is and winter has yet to come.

            Purists would not want to be in government and maintain the 'full agenda'. Their experience in one state where they lead the government shows they are more practical.

  6. Sabine 6

    three options

    Grand Coalition SPD/CDU/CSU – traditionally they don't work well – have not worked well. But would prop be best outcome as least for a while.

    Traffic light coalition SPD/The Greens/FDP could be doomed to fail as generally the Greens and the FDP tend to clash and the SPD well is the SPD.

    Anything goes Coaltion CDU/CSU/FDP/Die Linke also doomed to fail but would be interesting to watch as this would then really be a coaltion that 'wants' to be in government, rather then just get elected. Could also work quite well

    Wildcard the AFG – despite all parties having said that they will not work with them, they have won as expected a good amount of votes and well, will have to be worked with.

    Interesting to see that the Greens however went from a high of almost 25% to now 14% odd in the last six month since March, when a Coaltion between the CDU/CSU and the Greens would have been the winning coalition with the SPD at the time being at barely 15%. One would think that the recent flashfloods that took out a few villages and killed nigh on 200 people would have compelled the numbers of the greens higher but did not. And the very credible accusations of plagiarism against the 'female' co-leader of the green should also not account for a 10% drop. But then that 10% drop might just be Green voters propping up the SPD. lol.

    As my cuzzy said: egal wie, es ist alles voll beschissen und gut fuer keinen.

    We truly live in interesting times.

    • Ghostwhowalksnz 6.1

      "Grand Coalition SPD/CDU/CSU – traditionally they don't work well – have not worked well."

      Thats what they have had for last 8 years after 2 elections. No one would say 'hasnt worked well'. The previous one was from 2005.

      So for Merkel it was 1st, 3rd and 4th terms

      The hard part is getting the SPD on board. In 2017 the President disregarded the constitution for a new election after they ran out time to form a new government. The initial Union/FDP/Green proposal, while a majority, didnt finalise.

      • Sabine 6.1.1

        I did not say they don't work, i said they do not work 'well'.

        • Ghostwhowalksnz

          Merkel had 3 and they worked well. Any coalition has its strains , ones that fall apart are the ones that 'dont work out.'

          The Federal coalitions that have fallen apart werent 'Grand'

          Readers might assume 'dont work' means they collapse early.

  7. coreyjhumm 7

    Based on the results either another grand coalition just with the parties switching size and nothing changing. Hard right AFD continues to be the opposition abs continues to grow

    Or an SPD/fpp/ g coalition which would be identical in policy to a labour/act/green coalition here. Nothing changing, dysfunction. Cdu/CSU becomes opposition the one good thing about this scenario.

    Sad. I was hoping an SPD/g or SPD/g/DL coalition where nothing much changes. That was the best scenario. A smidgen of change.

    Oh well. I'm happy nz got the nothing much changes scenario last year…

  8. This was an interesting article. Ich bin ein Berliner.

    The rule [introduced by a left-wing coalition City Council] froze rents for some 90% of Berlin apartments at June 2019 rates for five years. In many cases, existing rents needed to be reduced to conform to the new threshold. …

    A new city government will be elected on Sept. 26, when Germans also will vote for a new national parliament.

    Also that day, Berliners will vote in a non-binding referendum on a call for the local government to expropriate the properties of large corporate landlords. !!!!!!! laughyesheart

    • Ghostwhowalksnz 8.1

      Apartments are a different value proposition to 'houses'. Eg in inner city Grafton where its mostly apartments and terrace house has median value of $550,000 ( according to Ray White group)

      A house on its own land in Berlin would make Auckland look cheap.

  9. Ghostwhowalksnz 9

    The right partner to CDU, the CSU who only stand in Bavaria ( they have their own ministers in a 'Union' government) have had a big loss. This is likely to cement the SPD as largest party /faction

    'The Christian Democrats' Bavarian sister party, the Christian Social Union (CSU), saw its worst election performance since 1949, winning 31.7% in Bavaria, which is more than seven percentage points down from its 2017 performance.'

    Die Linke is hovering just under the 5% level but may be saved by the provision that winning 3 electorates allows you to keep your under 5% list seats. Last time they were over 5% but had 5 electorates in their strongholds in the east.

    • Sabine 9.1

      yep they bled to the AFD.

      One day, everyone in Germany will have to come to understand that this party is there to stay. They can try to 'include it' in their coalitions and thus 'moderate' them, or they can pretend it does not happen.

  10. Ghostwhowalksnz 10

    Preliminary list seat results are out. The overhang is even bigger than before with 137 extra seats to give Bundestag of 735 .

    Also is 1 list seat for SSW a group representing the Danish and Friesian speaking minority who dont have to get 5%.

    Die Linke fall just short of 5% nationally but they got the minimum of 3 seats to also be eligible for list seats for 4.9%

    A majority is when 368 seats are reached.

    SPD gets 206 seats, Greens 151 and The Left 39 gives 363 , just short of majority

    Swapping out Left for FDP 92 gives 416 for a majority

    Another Grand Coalition with CDU/CSU 196 would 402 seats

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