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2021 German federal election

General election to the 20th German Bundestag

2021 German federal election

← 2017 26 September 2021 (2021-09-26) Next →

All 735 seats in the Bundestag, including 137 overhang and leveling seats
368 seats needed for a majority
Registered61,168,234 0.8%
Turnout46,838,765 (76.6%) 0.4 pp
  First party Second party Third party
 
Candidate Olaf Scholz Armin Laschet Annalena Baerbock[a]
Party SPD CDU/CSU Green
Last election 20.5%, 153 seats 32.9%, 246 seats 8.9%, 67 seats
Seats won 206 196 118
Seat change 53 50 51
Popular vote 11,949,756 11,173,806 6,848,215
Percentage 25.7% 24.1% 14.8%[b]
Swing 5.2 pp 8.8 pp 5.9 pp

  Fourth party Fifth party Sixth party
 
Candidate Christian Lindner Alice Weidel &
Tino Chrupalla
Janine Wissler &
Dietmar Bartsch
Party FDP AfD Left
Last election 10.7%, 80 seats 12.6%, 94 seats 9.2%, 69 seats
Seats won 92 83 39
Seat change 12 11 30
Popular vote 5,316,698 4,802,097 2,269,993
Percentage 11.5% 10.3% 4.9%
Swing 0.8 pp 2.3 pp 4.3 pp

The left side shows constituency winners of the election by their party colours. The right side shows party list winners of the election for the additional members by their party colours.

Government before election

Fourth Merkel cabinet
CDU/CSUSPD

Government after election

TBD

Federal elections were held in Germany on 26 September 2021 to elect the members of the 20th Bundestag.[2][3][c] State elections in Berlin and Mecklenburg-Vorpommern were also held.[4] Incumbent chancellor Angela Merkel, first appointed in 2005, chose not to run again,[5] marking the first time that an incumbent Chancellor of the Federal Republic of Germany has not sought re-election.[6]

As of 2021, Germany is a multi-party system, with six or seven prominent parties. With 25.7% of total votes, the Social Democratic Party of Germany (SPD) recorded their best result since 2005, and emerged as the largest party for the first time since 2002. The ruling CDU/CSU, which had led a grand coalition with the SPD since 2013, recorded their worst ever result with 24.1%, a significant decline from 32.9% in 2017. Alliance 90/The Greens achieved their best result in history at 14.8%, while the Free Democratic Party (FDP) made small gains and finished on 11.5%. The Alternative for Germany (AfD) fell from third to fifth place with 10.3%, a decline of 2.3 percentage points. The Left suffered their worst showing since their official formation in 2007, failing to cross the 5% electoral threshold by just over one-tenth of a percentage point. The party was nonetheless entitled to full proportional representation, as it won three direct constituencies.[7]

With complex coalition talks required for the formation of a government, the FDP and the Greens are considered kingmakers, and a three-party coalition has been discussed as a likely outcome.[8][9]

Background

Previous election and government formation, 2017–2018

The 2017 German federal election was held after a four-year grand coalition between the CDU/CSU and the SPD. Though the CDU/CSU remained the biggest parliamentary group, both it and the SPD suffered significant losses. The SPD leadership, recognising the party's unsatisfactory performance after four years in government, announced that it would go into opposition.[10] With the CDU/CSU having pledged not to work with either the AfD or The Left before the elections, the only remaining option for a majority government was a Jamaica coalition consisting of the CDU/CSU, FDP, and the Greens.[11][12] Exploratory talks between the parties were held over the next six weeks, though on 20 November the FDP withdrew from the negotiations, citing irreconcilable differences between the parties on migration and energy policies.[13][14] Chancellor Angela Merkel consulted with President Frank-Walter Steinmeier, who implored all parties to reconsider in order to avoid fresh elections.[15][16]

Consequently, the SPD and their leader Martin Schulz indicated their willingness to enter into discussions for another coalition government with the CDU/CSU.[17] The SPD leadership voted to enter into exploratory discussion on 15 December 2017[18] and at a party congress in January 2018 a majority of the party's delegates voted to support the coalition talks.[19][20] The text of the final agreement was agreed to by the CDU/CSU and the SPD on 7 February, though was conditioned on the approval of a majority of the SPD's party membership.[21] The 463,723 members of the SPD voted to approve or reject the deal from 20 February to 2 March,[22][23] with the result announced on 4 March. A total of 78.39% of members cast valid votes, of which 66.02% voted in favor of another grand coalition.[24] Merkel was voted in by the Bundestag for a fourth term as Chancellor on 14 March, with 364 votes for, 315 against, 9 abstentions, and 4 invalid votes, just 9 more votes than the 355 needed for a majority.[25] The new government was officially referred to as the Fourth Merkel cabinet.[26][27]

Party leadership changes and political instability

Merkel's final government was subject to intense instability. The 2018 German government crisis saw the longstanding alliance between the CDU and CSU threaten to split over asylum seeker policy. Interior Minister and CSU leader Horst Seehofer threatened to undercut Merkel's authority by closing German borders for asylum seekers registered in another European Union (EU) country. The split, eventually repaired following a summit with EU countries, threatened to bring down the government.[28] Following his party's historically low result in the 2018 Bavarian state election, Seehofer was replaced as CSU leader by new Bavarian Minister-President Markus Söder at a party conference in January 2019, while he retained his position as Interior Minister in the Cabinet.[29]

Merkel herself also announced that she would resign as leader of the CDU at the party's conference in December 2018 and step down as Chancellor of Germany at the forthcoming election, following poor results at state elections for the CSU in Bavaria and for the CDU in Hesse.[30][31] Merkel's allegedly preferred candidate for the party leadership, Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, narrowly defeated Friedrich Merz, who had been a rival of Merkel around 2002 and had left politics in 2009 criticising her decisions and leadership.[32] Kramp-Karrenbauer struggled to unify the party's liberal and conservative factions, and in February 2020, when she failed to lead the Thuringia state CDU towards a solution of the government crisis there, she announced her intention to withdraw her interest in running as the CDU nominee for Chancellor at the election and step down as party leader.[33] A party convention to elect a new leader was scheduled for April but was repeatedly delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The election was held in January 2021, with Armin Laschet, incumbent Minister-President of North Rhine-Westphalia, winning with 52.8% of delegate votes. Merz was his main opponent at 47.2%.[34]

The other party in the coalition government, the SPD, also had leadership instability. Following their worst general election result since 1945, at the beginning of the new government the party elected Andrea Nahles as their leader in April 2018. Nahles had already been elected leader of the SPD parliamentary group after the federal election in September when the party still planned to go into opposition.[35][36] She was unsuccessful in improving the party's stock with the electorate as it continued to slide in opinion polls and was for the first time in history well beaten by the centre-left party Alliance 90/The Greens at the 2019 European Parliament election. She resigned on 2 June 2019, precipitating a leadership election for the SPD.[37] Progressive candidates Norbert Walter-Borjans and Saskia Esken defeated the more moderate candidates Olaf Scholz and Klara Geywitz, and were elected co-leaders by the party's membership. Their election raised prospects of the coalition government collapsing and early elections being called, although Reuters reported that the duo would seek to achieve agreement from the CDU/CSU on increasing public spending rather than allow the government to collapse.[38] In August 2020, the party appointed Merkel's deputy Vice-Chancellor Scholz as its candidate for Chancellor at the election, despite him having lost to Walter-Borjans and Esken in the party leadership election.[39]

Cem Özdemir and Simone Peter stood down as co-leaders of The Greens after the failed Jamaica negotiations, and Annalena Baerbock and Robert Habeck were elected as their successors in January 2018. Dissatisfaction with the SPD and the federal government saw a rise in Greens' polling numbers throughout 2018. They scored record results in the Bavarian and Hessian state elections in October and subsequently surpassed the SPD in public opinion, settling in second behind the CDU/CSU for the next three years. They briefly polled in first place during two brief periods, first after the 2019 European elections and again after the nomination of Chancellor candidates in April 2021.[40] The party had its best ever showings at the 2019 European Parliament election, 2020 Hamburg state election, and 2021 Baden-Württemberg state election.

The Left also underwent a change in leadership, with Katja Kipping and Bernd Riexinger stepping down after nine years as party co-leaders. They were succeeded by Janine Wissler and Susanne Hennig-Wellsow at a party conference held digitally on 27 February 2021. Wissler is considered a member of the party's left wing, formerly aligned with the Socialist Left faction, while Hennig-Wellsow is considered a moderate. Both support their party's participation in federal government, particularly Hennig-Wellsow, who played a major role in the red–red–green coalition government of The Left, SPD, and Greens in the state of Thuringia.[41]

Electoral system

Germany uses the mixed-member proportional representation system, a system of proportional representation combined with elements of first-past-the-post voting. The Bundestag has 598 nominal members, elected for a four-year term; these seats are distributed between the sixteen German states in proportion to the states' number of eligible voters.[42]

Every elector has two votes: a constituency vote (first vote) and a party list vote (second vote). Based solely on the first votes, 299 members are elected in single-member constituencies by first-past-the-post voting. The second votes are used to produce a proportional number of seats for parties, first in the states, and then in the Bundestag. Seats are allocated using the Sainte-Laguë method. If a party wins fewer constituency seats in a state than its second votes would entitle it to, it receives additional seats from the relevant state list. Parties can file lists in every single state under certain conditions, such as a fixed number of supporting signatures. Parties can receive second votes only in those states in which they have filed a state list.[42] If a party, by winning single-member constituencies in one state, receives more seats than it would be entitled to according to its second vote share in that state (so-called overhang seats), the other parties receive compensation seats. Owing to this provision, the Bundestag usually has more than 598 members; 735 seats were contested in this election, up from 709 seats in 2017. The 19th Bundestag elected in 2017 had 709 seats: 598 regular seats and 111 overhang and compensation seats. Overhang seats are calculated at the state level, so many more seats are added to balance this out among the states, adding more seats than would be needed to compensate for overhang at the national level in order to avoid negative vote weight.[42]

In order to qualify for seats based on the party-list vote share, a party must either win three single-member constituencies via first votes or exceed a electoral threshold of 5% of the second votes nationwide. If a party only wins one or two single-member constituencies and fails to get at least 5% of the second votes, it keeps the single-member seat(s), but other parties that accomplish at least one of the two threshold conditions receive compensation seats.[42] The most recent example of this was in 2002, when the PDS won only 4.0% of the second votes nationwide but won two constituencies in the state of Berlin.[43] The same applies if an independent candidate wins a single-member constituency,[42] which has not happened since 1949.[43] If a voter cast a first vote for a successful independent candidate or a successful candidate whose party failed to qualify for proportional representation, his or her second vote does not count toward proportional representation; however, it counts toward whether the elected party exceeds the 5% threshold.[42] Parties representing recognized national minorities (currently Danes, Frisians, Sorbs, and Romani people), are exempt from the 5% threshold.[42][44]

Date

The Basic Law and the Federal Election Act provide that federal elections must be held on a Sunday or on a national holiday[45] no earlier than 46 and no later than 48 months after the first sitting of a Bundestag,[46] unless the Bundestag is dissolved earlier. The 19th and previous Bundestag had held its first sitting on 24 October 2017.[47] The 2021 election therefore had to take place on a Sunday between 29 August and 24 October (inclusive).

While a possible snap election at an earlier date was not precluded, the exact date is and was determined by the President of Germany.[48] On 9 December 2020, President Frank-Walter Steinmeier ordered the election to be held on 26 September 2021.[49]

Observers

For the fourth time since 2009, the 2021 federal election was observed by OSCE,[50] providing four experts from three OSCE states.[51]

Parties and candidates

The table below lists the parliamentary groups of the 19th Bundestag.

Name Ideology Leading
candidate(s)
Leader(s) 2017 result
Votes (%) Seats
CDU/CSU CDU Christian Democratic Union of Germany
Christlich Demokratische Union Deutschlands
Christian democracy Armin Laschet Armin Laschet 26.8%
246 / 709
CSU Christian Social Union in Bavaria
Christlich-Soziale Union in Bayern
Markus Söder 6.2%[d]
SPD Social Democratic Party of Germany
Sozialdemokratische Partei Deutschlands
Social democracy Olaf Scholz Saskia Esken
Norbert Walter-Borjans
20.5%
153 / 709
AfD Alternative for Germany
Alternative für Deutschland
Right-wing populism Alice Weidel
Tino Chrupalla
Jörg Meuthen
Tino Chrupalla
12.6%
94 / 709
FDP Free Democratic Party
Freie Demokratische Partei
Classical liberalism Christian Lindner Christian Lindner 10.7%
80 / 709
Linke The Left
Die Linke
Democratic socialism Janine Wissler
Dietmar Bartsch
Janine Wissler
Susanne Hennig-Wellsow
9.2%
69 / 709
Grüne Alliance 90/The Greens
Bündnis 90/Die Grünen
Green politics Annalena Baerbock[a]
Robert Habeck
Annalena Baerbock
Robert Habeck
8.9%
67 / 709

Lead candidates

After the election of Minister-President of North Rhine-Westphalia, Armin Laschet as federal CDU chairman in January 2021, he became the presumptive CDU nominee for the Union's joint Chancellor candidacy. Laschet was challenged by Minister-President of Bavaria Markus Söder of the CSU, who consistently polled well among voters and had been discussed as a potential candidate since mid-2020.[52] As the contest intensified in March/April 2021, Söder was backed by the CSU as well as some state and local CDU associations, while Laschet received the support of most of the CDU. The two men failed to come to an agreement by the given deadline of 19 April,[53] leading the federal CDU board to hold an impromptu meeting to break the deadlock. The board voted 31 to 9 in favour of Laschet.[54] After the vote, Söder announced his support for Laschet as Chancellor candidate.[55]

On 10 August 2020, the SPD nominated incumbent Vice Chancellor and Finance Minister Olaf Scholz as their lead candidate for the election. Scholz, who served as Mayor of Hamburg from 2011 to 2018, unsuccessfully sought the SPD leadership in the 2019 leadership election.[56] Scholz was formally elected at a party conference on 8–9 May 2021, supported by 96% of delegates.[57]

The AfD's lead candidates were chosen via a membership vote held from 17 to 24 May 2021. The ticket of party co-chairman Tino Chrupalla and Bundestag co-leader Alice Weidel were elected with 71% of votes; they were opposed by the ticket of former German Air Force lieutenant-general Joachim Wundrak and MdB Joana Cotar, who won 24%. 14,815 votes were cast, correspoding to a turnout of 48%.[58]

On 21 March 2021, the FDP association in North Rhine-Westphalia elected federal chairman Christian Lindner as top candidate for the party list in that state.[59] He was re-elected as chairman on 14 May, winning 93% of votes with no opponent. The vote also served to confirm him as lead candidate for the federal election.[60]

The Left announced Janine Wissler and Dietmar Bartsch as their co-lead candidates on 2 May 2021. Wissler was elected federal party co-leader earlier in the year alongside Susanne Hennig-Wellsow, who chose not to seek the co-lead candidacy. Bartsch had co-chaired The Left's Bundestag group since 2015, and was previously co-lead candidate in the 2017 federal election.[61] Wissler and Bartsch were formally selected by the party executive on 8–9 May, receiving 87% of the votes.[62]

Due to their rise in national opinion polling since 2018, the Greens were expected to forgo the traditional dual lead-candidacy in favour of selecting a single Chancellor candidate. Party co-leaders Annalena Baerbock and Robert Habeck were considered the only plausible candidates.[63] Annalena Baerbock was announced as Chancellor candidate on 19 April.[64] Both Baerbock and Habeck are co-lead candidates for the party's election campaign.[65]

Competing parties

A total of 47 parties and lists were approved to run in the 2021 federal election, including the seven which won seats in the 19th Bundestag. Of these, 40 ran party lists in at least one state, while 7 ran only direct candidates. Further, 196 independent candidates ran in the various direct constituencies.[66]

In the table below, green shading indicates that the party ran a list in the indicated state. The number in each box indicates how many direct candidates the party ran in the indicated state.

Party State
BW BY BE BB HB HH HE MV NI NW RP SL SN ST SH TH
Christian Democratic Union of Germany (CDU) 38 12 10 2 6 22 6 30 64 15 4 16 9 11 8
Christian Social Union in Bavaria (CSU) 46
Social Democratic Party of Germany (SPD) 38 46 12 10 2 6 22 6 30 64 15 4 16 9 11 8
Alternative for Germany (AfD) 38 44 12 10 2 6 22 6 27 63 15 4 16 9 11 8
Free Democratic Party (FDP) 38 46 12 10 2 6 22 6 30 64 15 4 16 9 11 8
The Left (DIE LINKE) 38 45 12 10 2 6 22 6 30 64 14 4 16 9 11 8
Alliance 90/The Greens (GRÜNE) 38 46 12 10 2 6 22 6 30 64 15 4 16 9 11 8
Free Voters (FREIE WÄHLER) 38 46 7 9 2 5 21 6 22 57 15 4 12 8 11 6
Die PARTEI (PARTEI) 33 31 12 9 2 2 9 2 8 52 10 4 11 2 7 7
Human Environment Animal Protection (Tierschutzpartei) 8 6 12 1 1 3 9 3 3 1
National Democratic Party of Germany (NPD) 1 4
Pirate Party Germany (PIRATEN) 3 6 6 5 1 2 4 3 8 4 1 3 1
Ecological Democratic Party (ÖDP) 16 46 10 7 2 5 5 2 9 4 13 1 4
V-Partei³ – Party for Change, Vegetarians and Vegans (V-Partei³) 1 11 1 1 1 2 1
Democracy in Motion (DiB) 6
Bavaria Party (BP) 24
Animal Protection Alliance (Tierschutzallianz) 2
Marxist–Leninist Party of Germany (MLPD) 22 9 7 1 2 6 5 4 6 31 1 1 4 2 2 8
Party for Health Research (Gesundheitsforschung) 2 1
German Communist Party (DKP) 4 1 2 12 1 3
Human World (MENSCHLICHE WELT) 1 1
The Greys – For all Generations (Die Grauen) 1
Civil Rights Movement Solidarity (BüSo) 2 5 1 1
Party of Humanists (Die Humanisten) 10 3 3 1 2 1 1 1 1 3
Garden Party (Gartenpartei) 1
The Urbans. A HipHop Party (du.) 2 1 3
Socialist Equality Party, Fourth International (SGP)
Grassroots Democratic Party of Germany (dieBasis) 36 46 11 10 2 6 21 5 27 60 15 4 16 9 11 7
Alliance C – Christians for Germany (Bündnis C) 1 2 4 2 2
The III. Path (III. Weg) 1
Citizens' Movement for Progress and Change (BÜRGERBEWEGUNG) 3
The Pinks/Alliance 21 (BÜNDNIS21) 1 1
European Party LOVE (LIEBE) 1
Liberal Conservative Reformers (LKR) 3 7 10 1 1 8 7 3 4 6 2
Party for Progress (PdF)
Lobbyists for Children (LfK)
South Schleswig Voters' Association (SSW)[e] 5
Team Todenhöfer – The Justice Party (Team Todenhöfer) 2 1
Independents for Citizen-oriented Democracy (UNABHÄNGIGE) 2 3 1 1 2 2
Volt Germany (Volt) 13 12 2 1 1 3 5 15 10 2
From now... Democracy by Referendum (Volksabstimmung) 2
Bergpartei, die "ÜberPartei" (B*) 1
The Others (sonstige) 1
Family Party of Germany (FAMILIE) 1
Grey Panthers (Graue Panther) 1 1 2 2 1
Climate List Baden-Württemberg (KlimalisteBW) 7
Thuringian Homeland Party (THP) 1
Independents and voter groups 15 26 9 18 2 15 2 21 31 22 1 22 7 2 3
Party BW BY BE BB HB HH HE MV NI NW RP SL SN ST SH TH
Total constituencies 38 46 12 10 2 6 22 6 30 64 15 4 16 9 11 8

Registration of candidates

In July 2021, the respective state electoral committees rejected the lists of the AfD in Bremen and the Greens in Saarland. The AfD list was rejected for formal reasons, while the Green list in Saarland was declared invalid due to a controversial nomination process, in which one third of the state delegates were excluded from the nomination convention. Both state parties filed motions against the rulings. The federal electoral committee dismissed the motion of the Saarland Greens, while the AfD list in Bremen was permitted to run in the elections. The Green Party will thus not be eligible for the proportional vote in Saarland for the first time in the party's history.[68]

Campaign

Major issues

In July 2021, major floods in Europe put the climate issue back on the agenda. The Social Democratic Party called for "everything to be done to stop global warming," while the CDU/CSU wanted to "speed up climate protection measures".[69] By the end of July, 56 per cent of Germans believed that the floods made it "even more important than before" to combat climate change, and 73 per cent believed the government was not doing enough in this area; only the AfD's supporters were overwhelmingly of the opposite opinion.[70] Following those events, six people under the age of 30 began a hunger strike in front of the Reichstag building at the end of August. They demanded a sincere dialogue with the leaders of the main political parties before the elections and the establishment of a citizens' convention to decide on ambitious measures for the climate.[71]

During the deadly German floods of July 2021, while visiting Erftstadt on 18 July, Laschet was caught laughing on camera and making jokes while President Frank-Walter Steinmeier was speaking. Laschet was heavily criticized despite his apology: "It was stupid and shouldn't have happened and I regret it." The CDU/CSU and Laschet's ratings suffered heavily in opinion polls and SPD took the lead.[72][73]

Red Scare

As the CDU/CSU was falling down while the SPD was surging in the polls,[74] a left-wing red–red–green coalition (R2G) at the federal level, feared by conservatives,[75] became a possibility,[76] although it was not likely.[74] A capital flight to Switzerland in fear of increased taxes for the very rich through higher inheritance taxes and a wealth tax ensued.[77]

The CDU/CSU promoted a Red Scare,[74] even though the head of such coalition would be the moderate and pragmatic SPD's lead candidate Olaf Scholz,[78] who touted his successful cooperation in the grand coalition,[79] as outgoing Angela Merkel's natural successor,[80] and did not rule out a left-wing coalition both to appeal to the SPD's left-wing faction and to increase his leverage in post-election talks.[81] The SPD opened up to The Left in 2013, only ruling out the AfD, and a R2G coalition has led several state governments.[75] Chancellor Merkel commented: "With me as chancellor there would never be a coalition with the Linke party, and whether this can be said of Olaf Scholz or not remains open."[79] CDU lead candidate Armin Laschet said: "It is no longer a gimmick whether these people sit at the cabinet table or not."[79] CSU leader Markus Söder stated: "Everyone knows that Olaf Scholz wants to move to the left."[79] The SPD Secretary-General Lars Klingbeil criticized the CDU for tolerating a shift to the right.[79] Scholz had earlier stated that there would be no move to the left, as those who would vote for him "can be sure to get [him] exactly as they have known it for the last few years."[82]

Red–red–green coalition

During the campaign, Scholz rejected tax cuts for the rich as immoral,[83] pledged to "increase taxes on the wealthy, spend on cleaner technology and expand social programs",[84] and a minimum wage increase to 12 euros ($14);[85] in general, there was broad agreement among left-leaning parties on issues such as climate change, education, finance, health, and higher taxes for the rich, and The Left being more pro-European than similar left-wing parties like La France Insoumise,[75] while issues of disagreement were foreign policy and security.[76] Writing for The Guardian, Philip Oltermann commented: "Paradoxically, some Social Democrats see such commonalities as an obstacle rather than a boon for an effective power-sharing deal: since all three parties already call for a wealth tax, for example, it's unclear what policy Die Linke could sell its supporters as a win even if were to get its hands on the coveted labour ministry."[75] Both the SPD and Greens did not speak much on the subject but did not rule it out in public, although in private they were more sceptics. One SPD delegate was quoted as saying: "To prepare the ground for a robust and functioning coalition, you need to make sure that no one walks out of talks looking like a loser. That's difficult enough with two, but it becomes even more difficult when you have three partners."[75] Oltermann posited that The Left could see entering federal government as "a final chance to reverse the party's decline, even if it means moving some of its red lines of old."[75]

In its election manifesto, The Left called for abolishing NATO in favour of a "collective security system with Russia's involvement", to which Sholz said that this is an example of minimum criteria to govern which is not negotiable.[82] The Left's lead candidates stated that those demands are a tribute to the party's historic anti-imperialist roots rather than reflecting ambitions to govern at the federal level and a discussion on the future of NATO is also being led by centrists such as France's Emmanuel Macron.[75] The party struck the anti-NATO demand from its immediate policy measures and Janine Wissler responded that foreign policy was more than NATO.[86] Gregor Gysi, a member of the left wing of the party, stated that such demands are more of a vision, are not to be implemented as soon as possible, and should not be seen as inflexible precondition for a left-wing coalition.[87]

As significant issues remain, attempts among willing delegates from both parties have been made over the years on how such issues could be solved in a coalition; the solution of an internal vote preceding foreign policies votes, such as foreign deployments, on a case-by-case analysis was deemed to be unworkable by many in the SPD. The Greens see foreign policy differences with The Left as big as financial and debt disagreements with the FDP.[75] The Left joining the federal government would have broken a taboo due to being a democratic successor of East Germany's ruling party, and for its pacifist and anti-militarist stance,[75] and could be seen as following examples in Spain and Sweden.[88] A traffic light coalition (SPD–FDP–Greens) was seen as the more likely scenario but a R2G coalition, which would be favoured by the left-wing leadership[87] and rank-and-file party members,[86] was not excluded if coalition talks with FDP fail due minimum-wage increase or the wealth tax.[75]

Debates

For the first time since the 2002, the four major television broadcasters ARD, ZDF, RTL, and ProSieben/Sat.1 would not hold a joint television debate. Separate debates were previously prevented by incumbent chancellor Merkel, who is not running for reelection. For the first time in history, three-way major debates were to be held, as the Greens were invited after overtaking the SPD in opinion polls.[89]

2021 German federal election debates
Date Broadcasters  P  Present   S  Surrogate   I  Invited   NI  Not invited  
CDU SPD Grüne AfD FDP Linke CSU
17 May 2021[90] RBB Fernsehen NI P
Scholz
P
Baerbock
NI NI NI NI
20 May 2021[91] WDR, tagesschau24 P
Laschet
P
Scholz
P
Baerbock
NI NI NI NI
26 June 2021[92] tagesschau24 P
Laschet
P
Scholz
P
Baerbock
NI NI NI NI
29 August 2021[93] RTL, n-tv P
Laschet
P
Scholz
P
Baerbock
NI NI NI NI
30 August 2021[94] ZDF S
Spahn
S
Giffey
S
Göring-Eckardt
P
Weidel
P
Lindner
P
Bartsch
P
Dobrindt
12 September 2021[89] Das Erste, ZDF P
Laschet
P
Scholz
P
Baerbock
NI NI NI NI
13 September 2021[95] ZDF NI NI NI P
Weidel
S
Kubicki
P
Wissler
S
Blume
13 September[96] Das Erste NI NI NI P
Weidel
P
Lindner
P
Wissler
P
Dobrindt
19 September 2021[97] ProSieben, Sat.1, Kabel eins P
Laschet
P
Scholz
P
Baerbock
NI NI NI NI
23 September 2021[89] Das Erste, ZDF P
Laschet
P
Scholz
P
Baerbock
P
Weidel
P
Lindner
P
Wissler
P
Söder

Members of Parliament standing down

AfD

Union

SPD

FDP

Greens

The Left

Independents

Opinion polls

Local regression of polls conducted

Poll trackers

Trackers of voting intentions and other election-related polling:

Preliminary results

Party Constituency Party list Total
seats
+/–
Votes % Seats Votes % Seats
Social Democratic Party (SPD) 12,228,363 26.4 121 11,949,756 25.7 85 206 +53
Christian Democratic Union (CDU) 10,445,571 22.5 98 8,770,980 18.9 53 151 −49
Alliance 90/The Greens (GRÜNE) 6,465,502 14.0 16 6,848,215 14.8 102 118 +51
Free Democratic Party (FDP) 4,040,783 8.7 0 5,316,698 11.5 92 92 +12
Alternative for Germany (AfD) 4,694,017 10.1 16 4,802,097 10.3 67 83 −11
Christian Social Union (CSU) 2,787,904 6.0 45 2,402,826 5.2 0 45 −1
The Left (DIE LINKE) 2,306,755 5.0 3 2,269,993 4.9 36 39 −30
Free Voters (FREIE WÄHLER) 1,334,093 2.9 0 1,127,171 2.4 0 0 0
Human Environment Animal Protection 163,047 0.4 0 674,789 1.5 0 0 0
Grassroots Democratic Party (dieBasis) 734,621 1.6 0 628,432 1.4 0 0 New
Die PARTEI 542,804 1.2 0 461,487 1.0 0 0 0
Team Todenhöfer 5,699 0.0 0 214,281 0.5 0 0 New
Pirate Party Germany (PIRATEN) 60,843 0.1 0 169,889 0.4 0 0 0
Volt Germany (Volt) 78,211 0.2 0 165,153 0.4 0 0 New
Ecological Democratic Party (ÖDP) 152,886 0.3 0 112,351 0.2 0 0 0
National Democratic Party (NPD) 1,089 0.0 0 64,608 0.1 0 0 0
South Schleswig Voters' Association (SSW) 34,979 0.1 0 55,330 0.1 1[f] 1 +1
Party for Health Research 2,845 0.0 0 49,331 0.1 0 0 0
The Humanists (Die Humanisten) 12,727 0.0 0 47,838 0.1 0 0 0
Alliance C – Christians for Germany 6,218 0.0 0 40,126 0.1 0 0 0
Bavaria Party (BP) 36,798 0.1 0 32,901 0.1 0 0 0
V-Partei³ 10,679 0.0 0 31,966 0.1 0 0 0
Independents for Citizen-oriented Democracy 13,415 0.0 0 22,770 0.0 0 0 0
The Greys (Die Grauen) 2,354 0.0 0 19,364 0.0 0 0 0
Marxist–Leninist Party (MLPD) 22,745 0.0 0 17,994 0.0 0 0 0
The Urbans. A HipHop Party (du.) 1,887 0.0 0 17,861 0.0 0 0 0
German Communist Party (DKP) 5,439 0.0 0 15,157 0.0 0 0 0
Animal Protection Alliance (Tierschutzallianz) 7,369 0.0 0 13,686 0.0 0 0 0
European Party Love (LIEBE) 874 0.0 0 12,946 0.0 0 0 New
Liberal Conservative Reformers (LKR) 10,826 0.0 0 11,184 0.0 0 0 New
Lobbyists for Children (LfK) 9,195 0.0 0 0 New
The III. Path (III. Weg) 513 0.0 0 7,830 0.0 0 0 New
Garden Party (MG) 2,095 0.0 0 7,611 0.0 0 0 0
Citizens' Movement (BÜRGERBEWEGUNG) 1,556 0.0 0 7,485 0.0 0 0 New
Democracy in Motion (DiB) 2,618 0.0 0 7,291 0.0 0 0 0
Human World (MENSCHLICHE WELT) 657 0.0 0 3,794 0.0 0 0 0
The Pinks/Alliance 21 (BÜNDNIS21) 351 0.0 0 3,537 0.0 0 0 New
Party of Progress (PdF) 3,234 0.0 0 0 New
Socialist Equality Party (SGP) 1,535 0.0 0 0 0
Civil Rights Movement Solidarity (BüSo) 824 0.0 0 737 0.0 0 0 0
Climate List Baden-Württemberg (KlimalisteBW) 3,957 0.0 0 0 New
Family Party of Germany (FAMILIE) 1,815 0.0 0 0 0
Democracy by Referendum (Volksabstimmung) 1,085 0.0 0 0 0
Grey Panthers (Graue Panther) 960 0.0 0 0 New
Thuringian Homeland Party (THP) 549 0.0 0 0 New
The Others (sonstige) 258 0.0 0 0 New
Bergpartei, die "ÜberPartei" (B*) 222 0.0 0 0 0
Independents and voter groups 110,799 0.2 0 0
Valid votes 46,339,602 98.9 46,419,448 99.1
Invalid/blank votes 499,163 1.1 419,317 0.9
Total votes 46,838,765 100 299 46,838,765 100 436 735 +26
Registered voters/turnout 61,168,234 76.6 61,168,234 76.6
Source: Bundeswahlleiter
Popular vote
SPD
25.74%
CDU/CSU
24.07%
GRÜNE
14.75%
FDP
11.45%
AfD
10.35%
DIE LINKE
4.89%
FW
2.43%
PMUT
1.45%
dieBasis
1.35%
Die PARTEI
0.99%
Other
2.53%
Bundestag seats
SPD
28.03%
CDU/CSU
26.67%
GRÜNE
16.05%
FDP
12.52%
AfD
11.29%
DIE LINKE
5.31%
SSW
0.14%

Results by state

Party list vote share by state[204]
State SPD Union Grüne FDP AfD Linke Others
 Schleswig-Holstein 28.0 22.0 18.3 12.5 6.8 3.6 8.7
 Mecklenburg-Vorpommern 29.1 17.4 7.8 8.2 18.0 11.1 8.4
 Hamburg 29.7 15.5 24.9 11.4 5.0 6.7 6.8
 Lower Saxony 33.1 24.2 16.1 10.5 7.4 3.3 5.4
 Bremen 31.5 17.2 20.8 9.3 6.9 7.7 6.5
 Brandenburg 29.5 15.3 9.0 9.3 18.1 8.5 10.3
 Saxony-Anhalt 25.4 21.0 6.5 9.5 19.6 9.6 8.4
 Berlin 23.5 15.9 22.4 8.1 8.4 11.4 9.4
 North Rhine-Westphalia 29.1 26.0 16.1 11.4 7.3 3.7 6.5
 Saxony 19.3 17.2 8.6 11.0 24.6 9.3 9.9
 Hesse 27.6 22.8 15.8 12.8 8.8 4.3 7.9
 Thuringia 23.4 16.9 6.6 9.0 24.0 11.4 8.7
 Rhineland-Palatinate 29.4 24.7 12.6 11.7 9.2 3.3 9.2
 Bavaria 18.0 31.7 14.1 10.5 9.0 2.8 13.9
 Baden-Württemberg 21.6 24.8 17.2 15.3 9.6 3.3 8.2
 Saarland 37.3 23.6 11.5 10.0 7.2 10.5

Analysis

Winning party by constituency.
Results of the party list vote by state.
List seats by state.

Results

The SPD had their best result since 2005 at 25%; it is also the first time since 2002 that they emerged as the largest party in the Bundestag. For the first time since 1998, the SPD swept all single-member constituency seats in the states of Brandenburg and Saarland, where they defeated cabinet ministers Peter Altmaier and Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer.[205] They also won all constituencies in Mecklenburg-Vorpommern for the first time, including Vorpommern-Rügen – Vorpommern-Greifswald I, the seat of outgoing Chancellor Angela Merkel.[206] It is also the first time they won any single-member constituency seats in Saxony-Anhalt and Thuringia since 2005.[207][208][209]

The CDU/CSU had their worst result ever, eclipsing the previous worst of 31% in 1949. Many prominent politicians were defeated in their single-member constituency seats, including ministers Altmaier, Helge Braun, and Kramp-Karrenbauer as well as Hans-Georg Maaßen, Philipp Amthor, and Julia Klöckner, though all of them except Maaßen were still elected to the Bundestag via their respective state party lists.[210] There was speculation that Chancellor candidate Armin Laschet would lose election to the Bundestag;[211] he was placed first on the North Rhine-Westphalia party list, and if the CDU gained overhang seats, that list would not be used. Due to the CDU's bad performance in terms of single-member constituency seats, Laschet is projected to be elected to the Bundestag.[212] The first time since 2005 that they did not win all single-member constituency seats in Bavaria, the CSU also had their worst result in history.[213]

The Greens got their best result in history, nearly doubling from 2017. This is also the first federal election in which they won single-member constituency seats outside of Berlin Friedrichshain-Kreuzberg – Prenzlauer Berg East; however, expectations for them were a lot higher, with them polling at over 20% in the summer and peaking at around 25%, having briefly overtaken the CDU in April and May.[214][215] Their slump in the polls was largely attributed to a number of gaffes from and the personal unpopularity of Annalena Baerbock,[216] though polls show that a lot of Green voters migrated to the SPD in the final weeks of the campaign to ensure the CDU would not form government.[217] Though she won in the party-list, Baerbock lost in Potsdam – Potsdam-Mittelmark II – Teltow-Fläming II to SPD's Olaf Scholz by a large margin.[218] The Greens were also disqualified from running on the Saarland state list due to irregularities in the selection of list candidates.[219]

The FDP had their second best showing since German reunification, gaining a few seats to maintain its fourth place position.[220] This was enough to make it a kingmaker alongside the Greens in coalition talks.[221]

The AfD lost seats and went from the third largest to the fifth largest party in the Bundestag. They performed strongly in former East Germany, where they won 16 single-member constituency seats in Saxony, Saxony-Anhalt, and Thuringia.[222]

The Left had their worst showing since 2002 (when it was the Party of Democratic Socialism), slumping from 69 seats in 2017 to just 39. While they fell just short of the election threshold they won at least three single-member constituency seats (two in their stronghold in the former East Berlin, down from four, and one in Saxony), entitling them to proportional representation in the Bundestag according to their second votes.[223] Under a longstanding electoral law intended to benefit parties with regional appeal (as is the case with the Left in the old East Germany), any party that wins at least three constituency seats is entitled to its share of proportionally-elected seats, regardless of vote share.[224] Apart from this symbolic defeat, their preferred government, a left-wing red–red–green coalition,[225] does not have a majority in the Bundestag,[226] and the German financial market rallied as a result.[227][228] Vice President of the Bundestag Petra Pau lost her single-member constituency in Berlin Marzahn – Hellersdorf.[229]

The South Schleswig Voters' Association (SSW), a regionalist party only contesting Schleswig-Holstein representing the Danish and Frisian minorities in Southern Schleswig, won their first seat, becoming the first regionalist party to win seats since 1953.[230] Recognized minority parties are exempt from the threshold of 5%, which is how the SSW won a seat with 0.1% of the vote nationwide. The SSW last contested the 1961 West German federal election and last won a seat in the inaugural 1949 West German federal election.[231] Stefan Seidler will sit as their Member of Parliament.[232]

Government formation

On election night, SPD leader Scholz reiterated his goal to form a government, citing the fact that his party emerged as the largest in parliament.[233] He expressed his intention to become chancellor and his preference for a traffic light coalition with the FDP and the Greens. [234] Leading figures in the CDU/CSU such as Michael Kretschmer have stated that, as the second placed party, the CDU/CSU should not form the government.[235]

The FDP and the Greens, having won precisely 210 seats between them, have announced that they would talk separately before deciding on a senior coalition partner.[236] If coalition negotiations are not concluded by 17 December, caretaker chancellor Angela Merkel would overtake Helmut Kohl as the longest-serving chancellor since World War II. She is thought likely to use her remaining time in office to deal with issues such as Ukraine and climate change.[237]

Notes

  1. ^ a b Annalena Baerbock and Robert Habeck are co-lead candidates, while Baerbock is candidate for Chancellor.
  2. ^ The Greens were disqualified from running on the Saarland state list due to irregularities in the selection of list candidates.[1]
  3. ^ The election date can only be earlier in the case of an early dissolution, or later if a State of defence is declared.
  4. ^ CSU received 38.8% in Bavaria. It only fields candidates in Bavaria, where the CDU does not field candidates.
  5. ^ The South Schleswig Voters' Association is a recognised minority party representing the Danish and Frisian minorities of Southern Schleswig, and is thus exempt from the 5% electoral threshold.[67]
  6. ^ As reflected by the electoral threshold in Germany, parties are usually required to meet a threshold of at least 5% of nationwide votes or win at least 3 constituency seats; the SSW got a seat as a representative of a recognised minority group (in their case, Danes and Frisians), an exception enshrined into German electoral law.

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