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A brief guide to the German election: Merkel’s coalition crossroads

Ahead of the German Bundestag election on Sunday 24th September, Populus consultant Claudia Chwalisz has co-written a guide to understanding the election with the Legatum Institute’s Matthew Elliott. While current Chancellor Angela Merkel is set to win a fourth term and the campaign has been ‘sleepy,’ Chwalisz and Elliott argue that the election is more interesting than at first glance.

With six parties set to enter parliament, Merkel’s government can only be weaker than it has been in the past. The interesting question is the direction in which Merkel chooses to take her next government, as she will not win enough support to govern on her own.

A re-run of the grand coalition with the Social Democrats is not impossible. But neither party wants this. Given the current state of opinion polls, it would also leave the right-wing populist Alternative for Germany (AfD) as the strongest party in opposition with a powerful voice for the next four years—a situation similar to UKIP’s pressure on the British government in 2015. Otherwise, with the three main options being a ‘black-yellow’ coalition with the economically liberal Free Democrats (FDP), a ‘black-green’ coalition, or a ‘Jamaica’ coalition with both the FDP and Greens, the country could go in very different directions. Any will change Germany.

The choice of coalition partner reflects a wider cultural struggle for the country. Migration, foreign policy, environmental issues and labour market regulation are some of the key dividing lines between the Greens and the Free Democrats. The former is to the left and the latter is to the right of the CDU. It might be that Merkel does not much have much choice in the matter if the polls are correct: small fluctuations of one or two percentage points will make all the difference.

After the Brexit vote and Donald Trump’s election last year, the report also answers why populism has failed to take off in Germany, considering the historical, socio-economic and political reasons.

You can download the full report here.

You can also view the report and the Legatum Institute’s wider series on populism here.

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