The 26th of September 2021 marked the end of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s sixteen-year rule on Germany in a parliamentary election. Olaf Scholz, leader of the German Social Democrats (SPD), a centre-left political party, claimed that they gained victory over former Chancellor Angela Merkel’s political party.
Angela Merkel was the leader of the conservative Christian Democratic Union (CDU), which was in coalition with the Christian Social Union. Merkel’s successor is Armin Laschet, who, unfortunately, did not manage to win procure enough votes to take Merkel’s place as Germany’s ruler. Seeing as the SPD have won the majority of votes, the formation of a new CDU-led coalition will be sought, to retake majority in parliament. Armin Laschet has also failed to avoid controversy, when he was allegedly caught laughing when visiting a German town after the devastating floods.
The German electoral process consists of two voting segments, with the first being a constituency vote, followed by a vote based on proportional representation. For a German political party to obtain a place in the Bundestag, it needs to win at least 5% of the second round of voting. This process was implemented with the aim of preventing small yet radical political parties to gain power. This second vote crucially decides who rules with majority and who becomes the opposition party, as it determines the percentage of seats won by each political party in the Bundestag.
Since Angela Merkel announced her step-down from office, the German election race has been injected with uncertainty, with voters looking for new leadership in different politicians and parties. In fact, the Green Party significantly increased in popularity, as seen in the pre-election polls published in April 2021. The previous CDU/CSU electoral domination ceased swiftly, as the Social Democratic Party gained further popularity and started leading the polls.
With Germany being the largest economy in Europe, a prominent question arose: would Germany still hold such a prestigious place in Europe with Merkel leaving the scene? This is fully dependent on the economic policies adopted by the next German government to overcome a myriad of contemporary challenges.
This year’s election was the most unpredictable in years, due to the increase in mail-in votes and a significant split in votes due to the change of party leaders. Polls have also shown a possibility for a three-party coalition, instead of the usual two-party coalition.
The future of German democracy seems to be at a crucial crossroads, faced with the loss of a political icon, newly-emerging challenges, and ever-growing expectations from the public.