German election updates
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The centre-left Social Democrats (SPD) have won the German election with a slim lead over the conservative CDU/CSU bloc. Olaf Scholz of the SPD and Armin Laschet of the CDU both say they hope to form a coalition to succeed Angela Merkel as chancellor.
The Greens and free-market liberal FDP have made gains and are likely to be part of the next government, whether led by Scholz or Laschet.
The far right Alternative for Germany (AfD) and the hard left Die Linke (the Left) both lost support.
The result is the worst in a Bundestag election for the CDU/CSU, and the best achieved by the Green party.
A changed electoral map
In Germany’s electoral system, voters have two votes. The first is a first-past-the-post ballot for one of 299 constituency MPs. The second is for a party list which is used to determine the composition of the Bundestag by proportional representation. Only parties that win 5 per cent of the second votes nationally, or elect three constituency MPs, are included in the proportional distribution of seats.
The SPD gained several CDU constituency seats, including Angela Merkel’s in northeastern Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania. The Greens also made gains, largely in previously CDU-held seats in the western cities.
Although its share of Bundestag seats declined overall, the AfD won the largest share of the vote in the eastern states of Saxony and Thuringia, and gained additional constituency seats there as well as in Saxony-Anhalt.
The result makes it likely that Germany will soon have its first three-party federal government.
This would most likely involve the Greens and FDP backing either the SPD — in a “traffic light” coalition — or the CDU/CSU in a “Jamaica” coalition. Another “Grand Coalition” of the SPD and CDU/CSU also remains mathematically possible.
A left-of-centre “red-red-green” combination of the SPD, Greens and Left is just short of a majority.
Where voters went
With Merkel not standing, the CDU/CSU bloc could no longer count on some of her personal support. Exit poll estimates suggest more than 3m net voters who supported the CDU/CSU in 2017 defected to other parties, including nearly 1.4m to the Social Democrats, 900,000 to the Greens and 340,000 to the FDP.
A bloated Bundestag
The new Bundestag will be the largest ever with 735 seats — well above its minimum of 598. Under the German electoral system, designed to ensure proportionality, the chamber usually has some additional members. But recent fragmentation of the party system has led to a big expansion in recent elections, leading to some attempts at reform.
Eight parties are now represented. The South Schleswig Voters’ Association (SSW), which represents the Danish and Frisian minorities in Schleswig-Holstein and is therefore exempt from the usual 5 per cent threshold, will have an MP for only the second time since it won a seat in the first Bundestag election of 1949.
Despite securing slightly less than 5 per cent of the vote, the Left will also get its full proportional allocation of seats because it won three of the first-past-the-post constituency races.