German election 2021: surveys open in race to succeed Angela Merkel — li…

  • The vote will decide who becomes Germany’s next chancellor when Angela Merkel steps down
  • The Green Party, SPD and CDU/CSU candidates have cast their ballots
  • Pre-election opinion surveys showed the center-left Social Democrats leading on about 25% 
  • Merkel’s CDU-CSU conservative alliance was lagging on around 22%
  • Some 40% percent of Germany’s 60.4 million eligible voters have said they are undecided

Last updated at 1200 GMT/UTC 

What are the main campaign issues? 

With the departure of Angela Merkel, a major question for voters was how the new chancellor would fare on the international stage and what that method for Germany’s role in the world. Immigration and social justice were also meaningful campaign issues. 

Rising climate awareness in recent years has seen emissions-reduction efforts become a meaningful issue.

The handling of coronavirus pandemic and how to deal with the economic effects of lockdown also played a meaningful role.

Berlin voters confront long lines 

DW correspondents are reporting long lines at voting stations across Berlin. This comes despite a record number of postal votes.

Early this afternoon we are expecting preliminary turn-out figures, giving us some indication of how many people are voting. In 2017, voter turn-out was 76.2%. In 2013 it was 71.5%.

Some Berlin polling stations have been affected by a mix-up in ballot papers, causing delays and invalid votes. The stations were given ballots from the wrong district, leading to the permanent closure of those stations and votes on the incorrect ballots being declared invalid.

Green Party’s Baerbock casts vote

The Green Party’s Annalena Baerbock has voted at a polling stop in Potsdam.

Annalena Baerbock and her husband Daniel Holefleisch, on the way to cast their votes

When Baerbock was named the Green Party’s first-ever chancellor candidate in April, she was credited for her party’s exceptional rise in opinion surveys later that month. She was seen as representing a new generation.

Since then, she has she suffered from criticism that targeted her personal credibility and the Greens polling fortunes have taken a turn for the worse.

But while the Greens are now polling well behind the two leading parties, on around 16 to 17%, they are nevertheless credible kingmakers.

Compare that with 1998, when the Green Party first entered a ruling coalition. Back then, they had garnered a insignificant 6.7% in the federal election.

How is the chancellor chosen? 

The parties put forward their candidate ahead of the election campaign. Once a new government is in place, the German president nominates a chancellor to be elected by the Bundestag.

This is typically the main candidate from the senior coalition partner in the newly-formed government. To be elected, the chancellor candidate needs an absolute majority from lawmakers. So far, all chancellors, including Merkel, have been elected in the first round.  

Laschet folds ballot paper incorrectly

There’s something of a furor about the way CDU candidate Armin Laschet cast his ballot in the Bundestag election.

He did it in such a way that bystanders could see what he had marked, and photographers caught the moment on camera.

Because of rules about the secrecy of the ballot, voters are not really allowed to cast their ballots openly. The voter must fold it “in such a way that his vote is not recognizable,” according to the website of the Federal Election Commissioner. 

If the ballot is discernible, the election board would have to reject the voter.

What coalitions are possible? 

Because Germans are increasingly splitting their ballot between the country’s major parties, gone are the days when one party would win a principal proportion of the vote — consequently, rule by coalition has become a fact of political life.

For the last eight years, the two biggest parties, the CDU and the SPD, have governed together. However, surveys have indicated that this year, the CDU and SPD will not receive 50% of the votes put together.

With the SPD as the likely winner, they will have to choose who to team up with in order to represent at the minimum half of the voters. Analysts see a coalition with the Green Party as highly probable, but if the Greens don’t do well enough, a three-party alliance will be necessary.

This could either be with the Left Party or the pro-business FDP.  There is also the possibility of the so-called “German flag” coalition — the SPD, the CDU, and the FDP — whose representative colors, when put together, are the same as those of the German flag.

For more on what coalitions are possible, check out our gallery below for all the options:

Candidates hanker for traditional fare

It’s lunchtime in Germany, but what meal would each of the three main candidates to be chancellor choose to celebrate election success later today?

All would opt for something quite traditional, according to a round of interviews conducted recently with the taz newspaper.

Green candidate Annalena Baerbock chose a true German typical. “If I have to decide on one thing, it’s asparagus, done very classically with potatoes as a side dish.”

As a guilty treat for dessert, she’d go for banana divided with chocolate ice cream.

The conservative Armin Laschet said his wife Susanne’s broccoli casserole would be favorite.

“I associate it with very nice family dinners – long, relaxed, lots of fun,” he told the newspaper. 

Social Democrat Olaf Scholz took the meat option, with “Königsberger Klopse.” The dish of meatballs in a creamy sauce takes its name from the former East Prussian, now Russian, city of Kaliningrad. 

“It tastes like the old days. Today, ‘Königsberger Klopse’ is rarely seen on a restaurant menu,” he said.

The meatball dish Königsberger Klopse “tastes like the old days,” according to SPD candidate Olaf Scholz

WWII bomb hinders voting in Wuppertal

Authorities have warned people in a neighborhood of the West German city of Wuppertal to avoid going to the surveys while they deal with an unexploded bomb dating back to World War II that was discovered on Saturday night.

Five polling stations were within a 500 meter radius of the bomb. None of them were closed, however, and some people who ignored the warnings were nevertheless able to cast their ballot.

Authorities were hoping to deactivate the device by late Sunday morning. A spokesperson said that there were “no time difficulties” and all voters would nevertheless be able to make it to a polling stop by 6 p.m.

What are the main parties?

There are 47 parties running in the election, but few have realistic hopes of crossing the 5% threshold needed to go into the Bundestag. The biggest group in the outgoing parliament was the center-right conservative bloc, made up of Angela Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union (CDU) and its Bavarian sister-party, the Christian Social Union (CSU).  

The center-left Social Democrats (SPD), junior partners in the “grand coalition,” were the second-largest. Also represented were the far-right different for Germany (AfD), which entered the Bundestag for the first time in 2017 and was the largest opposition party in the outgoing legislature. The others were the environmentalist Greens, who are expected to perform much better this time around; the pro-business Free Democrats (FDP) and the socialist Left Party. 

‘On to Berlin,’ says Laschet

Conservative chancellor candidate Armin Laschet said after casting his vote at a school in Aachen in western Germany that the next stop was Berlin, after first popping back home. He called on all voters to come out to the surveys because the consequence “will come down to every vote.”

“It’s an exciting day,” he told reporters outside the polling stop. “It’s a day when the voters speak, not the politicians,” he additional.

Armin Laschet and his wife Susanne cast their vote in Aachen

Scholz hopes for mandate

The Social Democrats’ Olaf Scholz spoke to reporters after casting his vote. “It’s a very nice day today, the weather’s already a very good sign,” he said.

“And now I hope that as many citizens as possible will go to the surveys, cast their votes, and make possible what’s become apparent, namely that there will be a very strong consequence for the Social Democrats and that citizens will give me the mandate to become the next chancellor of the Federal Republic of Germany,” the SPD chancellor candidate additional.

CDU’s Laschet casts ballot

The leader of the Christian Democrats Armin Laschet has cast his ballot at a polling stop. He had to stand in line like the rest of the voters at a polling stop the western city of Aachen.

After being elected head of his party, Laschet was for some time the clear favourite to become Germany’s next chancellor.

Despite this, he is regarded as having had an election campaign marred by gaffes, and recent surveys have shown the CDU and its Bavarian sister party the CSU, trailing behind the Social Democrats.

Longtime chancellor Angela Merkel has tried to stay out of the battle to replace her. But with her party struggling, she took to the campaign trail in the hope of boosting her would-be heir’s fortunes. 

Bavaria’s Söder says every vote counts

Markus Söder, the state premier for Bavaria, has cast his ballot. He is a member of the Christian Social Union (CSU) the sister party of Angela Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union (CDU) that is limited to the southern state.

He tweeted a photo of himself dropping his vote in the ballot box, saying: “Today is the day of decision. Go vote and make use of you most important democratic right!”

“It will be a neck-and-neck final, it’s down to every single vote,” he additional.

An election focused on personalities

DW’s Richard Walker said Germans said the campaign had been heavily focused on the candidates themselves, given that Angela Merkel has been in strength for so long. 

“She’s been this extraodinary occurrence here,” said Walker. “There are so many younger voters who’ve known no other chancellor.”

“What we’ve seen during the summer is the voters kicking the tires on all of these candidates.  Olaf Scholz is the one who’s emerged as the most popular. Much of the polling around these candidates really shows that he’s the person that Germans trust more than the other two but the question is whether that’s enough to get him over the line.” 

Scholz: A known confront in German politics

DW political correspondent Nina Haase said that the Olaf Scholz’s Social Democrats (SPD) had “the most substantial campaign” in the run-up to the vote.

“They simply did not make any mistakes, and that sounds easy, but if you look at what the conservatives [CDU] did, there was so much party infighting between the official chancellor candidate Armin Laschet and his competitor from Bavaria, from the sister party [CSU], Markus Söder, who was sort of sending attacks over from the south, criticizing Laschet for the bad polling results and saying he would have been the better chancellor candidate.”

“And if you look at Annalena Baerbock from the Greens, there were allegations of plagiarism, she made some mistakes in her CV, she had to correct that. And Olaf Scholz just didn’t do any of that.”

Haase additional that Scholz is a known confront in German politics, having served the outgoing government as finance minister and as Angela Merkel’s deputy. “People know him as an efficient crisis manager, albeit not the most charismatic one,” she additional.

SPD hopeful Scholz casts his vote

Olaf Scholz has voted in his Potsdam constituency. The former Hamburg mayor serves as finance minister and vice-chancellor under Merkel as part of the grand coalition.

Scholz is regarded as having had a good campaign, mainly by not making any huge blulnders

There was already euphoria among Social Democrats, well ahead of election day. Polling has shown that Chancellor candidate Olaf Scholz has a good chance to succeed Angela Merkel.

DW’s Sabine Kinkartz hit the road with his campaign trail to find out what voters were saying.

Green challenger urges voters to choose 

The Green Party’s Annalena Baerbock has tweeted, urging voters to use to exercise their democratic right.

“Living in a democracy method having a choice,” she said. “It’s about all our futures.”

Smaller parties could play big role

DW’s Nina Haase has been reporting from the German parliament, highlighting the unpredictability of the election with many voters saying they are undecided. She says it will also be important to watch the performance of smaller parties on which the larger ones will rely to form a coalition.

“Turnout will matter a great deal. There were so many undecided voters. Some 40% of Germans said last week that they were nevertheless undecided whether they were already going to go to the surveys, and then if they went, who they would vote for.”

She gave two reasons for this, firstly: “The incumbent chancellor is not running again and that is a historic first here for post-war Germany. Usually we have chancellors in office until they get voted out or they have to resign because of scandals.”

Secondly, “most of the candidates are not that well known nationwide, and there is no clear successor in sight and there are plenty of coalition options on the table.”

German president casts ballot

Germany’s head of state, President Frank-Walter Steinmeier, has already voted at a Berlin polling stop.

The president — a senior Social Democrat now neutral in his current role as Germany’s president — earlier issued an allurement to all voters in a guest commentary for the Sunday edition of mass-circulation newspaper Bild. He urged all those eligible to vote.

Ahead of the vote, Steinmeier spoke to the UN General Assembly on Friday, promising that Germany would not change at all event the outcome of the election, and would keep a reliable international partner.

The German president made an allurement to all those eligible to take part in the democratic course of action

Two state elections also taking place

in addition as changes to the lower house of parliament the Bundestag, voting on Sunday will also affect the composition of the upper house — but only slightly.

The composition of the Bundesrat is decided by the regional elections in each German state, and there are two of these today.

One is in the capital, Berlin, while the other is in the northeastern state of Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania. The composition of the rest of the house will not change until the next set of state elections.

The vote for the Berlin’s House of Representatives will also determine who succeeds Michael Müller as the city’s next mayor. 

Voters in Berlin will also get to have a say in a referendum on the takeover of large housing corporations.

Climate change is Berlin voters’ priority

DW’s Jared Reed has been at a polling stop in central Berlin to find out what was on voters’ minds. The ecosystem was the big issue here. 

How the election works

The German electoral system produces coalition governments. It seeks to unite the principles of majority rule and proportional representation. Each voter casts two ballots. The first is for what is called a “direct” candidate from their constituency and the second is for a political party.

Any party that gets more than 5% of the votes is guaranteed a place in the lower house of parliament, the Bundestag.

Second largest legislature on Earth

The 5% system ensures that both big and small parties are represented, but it has led to the legislature becoming the second-biggest in the world with a possible 900 seats this time around.

The reason is the complicated German electoral law, and the mandates for the “overhang” seats (Überhangmandate) and compensation “leveling” seats (Ausgleichsmandate) that assure the composition of the Bundestag will be proportionate to the actual votes for the parties.

surveys indicate a close election

As Angela Merkel’s conservatives slipped behind and the center-left Social Democrats, the chancellor was forced to break her potential not to get involved in the election campaign. The CDU’s Armin Laschet has played on fears of a swing to the left in his campaigning, and the gap narrowed in the final stretch.

The SPD’s Olaf Scholz is eager to keep up on to his rule, seeking to convince voters that he is the most credible successor to Merkel.

Meanwhile, the Greens are alluring to voters on the theme of climate change, but confront the challenge of attracting older voters. 

DW went to see how the parties were responding to polling ahead of the big day.

Who are the candidates to succeed Angela Merkel?

There are three candidates seen as having a genuine chance:

Annalena Baerbock is the rule candidate for the Greens, with a focus on the ecosystem. Following the Greens surge in surveys earlier this year, they may become a kingmaker in coalition talks. Baerbock has been joint leader of the party, alongside Robert Habeck, since 2018. Although she has little government experience, media pundits praised her strong performances in TV debates.  

Armin Laschet represents Angela Merkel’s conservative CDU and has led the party since earlier this year, following an internal strength struggle. A long negotiation with Markus Söder, head of the CDU’s Bavarian sister party, over who would take the role of chancellor candidate delayed his campaign start. He suffered in the surveys following some high-profile public faux-pas, scandals, and criticism.  

Olaf Scholz serves as finance minister and Angela Merkel’s vice chancellor. He is the rule candidate of the Social Democrats, currently the junior partners in the governing coalition. The former Mayor of Hamburg is the only main candidate who is not a party chair. He has enjoyed a surge of popularity in the surveys in the run-up to the election and was seen as the winner of the final TV argue. He has also been plagued by his own proportion of scandals in his position as finance minister.

surveys open across Germany

Hello and welcome to our live updates on election day in Germany, with three candidates for chancellor in the running to succeed Angela Merkel.

surveys open at 8 a.m. local time (0600 GMT/UTC) and stay open until 6 p.m., when first official exit surveys (usually a reliable indicator of the final results) are expected. We’ll be keeping you up to date throughout.

approximately 60.4 million people in Germany are eligible to vote, though it’s doubtful all of them will be rushing to polling stations on Sunday. There’s every chance, given the coronavirus pandemic, that more will have voted by mail in improvement than ever before. 

President Frank-Walter Steinmeier, a senior Social Democrat once upon a time but neutral in his current role as Germany’s president, issued an allurement to all voters in a guest commentary for the Sunday edition of mass-circulation newspaper Bild.

“Every vote counts, your vote counts. So I ask you, go and vote today! Whoever takes part will be heard, whoever doesn’t vote lets others decide for them,” Steinmeier wrote. 

Judging by the opinion surveys, every vote really could count in this election. The results appear wide open with little certainty over which party might appear on top, let alone what coalitions might ultimately be possible after the votes are in.

For more on what coalitions are possible, check out our gallery below for all the options:

Farewell, Frau Merkel!

Merkel won’t just be leaving as chancellor of Germany. She’ll also be handing over an important role in international politics. Here, foreign correspondents look back on Merkel’s 16 years as chancellor.

rc,ab/rs (AFP, dpa, Reuters, AP)

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