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Understanding the German Federal Election Results

By Axel Wallrabenstein, Chairman, MSL Germany

What is the election result?

Chancellor Angela Merkel won a fourth term in yesterday’s German federal election. However, with losses of 8.5% her position is weakened, and this is likely to be her last term as Chancellor. Following their worst result in post-war history (20.5%; -5.2%), the Social Democrats announced they will not be available to continue the current Grand Coalition government with the CDU/CSU. Meanwhile, the anti-immigrant right-wing AfD soared to 12.6%, turning out stronger than expected and sending shockwaves through Germany’s political landscape. As for the other small parties: The liberal FDP re-enters parliament in strong fashion with 10.7% (+5.9%) of the vote, the Green party wins 8.9% (+0.5%), and the Left party finishes on 9.2% (+0.6%).

Bundestagswahl 2017 #btw2017

Who will govern?

With 32.9% (-8,6%), the CDU/CSU remains the strongest party in parliament, making them the senior partner in any future coalition. A so-called ‘Jamaica Coalition’ consisting of CDU/CSU, the FDP and the Greens appears to be the most likely scenario following the SPD’s refusal to form a Grand Coalition. The ‘Jamaica’ option has also been made more likely by the success of the right-wing populists. In the event of a Grand Coalition, the AfD would become the largest opposition party, taking key positions in the parliament. This will serve as a pretext for the respective party leaderships to convince their members to enter into a ‘Jamaica Coalition’. However, some uncertainty persists with regard to the CSU, the CDU’s sister party in Bavaria. Traditionally more conservative than the CDU, they lost many votes to the right-wing AfD. This could make them a stubborn negotiation partner and may lead to very difficult coalition talks.

What’s in store for the next 4 years?

After months of uncertainty, this result carries a clear mandate for a ‘Jamaica Coalition’. However, forging such a coalition will be no easy feat. CDU/CSU, FDP, and Greens will have many differences to bridge, especially in terms of environmental policy, consumer protection, and foreign policy. The Green party is likely to push for stronger regulation with regard to consumer protection & digital rights, while the CDU/CSU and FDP will focus on digitization and digital skills. The new constellation also promises a new dynamic in government. We may see one of the most reform-oriented governments of recent years, with projects ranging from a new immigration law to tax reform and a real push for digitization.

What will happen next?

With ‘Jamaica’ being the only viable option, informal talks about the formation of a new government will begin within the next few weeks. Formal talks will not start until late October and may last until late November/early December. We expect that a new government will be in place just before Christmas and parliament will be fully operational early in the new year.

Possible timeline:

  • Sept 26-29: CDU, CSU, FDP and Greens evaluate possible explanatory talks
  • Oct 4-Oct 15: explanatory talks
  • Oct 15: regional election in Lower Saxony
  • Oct 16-Dec 3: coalition talks
  • Oct 23: first session of the 19th Bundestag
  • Dec 4-10: party assemblies
  • Dec 11: election & swearing-in of the Chancellor

For more information on what the German election result may mean to your business and brand, please contact Axel Wallrabenstein or Wigan Salazar.

Axel Wallrabenstein co-founded the German office of Publicis Consultants (today: MSL Germany) in 2001. Today his main focus is providing advice for clients at the crossroads between corporate communication and public affairs. His experience includes work for clients like Google, Sanofi and Shell in Germany. Axel is the former Spokesman of Berlin’s Senator of Science, Research and Cultural Affairs and of the Saxon Ministry of the Interior. He is also former news desk editor at Deutsche Welle TV and former Secretary General of the Young Christian Democrats.