German election polls 2017

Will Angela Merkel win a fourth term as chancellor when Germany elects a new Bundestag on September 24?

FT Germany poll tracker
FT Germany poll tracker

Angela Merkel is vying for a fourth term as chancellor when Germany elects a new Bundestag on September 24.

The FT’s time-weighted average of seven pollsters’ latest polls of voting intention suggests that Ms Merkel Christian Democratic Union and its Bavarian sister party, the Christian Social Union, should comfortably remain the largest bloc.

But under Germany’s proportional representation system this is unlikely to translate into a majority of seats in the new parliament. How the other parties perform will determine the coalition that forms the next German government.

How the German voting system works

In Germany’s “mixed-member proportional” system, voters make two marks on their ballots: one for a constituency MP and one for a party list.

In the Bundestag, 299 of the seats are reserved for constituency MPs elected on a first-past-the-post basis. The remainder of the MPs come from party lists, allocated to closely approximate the distribution of the party vote in each of Germany’s 16 federal states after taking into account the directly-elected MPs. At least another 299 MPs gain their seats this way, although the number can be higher. The outgoing parliament, for example, had 631 seats.

A further complication is that a party must win at least 5 per cent of the national vote — or win three constituencies — to be included in the seat allocation process.

This complex process results in a seat distribution that is very close to the proportions of the national popular vote won by the included parties.

German elections estimated seat distribution based on latest polls
German elections estimated seat distribution based on latest polls

The parties

Possible coalitions

German elections: likelihood of potential coalitions based on seat distribution based on latest polls
German elections: likelihood of potential coalitions based on seat distribution based on latest polls

German coalitions are often described in terms of the party colours of the participating parties.

With the CDU/CSU bloc well ahead in the polls, attention has turned to who will join Angela Merkel in power. Ms Merkel has ruled out working with the AfD or Left, but four other options remain available:

  • Grand Coalition: Alliances of the centre-right CDU/CSU and centre-left SPD like the current government, have become a fixture in German politics as fragmentation has made it difficult for either major party to govern with just one of the smaller parties. The tame debate between Ms Merkel and Mr Schultz was widely seen as a prelude to renewed cooperation. But many SPD members, who would vote on such a pact, oppose a renewed Grand Coalition.

  • Black-Yellow: The CDU/CSU bloc would probably prefer a partnership with a smaller party. The free-market FDP would likely be its preferred ally; this and would be a repeat of Ms Merkel’s second term from 2009 to 2013. The parties’ programmes are broadly compatible, although the FDP takes a harder line on eurozone reform and has called openly and repeatedly for a Greek exit from the euro.

  • Black-Green: A coalition between CDU/CSU and the Green party governs two of Germany’s states but has never led the federal government.

  • ‘Jamaica’: A three-way coalition with the colours of the Jamaican flag — CDU/CSU, FDP and Greens — has formed state governments including one formed in June following elections in Schleswig-Holstein. But it would be a novelty at the federal level. Coalition negotiations would be tough, pitting the FDP’s laissez-faire economics against the Greens’ environmental interventionism.

A Social Democrat-led government is now unlikely, but two scenarios are conceivable:

  • Red-Red-Green: A leftwing government led by Martin Schulz of the SPD and backed by the Left and Greens is one of only two scenarios that could end Ms Merkel’s continued chancellorship.

  • ‘Traffic light’: A red-amber-green coalition of SPD, FDP and Greens currently runs the state government in Rhineland-Palatinate, but would be a novelty at the federal level.

Methodology

At each point in time, the FT poll-of-polls includes the most recent voting-intention poll from seven pollsters, compiled by Wahlrecht.de. The average of their results is weighted to give more recent polls greater influence on the net score.

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