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German election results — federal Bundestag and Hesse state results (in five charts)

Election officials released provisional results overnight in both the federal Germany election to determine the makeup of the lower house of Germany’s parliament, the Bundestag, and the Hessian state elections.Germany Flag Iconhesse flag

Here’s where things stand in the total national ‘party vote’:

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As predicted by exit polls earlier Sunday, neither the new eurosceptic party, the Alternative für Deutschland (AfD, Alternative for Germany) nor the longtime liberal Freie Demokratische Partei (FDP, Free Democratic Party) won more than 5% of the vote — meaning that they have not won any seats in the Bundestag.

The final total won by chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christlich Demokratische Union Deutschlands (CDU, Christian Democratic Party) — together with the Bavarian Christlich-Soziale Union in Bayern (CSU, the Christian Social Union) — comes to 41.5%.  That’s exactly the same percentage that the CDU/CSU and chancellor Helmut Kohl won in the 1994 German elections, and it’s just 2.3% less than Kohl’s total in the 1990 elections, which came in the aftermath of the largely successful reunification of West Germany with East Germany.  It’s an absolutely huge win for Merkel — but we already knew that as polls closed Sunday.

Here’s a look at how Sunday’s election result compared to the previous elections in September 2009:

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There are no absolutely clear winners except the CDU/CSU, which improved on its 2009 totals by a staggering 7.8% — including a nearly 1% improvement by the CSU (which is pretty incredible, given that the CSU seeks votes solely in Bavaria, home to just 12.5 million of Germany’s 80 million residents).

The FDP obviously had a disastrous result — the party’s worst result in Germany’s postwar history, which comes after its postwar high of 14.6% just four years ago.  Both leading FDP figure and economics and technology minister Rainer Brüderle, party leader and vice chancellor Philipp Rösler and former party leader (until 2011) and foreign minister Guido Westerwelle are all likely to step aside from their top leadership positions.

The center-left Sozialdemokratische Partei Deutschlands (SPD, Social Democratic Party) improved slightly on its 2009 result, which was a postwar low for the party under chancellor candidate Frank-Walter Steinmeier, who served as foreign minister in the 2005-09 CDU/SPD ‘grand coalition’ government.  But the SPD’s performance under its 2013 candidate Peer Steinbrück, who served as Merkel’s grand coalition finance minister, was its second-worst result in postwar German history.

Die Grünen (the Greens) also suffered a retreat from its 2009 totals and especially from polls in 2011 that showed them winning between 20% and 25% of the vote.  The poor result follows an unfocused campaign with at least four different leaders.  The Green platform swung from promoting ‘Veggie Day’ to advocating tax increases, despite the fact that its electorate is becoming more moderate, less radical, older and wealthier.

Die Linke (the Left) appears to have retained its traditional strength as the second-most popular party in the eastern states (second to Merkel’s CDU), but it has also lost support since 2009.  Though its leaders were crowing that it will be the third-largest party in the Bundestag for the first time since reunification, the CDU appears to have made significant inroads into the Left’s eastern heartland.

Though the AfD had a superb performance, it obviously fell 0.3% short of entering the Bundestag and, while it will work hard to retain relevance in next spring’s European elections, it’s difficult to tell if it can retain and grow its strength between now and 2017.

Here’s the breakdown of the seats in the Bundestag — due to so-called ‘overhang seats’ resulting from the way in which additional seats are allocated to bring seat totals in line with the ‘party vote,’ there are 630 seats:

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With 311 seats, Merkel is five seats short of an absolute majority.  Without the option of her previous coalition partner, the FDP, it means that she has three options: Continue reading German election results — federal Bundestag and Hesse state results (in five charts)

LIVE BLOG: Can Merkel win an absolute majority?

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With results yet to come in, the first exit polls show that German chancellor Angela Merkel winning a huge mandate.Germany Flag Icon

Here’s the ZDF exit poll:

  • Merkel’s center-right Christlich Demokratische Union Deutschlands (CDU, Christian Democratic Party) and its Bavarian sister party Christlich-Soziale Union in Bayern (CSU, the Christian Social Union): 42.5%.
  • The center-left Sozialdemokratische Partei Deutschlands (SPD, Social Democratic Party): 26.5%.
  • The democratic socialist Die Linke (the Left): 8.5%.
  • Die Grünen (the Greens): 8%.
  • Conservative, eurosceptic Alternative für Deutschland (AfD, Alternative for Germany): 4.8%.
  • Liberal Merkel coalition partner Freie Demokratische Partei (FDP, Free Democratic Party): 4.5%.

Let’s start with what we know.

How much of a victory is this for Merkel? It’s absolutely huge.

With 42.5% of the vote, Merkel’s CDU/CSU union would win just 1.3% less than Helmut Kohl won for the CDU/CSU in 1990 — and that was in the afterglow of reunification.

It looks like Peer Steinbrück will have led the SPD to a better result this year than Frank-Walter Steinmeier, the former foreign minister who led the SPD to win just 23% in the 2009 election.  It’s still not a great result for the SPD, and the exit polls show that the SPD didn’t actually narrow the gap in the final days as some pre-vote poll surveys had indicated.

Now let’s think about what’s still uncertain — it’s obvious that Merkel’s preferred coalition partner, the FDP, is struggling.  It would be the first time in Germany’s postwar period that the FDP fails to win enough seats to enter the Bundestag — their worst result was in 1969, when it won just 5.8% of the vote, and it follows their best-ever result from 2009 — 14.6%.  It’s been a spectacular collapse, and it’s hard to believe that Philipp Rösler’s leadership will survive very long.  There’s a lot of rebuilding ahead.

(Note that in Hesse, where state elections are being held, the FDP is falling short with just 4.8% as well.  While the CDU has won around 39%, the SPD is winning 31%, the Greens 10.5% and the Left 6% — and that means we could see another SPD-led attempt to govern with the support of the Left. Either way, it’s hard to see the current CDU/FDP coalition continuing to govern.  Here’s more on that race).

It’s still too soon to know whether the AfD or the FDP will win less than 5%.  But if they do, it’s conceivably possible for Merkel to win an absolute majority with just the seats of the CDU/CSU.  Thought 42.5% isn’t an absolute majority when the denominator is 100%, it comes very, very close when the denominator is 85.5% — the sum of the voter support of the four parties to clear the 5% hurdle.

If Merkel falls just a handful of seats short, and the FDP doesn’t enter the Bundestag, it may not be worth entering a coalition, but trying to govern with a very strong minority government.

Obviously, a ‘grand coalition’ with the SPD would be the most likely coalition, but as I’ve argued for weeks, a ‘black/green’ coalition between Merkel and the Greens has a lot of natural appeal.

* * * * *

Update, 13:51 ET.

So it seems pretty clear that the CDU/FDP coalition that governs Hesse will not be reelected.  But neither will the SPD/Green coalition have enough seats to control the Hessian Landtag.  That leaves the Left, which will win around eight seats, as the kingmaker — just as in 2008, when the SPD found itself in nearly the same situation.  When that happened in 2008, it led to a year of disorder that ultimately resulted in snap elections in 2009.  SPD leader Andrea Yspilanti faced an internal revolt when she tried to form a government with the support of the Left, and Hessian voters gave the SPD 13% less support in the 2009 elections.  This time around, we’ll have to see if Thorsten Schäfer-Gümbel, the new SPD leader in Hesse, can deliver a more graceful partnership with the Left.

Volker Bouffier, the CDU leader, will also likely try to determine if there’s space for a grand coalition or even a CDU-Green coalition in Hesse.

* * * * *

Update, 14:07 ET.

Even if Merkel wins an absolute majority of 300 seats in a 598-member Bundestag, there are a couple of good reasons why she might want to form a coalition with either the SPD or the Greens:

  • CSU hardliners.  With an ultra-thin majority, Merkel will not have a huge margin for victory.  That could risk pulling her further to the right.  Even if the AfD doesn’t make it into the Bundestag, Germany’s parliament already has a mildly eurosceptic party — the Bavarian CSU.  Top CSU leaders, including Bavarian finance minister Marcus Söder have called on Greece to leave the eurozone, which makes them about as eurosceptic as the AfD.  In a world where Merkel will want the flexibility to negotiate further bailouts for Greece, Portugal and other challenged European economies, and potentially a European banking union or greater fiscal control, she’ll want the support of a strong pro-European government.
  • Bundesrat considerations. With the likely loss in Hesse, the CDU/FDP will control just 10 seats in the Bundesrat, the upper house of the German parliament.  Leftists will control 41 seats, and CDU/SPD grand coalitions at the state level will control another 18 seats.  That means that Merkel will still have to look toward consensus in order to govern, and pulling either the SPD or the Greens into government could smooth the passage of legislation through the upper house.
  • Political calculation.  It may look like joining a coalition as Merkel’s junior partner is hazardous to your health as a political party.  The SPD, after four years in a grand coalition with Merkel, had a disastrous 2009 election and now the FDP, after four years in government, will leave the Bundestag altogether.  But a coalition with the Greens could make political sense for both the CDU and the Greens.  By separating the Greens from their traditional partners in government, Merkel could generate even more disunity on the German left.  But the Greens have had a difficult election — and there’s now evidence to show that they do better under a moderate, business-friendly platform (see the success of Winfried Kretschmann, the only Green minister-president, in the German state of Baden-Württemberg) than under the kind of leftist campaign — tax increases and advocating ‘veggie day’ — that the Greens ran in the federal 2013 campaign.  A turn to the center could really maximize the potential of the Greens in the 2017 election, and nothing could telescope that shift more than a partnership with Merkel that pulls Germany’s government ever so gently from the right to the center over the next four years.

Update, 15:58 ET.

Projections are now divided between showing the CDU/CSU with 295 seats, just short of a majority, and with 303 seats, just barely a majority:

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We’re obviously going to have to wait to know the final numbers.  Keep in mind also that there’s still a chance that the eurosceptic AfD could still sneak into the Bundestag.

 

 

Germany (and Hesse) votes today!

What better way to kick off Germany’s election day — and the second full day of Oktoberfest in Munich — with Johannes Brahms’s ‘Academic Festival Overture,’ a loose assortment of what amounts to student drinking songs?Germany Flag Icon

Germany, with 80 million citizens, is the most populous member of the European Union, and it’s also the economic engine of Europe these days, for better or worse.

Angela Merkel, chancellor for the past eight years, is almost certainly likely to continue as chancellor, with her center-right Christlich Demokratische Union Deutschlands (CDU, Christian Democratic Party) and the CDU’s Bavarian sister party, the Christlich-Soziale Union in Bayern (CSU, the Christian Social Union), poised to win more than 10% to 15% more than the center-left Sozialdemokratische Partei Deutschlands (SPD, Social Democratic Party).

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German voters will cast two ballots — for a local representative in each of 299 districts, plus the national ‘party vote’ for a political party to determine an additional 299 seats in the lower house of Germany’s parliament, the Bundestag.  The ‘party vote’ generally determines the proportion of seats that a party will hold in the Bundestag.

The drama comes down to whether Merkel will be able to continue her coalition with the liberal Freie Demokratische Partei (FDP, Free Democratic Party) — which is polling at around just 5%, the threshold to win seats in the Bundestag — or be forced back into a ‘grand coalition’ with the SPD.  Or, as I’ve argued at EurActiv, the third possibility is a historical ‘black-green’ coalition with Die Grünen (the Greens).

We’ll have a pretty good idea in about 10 hours of the universe of possibilities.

Between now and then, check out some of Suffragio‘s prior German election campaign coverage:

Photo credit to Alex Cole.

Close state election in Hesse could tilt federal Bundesrat further left

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While all of Germany goes to the polls on September 22 to elect a new national government, voters in the state of Hesse will also be choosing their own state government.hesse flagGermany Flag Icon

Although Hesse isn’t as large as Bavaria, which held its own state-level elections on September 15, exactly one week before the federal vote, the election in Hesse is as much a tossup as the national election is likely to be a certain win for German chancellor Angela Merkel.

Hesse, a state in south-central Germany that borders both Bavaria and North Rhine-Westphalia, is home to Frankfurt, the financial center of Germany and in many ways the financial center of Europe.  With just over 6 million residents, Hesse is only the fifth-most populous state in Germany, but its role in the German economy means that the result on Sunday is important — its GDP per capita, on a regional basis, is Germany’s highest (except for the small city-states of Hamburg and Bremen). hessemap

It’s also important because the result of the Hessian election will determine five votes in the Bundesra