Germany votes next month in the last in a series of elections in key Western countries. The polls are predicting an easy win for Angela Merkel, who is trying to secure a historic fourth term as chancellor. But after shock results saw the rise of political outsiders Donald Trump in the US and Emmanuel Macron in France, Britain’s vote to leave the EU and Theresa May left clinging to power in Britain less than a year later, nothing can be taken for granted.
When is is the 2017 German election?
German elections are always held on a Sunday, and this year the country votes on September 24. Exit polls are quick and highly accurate, and we should have a pretty clear idea of who has won shortly after voting ends. But the business of coalition building can take much longer, and it could be weeks or even months before a new government is formed.
How does the German electoral system work?
Germany has a parliamentary system, like the UK, and like our Prime Minister, the chancellor is the leader who can control a majority in parliament. The system is very similar to the British one: there is no US-style electoral college, and no second round as in France.
The one key difference is Germany’s proportional representation system, which makes absolute majorities rare. This means the struggle to secure power doesn’t end on election night: that’s when the hard work of forming a coalition begins.
As in the UK, the leader of the party which wins the most seats gets the first opportunity to build a government.
Who are the key parties and leaders?
At 63, Mrs Merkel is the “last woman standing” of a generation of Western leaders. When she first came to power, in 2005, Tony Blair was Prime Minister and George W Bush was US president.
Mrs Merkel has led her centre-right Christian Democratic Union (CDU) party to three straight election victories, and is looking for a fourth. One confusing detail is that the CDU doesn’t field candidates in Bavaria, but instead campaigns jointly with its more conservative Bavarian sister party, the Christian Social Union (CSU). The two parties automatically go into coalition together, and any seats the CSU wins count towards Mrs Merkel’s tally. They are currently leading the polls on around 40 per cent.