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On 22 September Germany held federal elections. As part of our coverage of the elections, EUROPP is running a series of articles on the parties, policies and political debates at the heart of the election campaign. This page collates contributions to the series.

German federal elections 2013

The polarisation of the German party system in the 2013 elections and the disappearance of the FDP explain the country’s tortuous coalition negotiations

Coalition negotiations are continuing in Germany, following federal elections in September. André Krouwel, Theresa Eckert and Yordan Kutiyski use each of the major parties’ manifesto pledges to illustrate the state of the German party system in 2013. They note that the party system has become more polarised, with an ‘empty centre’ between those on the left and right of the political spectrum. The distance between Angela Merkel’s CDU/CSU and the SPD gives an indication of the difficulty involved in forming a governing coalition. By analysing German voters’ party preferences and issue positions, they also provide a preliminary explanation of why the FDP failed to enter parliament for the first time in the party´s history.

Spanish newspaper coverage of the German elections showed a clear split between left-wing and right-wing views of Angela Merkel and the CDU/CSU

The German election received extensive media coverage in other European countries, particularly in those hardest hit by the Eurozone crisis. Sonia Alonso assesses the coverage of Angela Merkel and the CDU/CSU’s victory in the three largest newspapers in Spain. She notes that the centre-left newspaper El País was more critical of Merkel than the centre-right newspaper ABC, which largely put the blame for unpopular austerity policies on the CDU/CSU’s coalition partner, the FDP.

Until Angela Merkel forms a governing coalition, Greece will continue to be in limbo

Theofanis Exadaktylos writes on the Greek reaction to Angela Merkel’s victory. He notes that the elections received extensive coverage in the Greek media due to their implications for the country’s economic crisis. Nevertheless, the general perception is that Germany is unlikely to change its course on Europe. The key concern is therefore likely to be the amount of time it will take for Angela Merkel to form a new governing coalition, as Greece will be unable to carry out key reforms until this situation is resolved.

The CDU/CSU’s election victory is in stark contrast to the experiences of other Christian Democratic parties across Europe

Angela Merkel’s CDU/CSU won 41.5 per cent of the vote in Germany’s federal election, falling just short of an absolute majority of seats in the Bundestag. Tim Bale and André Krouwel note that the success of Germany’s Christian Democrats is at odds with their sister parties across Western Europe. The strength of Merkel’s leadership, and the fact that the CDU/CSU have not faced strong competition from right-wing populist parties, might offer a partial explanation for this success.

German federal elections final preview: the parties and their campaigns

Kai Arzheimer offers a final preview of the vote and outlines the main issues facing Germany’s major parties. He writes that as Angela Merkel and the CDU/CSU are comfortably ahead in the polls, the main issue will be whether their current coalition partner, the FDP, can clear the country’s five per cent electoral threshold. Even if this fails to happen, however, Angela Merkel is still almost certain to lead the next government, albeit in a grand coalition with the SPD.

The message for Europe from the German election campaign is ‘don’t get your hopes up’

As Germany goes to the polls, Ulrike Guérot takes a final look at the impact the elections will have on Europe. She notes that there are three key areas in which Europe would like Germany to take the lead: banking union, a European growth strategy, and strengthening EU foreign policy co-operation. On each count, however, Germany’s new government is unlikely to be able to deliver. Ultimately there is a significant gap between the Germany that Europeans would like, and the policies which the country’s politicians are capable of providing.

Despite Germany’s ‘green’ reputation, the issue of climate change has been largely absent from the federal election campaign

Germany has taken a leading role in efforts to tackle the problem of climate change. As Mark Dawson and Pierre Thielbörger write, however, the issue has not played a major part in the country’s federal election campaign. They note that even the German Greens have downplayed environmental policies, which may reflect the difficulty in mobilising voters around ‘slow burning’ issues such as global warming.

Germany’s Left Party is shut out of government, but remains a powerful player in German politics

The Left Party (Die Linke) received 11.9 per cent of the vote in the 2009 German federal elections, and is predicted to comfortably clear the country’s 5 per cent threshold in this Sunday’s vote. Jonathan Olsen outlines the party’s recent history and its role in the German party system. He notes that although the Left Party appears willing to enter into coalition with the other major parties, it is not viewed as a viable coalition partner. Despite being shut out of government, the party nevertheless remains an important part of German politics.

The CDU will overcome the odds stacked against Christian Democratic parties in the 2013 elections, but for how long?

The general consensus from opinion polls is that Angela Merkel’s CDU will comfortably take the largest share of the vote in Germany’s federal elections on Sunday. As Ed Turner writes, however, the success of the CDU is at odds with other Christian Democratic parties across Europe. Christian Democrats face a number of challenges, such as the increasing secularisation of society and the impact of immigration. So far under Merkel’s leadership the CDU has been able to resist these trends, but with no obvious successor to take her place it is doubtful whether this can be maintained long-term.

There have been three major shifts in German public opinion during the 2013 election campaign, including a late swing from the Greens to the Left Party

Which events have long-term significance for party support in an election campaign? Oliver Strijbis outlines the findings of a research project into the German elections which attempts to address this issue by using prediction markets to assess party support. Using this method he identifies three major events which significantly altered German public opinion during the campaign: the creation of the anti-euro AfD party, the TV debate between Angela Merkel and Peer Steinbrück, and an as yet unexplained swing in support from the Greens to the Left Party during August.

Peer Steinbrück’s campaign gaffes pose a major problem for the SPD in Germany’s upcoming election

One of the key aspects of the German election campaign is the personal contest between the two main Chancellor candidates, Angela Merkel of the CDU, and Peer Steinbrück of the SPD. Patricia Hogwood writes that although Steinbrück has fought an extensive campaign, his efforts have been undermined by a number of blunders. Moreover, the fact that he has ruled out entering a grand coalition with the CDU might also put his position in the SPD under pressure, should the rest of the party be prepared to jettison the face of their campaign for a place in government.

voxEUROPP Episode 4: 2013 German Elections

In a special episode of our voxEUROPP podcast series, we preview the elections. Waltraud Schelkle discusses the effect of the elections on the Eurozone crisis. Patricia Hogwood takes a look at the two chancellor candidates, Angela Merkel and Peer Steinbrück, while Ulrich Beck tells us why a German led Europe should reinvent modernity.

A minor debate over road tolls might finally push the issue of Europe to the forefront of the German election campaign

The issue of Germany’s role within Europe has so far played only a minor role in the German federal election campaign. As Mark Dawson and Jacob Krumrey write, this is largely because the SPD view the issue as a strength of Angela Merkel, and are reluctant to articulate overtly Eurosceptic policies. Despite this, a recent proposal to create a road toll for foreign drivers has finally brought the European issue into the debate, albeit as a ‘proxy European war’.

The reluctance of German politicians to take a strong line on defence policy poses a security risk for Europe

Defence policy has generally played a much smaller role in German election campaigns than it has in other countries. As Tom Dyson writes, this is largely because German politicians view the issue as a ‘vote loser’, with little potential to improve a party’s electoral success. Nevertheless, he argues that this approach is highly misguided in the context of modern security challenges.

The outcome of this month’s federal elections will not change Germany’s course on Europe

Philine Schuseil provides an overview of the potential coalitions which might emerge from the elections, and the policies of each of the major parties on Europe and the Eurozone crisis. Using recent opinion polls, she argues that the next German government is likely to be a ‘grand coalition’ between Angela Merkel’s CDU/CSU and the SPD. Regardless of the coalition which comes into power, however, the country’s overall course on Europe is unlikely to change significantly, in no small part due to the institutional and public opinion constraints it will be forced to work under.

The CSU: Bavaria’s seemingly eternal governing party will win again in September

Amir Abedi writes on Bavaria’s Christian Social Union (CSU), which will also be competing in state elections on 15 September. Despite being in government in Bavaria almost continuously since the end of the Second World War, the CSU experienced a drop in support in the last state elections in 2008. However current opinion polls show that the party is well placed to once again gain single party control of Bavaria’s state parliament, and a resurgent CSU could well play a major role in helping to swing the federal elections in favour of Angela Merkel and the CDU/CSU.

German public opinion has become less polarised over the past 30 years

Using survey responses from a large number of issue groups over the last 30 years, Simon Munzert and Paul C. Bauer outline the results of a study on polarisation in Germany. In contrast to other countries such as the United States, they find that German public opinion has become significantly less polarised over recent decades.

Germany’s new anti-euro party is unlikely to be a key player in September’s Federal Elections

The formation of a new anti-euro party, Alternative für Deutschland (AfD), has generated significant media attention ahead of the elections. Kai Arzheimer assesses the party’s electoral prospects, arguing that despite the media coverage, the AfD will find it difficult to gain enough support to get over the five per cent threshold. 

Germany’s new anti-euro party, Alternative für Deutschland, might prove to be a game changer in German and European politics

In February, a new German political party, Alternative für Deutschland, was established ahead of the country’s Federal Elections in September. Defining itself as ‘anti-euro’, but ‘pro-EU’, the party has already experienced significant growth in its membership numbers. Robert Grimm assesses the platform of the new party and its potential for success in the upcoming elections. He argues that while the broad nature of its support base might prove problematic in the long term, it nevertheless has the potential to be a ‘game changer’ in German and European politics.

The German Greens are likely to be the new ‘kingmakers’ in the 2013 federal elections

Since it was founded in 1948, the Free Democratic Party (FDP) has been in federal government for longer than any other German political party. As Amir Abedi writes, however, the party’s traditional role as ‘kingmaker’ in German elections has been steadily eroded by the emergence of the German Greens and the left-wing Die Linke party.

The ‘greying electorate’ in Germany is likely to help the CDU/CSU and the FDP in future elections

What effect do demographic changes have on the success of political parties? Based on official data on German elections since 1953, Laura Konzelmann assesses the potential impact of Germany’s ageing population on party success. Her research indicates that if present trends in electoral behaviour continue, the CDU/CSU and the FDP are both likely to benefit in future decades, while the SPD will be particularly hard hit. This effect could nevertheless be mitigated by other factors, such as the preferences of future generations, and adjustments made by parties to attract older voters.

Despite riding high in the polls, a coalition with the CDU/CSU may be the only route for the German Greens to enter government in the 2013 Elections

Wolfgang Rüdig assesses the prospects of the German Greens. Although the party’s standing in opinion polls has been extremely healthy, the weakness of its preferred partner, the SPD, might make a coalition with Angela Merkel’s CDU/CSU the only option for entering government. However this strategy could prove unpopular and generate tensions between the two competing wings of the party.



Note:  The articles give the views of the authors, and not the position of EUROPP – European Politics and Policy, nor of the London School of Economics.

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