German federal election 2021: When will we know the result?
Today’s the day! As of 8 am this morning, polling stations up and down Germany opened their doors, and the vote to choose the next government - and Angela Merkel’s successor - began. But what’s the timeline for the rest of the day? And when can we expect an election result?
Key times on election day in Germany
The 2021 German federal election promises to be an election like no other, bearing witness to the end of Angela Merkel’s 16 years in power and, with her CDU / CSU alliance struggling in the polls, promising a major shakeup of the government. As well as the Bundestag representatives, people in Berlin and Mecklenburg-Vorpommern are also voting in the state elections. Berlin is further holding district elections and a referendum on the same day.
Here’s how the day will go:
- 8 am: Polls open across the country for people to come and cast their votes
- Until 3 pm: People can apply for emergency additional ballots, for instance in the case of sudden illness
- 3.30 pm: Georg Thiel, Federal Election Commissioner, will give a provisional statement on voter turnout
- 6 pm: Polling stations close and electoral offices stop accepting votes cast by post
Some 650.000 volunteers have been brought in to help staff the 88.000 polling stations across the country, handing out ballots and helping with the counting once the polls close at 6 pm. At this point, most people will probably be eagerly awaiting the first forecasts, but when will the first results become available?
Federal election 2021: When will the first results be announced?
Soon after the polling stations close in Germany at 6 pm, the provisional election results will be announced by the Federal Returning Officer. This is based on a representative sample of anonymous post-voting surveys (sometimes called an “exit poll”) and the interim results published by local voting districts. In the past, this projection has been made at around 6.15 pm.
While the exit poll gives a good indication of which way the vote might swing, it’s not a final result, and the count will continue throughout the night. When an electoral district has counted all of its votes - this usually happens in the early hours of the morning - the local returning officer will pass these results to the federal returning officer.
The latter will then use these results to announce a preliminary final result of the federal election. This will happen sometime in the night or early in the morning. At the 2017 federal election, the preliminary result was announced at 5.25 am on Monday morning.
When will the official final result become clear?
It can usually take a couple of weeks for the official final election result to be announced, to account for counts and recounts and any other matters.
For instance, in 2017, the election took place on September 24, but the final result wasn’t announced until October 12. In 2013, the election was on September 22, and the result was announced on October 9.
When will the new German government be formed?
The newly-elected Bundestag has to convene no later than 30 days after the election. But this does not necessarily mean that there will be a new government by then. After the election, the biggest parties will begin coalition talks and negotiations - a protracted process that can take several months. The parties will need to form a coalition that holds a majority of the Bundestag’s 598+ seats.
Once a coalition has been formed, they will select a chancellor, who then needs to be approved by the Bundestag with an absolute majority of over 50 percent before they can name cabinet ministers. When all of the new ministers have been officially appointed by the president and sworn in, the new government will take office. Until then, Angela Merkel will continue to hold the chancellorship in a caretaker capacity.