German federal election: SPD scrape narrow win as CDU slumps

German federal election: SPD scrape narrow win as CDU slumps

The centre-left Social Democratic Party (SPD) has edged out the Christian Democrats (CDU / CSU) to narrowly scrape a win in the German federal election, according to preliminary results. The Green party, who came in third, now have the powerful position of kingmaker as coalition negotiations begin.

German federal election 2021: The preliminary results

The election to choose Angela Merkel’s successor after 16 years has failed to produce a clear winner, with preliminary results published on Monday morning showing the SPD at 25,7 percent of the vote, narrowly ahead of the centre-right CDU and the CSU, their sister party in Bavaria, on 24,1 percent - its worst result in seven decades. 

Olaf Scholz, the SPD’s chancellor candidate, has announced that he has a clear mandate to govern, but his rival Armin Laschet, of the CDU / CSU, has also claimed the right to try to build the next government. Both parties will now be battling to win over the necessary allies to form a majority in the Bundestag. 

This puts the Green party, who according to preliminary results secured 14,8 percent of the vote - its best result yet but still slightly short of expectations - in a strong position for upcoming talks. Like the SPD, the Greens gained more than 5 percent compared to the 2017 federal election, while the CDU / CSU were down more than 8 percent. 

The pro-business Free Democrats (FDP) look to have secured 11,5 percent of the vote, while the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) party is on 10,3 percent. The far-left Die Linke party fell below the necessary 5-percent hurdle but managed to scrape its way into parliament by winning three seats outright. 

Negotiations over future coalitions begin

The country is now headed for weeks if not months of protracted negotiations, as both Scholz and Laschet look to the Greens and the FDP to help them gather together a parliamentary majority. All of the other parties have ruled out a possible alliance with the AfD. 

The tight race means that several coalition options still remain open. Of course, the CDU / CSU and the SPD could continue their so-called “grand coalition” that has governed Germany since 2013. But since both parties are claiming a right to build the next government, it seems likely that Germany is heading - for the first time at federal level since the 1960s - for a three-way coalition. 

Likely line-ups include a “traffic light” coalition, a teaming up of the SPD, the Greens and the FDP, or a “Jamaica” coalition of the CDU / CSU, Greens and FDP. Both chancellor candidates have said they want a new government in place before Christmas. 

Last time around, in 2017, it took nearly six months of wrangling for a deal to be finalised, so Germany should prepare itself for several months of negotiations. Angela Merkel will continue to govern in a caretaker capacity for the time being. Once a governing coalition is formed, the Bundestag will vote in a new chancellor. 



Abi Carter

Managing Editor at IamExpat Media. Abi studied German and History at the University of Manchester and has since lived in Berlin, Hamburg and Utrecht, working since 2017 as a writer,...

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