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Scholz’s SPD wins German election as conservatives drop to record low in 1st election without Merkel – preliminary results

The preliminary results of the German election show a victory for the Social Democrats, which edged out outgoing Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservative CDU/CSU union by little more than 1%. All eyes now turn to coalition talks.

After running neck and neck with the center-right CDU/CSU union, led by Merkel’s successor, Christian Democrat Armin Laschet, Olaf Scholz’s center-left Social Democratic Party (SPD) pulled ahead, receiving 25.7% of the vote, Germany’s electoral management body reported on Monday morning. 

The CDU/CSU secured 24.1% of the vote in a historic low for the union in a federal election. The Greens, on the other hand, gained ground from 2017, receiving 14.8% of the vote, while the anti-establishment Alternative for Germany (AfD) received 10.3%. A potential kingmaker in the race, the classical liberal Free Democratic Party (FDP), ended up with 11.5%. The Left Party (Die Linke) was around 5% short of its previous results, with 4.9%.

Even before the preliminary results were announced, SPD Secretary General Lars Klingbeil claimed victory for his party, telling the media on Sunday, “We have the mandate to form a government,” in which “Olaf Scholz will become chancellor.”

The Greens congratulated the SPD, with the party’s secretary general, Michael Kellner, saying he is open to negotiating with all democratic parties to build the nation’s next political coalition.

Paul Ziemiak, the secretary general of the CDU, was less willing to accept an SPD victory, telling broadcaster ARD that it’s going to be a “long election night,” and that a coalition between the CDU, the Greens, and the FDP could still be in the cards.

“A coalition of the CDU, FDP and Greens would be a real future coalition – for modernization, sustainability and stability,” Ziemiak tweeted.

The CDU’s candidate for chancellor, Armin Laschet, addressed party members on election night, saying they were not satisfied with the results, though promising the CDU would do everything it could to lead a three-party coalition, which he said would be a big challenge for the nation.

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The Game of Coalitions

Although the SPD narrowly edged out the CDU, the fight to build a coalition could take months to resolve, especially with both the CDU and SPD claiming they will be leading it.

The coalition scenarios floated by experts include the ‘traffic-light’ coalition – referring to the colors representing the three parties – which would be made up of the SPD, the FDP, and the Greens, leaving out the more conservative CDU. It would be led by the SPD’s Olaf Scholz, and the Greens are already viewed as likely to form a partnership with the Social Democrats. 

The ‘Jamaica’ scenario is also possible – made up of the CDU, the Greens, and the FDP, it would leave out the SPD while the CDU remains the leader of the nation’s next coalition government. 

The third scenario, the ‘Grand Coalition’ – a partnership between the CDU and the SPD (and possibly the Greens) is the least likely, as the Social Democrats already worked in a junior coalition capacity during the years Angela Merkel was in charge.

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Germans went to the polls on Sunday to decide the makeup of the Bundestag, the lower house of the parliament.

The results will determine who replaces the CDU’s Angela Merkel as chancellor. Germany’s second-longest-serving leader in the modern era, she has governed the country since 2005. She presided over the eurozone crisis, the influx of migrants from the Middle East and Africa, and the rise of extremism and terrorism in Europe.

Merkel’s eventual successor and their new government will be tasked with steering the country’s economy towards recovery after the Covid-19 pandemic and the devastating floods in Germany this summer.

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