Here’s why you should pay attention.
If you’re in Europe:
To borrow a phrase, Germany’s the big man on campus. It has the biggest and strongest economy in the European Union. It’s widely seen, along with France, as a driver of EU policy and a powerful player in the Brexit negotiations. Speaking of which, both Merkel and Schulz (a former EU President) seem inclined to take more of a hard line with the UK over its impending exit from the trade bloc.
If you’re anywhere else:
Observers of politics everywhere want to see if populist passions will reignite. They burned bright last year in the Brexit vote and the US presidential election, but have dimmed in 2017 with the loss of far-right candidates in France and the Netherlands.
The parties led by Merkel or Schulz aren’t populist movements by any stretch, but concerns over refugees and security could help propel the far-right AfD (Alternative for Germany) into parliament for the first time. And just like in France’s presidential election earlier this year, anyone in a war-torn country in the Mideast or Africa looking to Germany as a place of refuge might wonder what kind of welcome they’ll get there in the future.
How does this work?
Germans will be voting to fill seats in the Bundestag, the country’s 598-seat parliament. Whichever party wins the most seats will try to form a coalition government, and the leader of that party will then become chancellor (equivalent to the US President).
OK, now stay with us, because from here it gets really complicated.
- German voters will cast two votes on election day.
- On the first vote they will choose from a list of local candidates to represent their district. The candidate who gets the most votes in each district wins a seat in parliament. Half of the Bundestag’s seats (299) are decided this way.
- For their second vote
, they choose from a list of the political parties. The remaining 299 seats are then distributed among the parties based on the percentage of votes received nationwide. Only parties that get more than 5% of the vote nationally can send representatives to the parliament.
What’s the point of this convoluted system? It allows voters to split their vote between parties. They can vote for a local candidate from one party and cast their second vote for a different party.
Merkel’s party, the center-right Christian Democratic Union, and its sister party the Christian Social Union, currently have 309 seats in the Bundestag. They’ve spent the past four years in coalition with the center-left Social Democratic party, which has 193 seats.
Who could be chancellor?
What are the big issues?
Security and terrorism:
So who’s going to win?
What happens afterward?
There’s the fun and games of coalition building. You see, to form a government a political party has to win more than 50% of the seats in parliament. This is highly unlikely, since there are 42 parties (42!) fielding candidates in this election. So the party that ends up with the most seats (and that, most likely, will be Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union) will negotiate with others to form the government. Those negotiations start on September 25.