German election: Social Democrats edge ahead in chancellor race as CDU plunges to historic low

3 weeks ago

SDP extends narrow lead

At 10pm local time, the centre-left SPD’s narrow lead over its centre-right CDU/CSU rival continues to grow, according to both sets of projections by public broadcasters ARD and ZDF.

Based on an amalgam of exit polls and partial counts of polling station and postal ballots, ARD/Infratest now put finance minister Olaf Scholz’s party on 25.8% of the vote and 205 seats in the 730-seat Bundestag, against 24.2% and 195 seats for Armin Laschet’s CDU/CSU.

The same provisonal results give potential coalition partners the Greens 114 seats and the liberal FDP 91 MPs.

Updated at 4.10pm EDT

Kate Connolly

According to a poll published just now by the broadcaster ZDF, a majority of Germans (55%) would prefer government led by the centre-left SPD, compared to 36% for one headed by the CDU/CSU alliance.

This is more or less the opposite of the result after the same question was asked after the previous 2017 election, when 52% were in favour of a CDU-led government and 36% per cent for an SPD-led one.

This would be a turn-up for the books: the Berliner Zeitung newspaper reports that there’s a chance the conservative CDU/CSU’s candidate - and Angela Merkel’s favoured successor - Armin Laschet, might not win a seat in parliament (see 16.15 entry below for an explanation of how the fiendishly complicated German electoral system works).

Elizabeth Rushton (@emrshtn)

Some trivia: Armin Laschet might not make it into the Bundestag. He’s top of his party list in his home state, but CDU votes may not suffice to earn more seats beyond the direct candidates. Would mean he couldn’t lead the opposition if he’s not chancellor https://t.co/Vu1T4QqGR6

September 26, 2021

The historian Helene von Bismarck gives her verdict:

Helene von Bismarck (@HeleneBismarck)

Too early to say what kind of coalition we will get in Germany. But 2 things seems clear already& I find them significant after the Corona crisis: high turnout & no gains for extremist parties. Our democracy is working and the Centre holds.
Right now, that matters most to me.

September 26, 2021

Updated at 3.21pm EDT

The gap between the SPD and CDU/CSU continues to widen as official results from polling stations come in and postal votes are tallied.

The lastest projections from the two public broadcasters ARD and ZDF at just after 9pm local time both put the centre-left party ahead, one by 1.2 percentage points (25.7% to 24.5%) and the other by 1.5 points (26% to 24.5%).

That would give the centre-left party 204 seats in the 730-seat Bundestag and CDU/CSU 197.

Updated at 3.26pm EDT

In a wide-ranging opinion piece, broadcaster Deutsche Welle’s editor-in-chief Manuela Kasper-Claridge says the days of caution and marginal compromise characterised by Germany’s previous grand coalition between the CU/CSU and SPD are over and German voters want change.

Major 21st-century challenges such as the climate crisis, the digital revolution and modernsing Germany can “only be solved in cooperation with the smaller parties - in all conceivable coalitions, the Greens and the FDP will have a big say. Nothing will work without them — and that’s a good thing,” she said.

The size of the Greens’ vote share shows “German voters are worried about climate change” and means the party will undoubtedly “go into the coalition talks with plenty of self-confidence, and demanding an expensive dowry”.

But Germans also care about how much major change will cost, Kasper-Claridge said - which is why the liberal FDP will also have to be involved. “They see themselves as the great deregulators, and could torpedo some of the Greens’ wishes,” she warned.

If that means coalition talks are going to be tough, and their outcome as yet uncertain, what is very clear is “the scale of the CDU/CSU’s defeat. You can’t sugarcoat such a dramatic fall, their worst result since 1949. After 16 years in government, the so-called ‘Union’ of CDU and CSU, is ripe for opposition.”

Updated at 3.12pm EDT

The leading candidates are now in what’s charmingly known as the “Elephant round” - a round-table, televised debate broadcast live on public networks ARD and ZDF.

The centre-left SPD’s Olaf Scholz Olaf Scholz said voters had given his party a “very clear mandate” to to lead the next government, adding that he thought there was “good overlap between the SPD and the Greens” but the need to incorprae a third party into the coalition would make things complicated.

Jeff Rathke (@JeffRathke)

Party leaders gather for “elephant round” in German to, two hours after close of polls.

Scholz/SPD confident

Laschet scrambles to argue he can build a coalition despite finishing 2nd

Lindner calls for FDP+Greens to coordinate first. Holds options open pic.twitter.com/kDhjQhp0qn

September 26, 2021

Armin Laschet, Angela Merkel’s preferred successor as chancellor, said he would be aiming to build a coalition even if his centre-right CDU party finished second. “It hasn’t always been the case that the party in first place provides the chancellor,” he said.

Laschet said the country’s next chancellor in Germany would have to “bring together different factions” in parliament, adding that he felt a coalition between the CDU/CSU alliance, the Greens and the FDP would work better than one between the SPD and th same two parties.

The Greens’ leader, Annalena Baerbock, the party would play a full part in all exploratory talks. “We want to lead the country but we still have a clear mandate for the Green party to implement what we want to do in the next government,” she said.

Updated at 2.55pm EDT

With Olaf Scholz’s centre-left SPD and Armin Laschet’s CDU/CSU within a percentage poiint of each other in the race to be the Bundestag’s largest party, it is clear to all that forming a new coalition is going to be a fraught undertaking.

Christian Lindner, the leader of potential kingmakers the liberal, pro-business Free Democrats (FDP), has suggested a novel way of breaking the looming deadlock.

It is far from clear whether either of the two main parties would accept it, of course, but it’s an intriguing suggestion:

Olaf Storbeck (@OlafStorbeck)

Now Lindner suggested that FDP and Greens should speak first, and then select their third partners. That's really smart.

September 26, 2021

Here is Agence-France Presse’s latest take on the developing race:Germany’s centre-left Social Democrats took a razor-thin lead on Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservatives in Sunday’s vote to decide her successor, preliminary results showed, sparking immediate claims from both sides to form the country’s next government.

Preliminary results showed Finance Minister Olaf Scholz’s SPD with around 24.9 to 25.6% of the vote, followed closely by Angela Merkel’s Christian Democrats and their candidate Armin Laschet on 24.4 to 24.7%.

In what is one of the most unpredictable elections for Europe’s biggest economy in decades, the SPD swiftly staked its claim with general secretary Lars Klingbeil saying his party “clearly has the mandate to govern”.

“It’s going to be a long election night, that’s for sure,” Scholz said. “But this is certain: that many citizens have put their crosses next to the SPD because they want there to be a change in government and also because they want the next chancellor to be called Olaf Scholz.”

With the conservatives staring down the barrel of their worst result since the second world war, CDU secretary Paul Ziemiak admitted that the “losses are bitter compared to the last election” in 2017, when the CDU-CSU notched up 33%.

But Laschet, 60, warned that the jury was still out on which party triumphed, as he said that he would “do everything we can to build a government led by the (conservative) Union”.

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SPD lead widening - race still too close to call

The gap between the Social Democrats and centre-right CDU/CSU alliance appears to be growing, although it remains wafer-thin.

This projection, if confirmed, would give the centre-left party 202 seats in parliament and its centre-right rival 197.

Ulrike Franke (@RikeFranke)

Latest numbers now have SPD a full percentage point ahead of CDU. Also interesting: FDP gaining, while Greens now 1%pt below the 6pm prognosis. pic.twitter.com/keoslZfU4R

September 26, 2021

Updated at 2.19pm EDT

With the results projected to be this close, the process of building a coalition in the Bundestag or lower house of parliament could take weeks or even months - during which time Angela Merkel, who is stepping down after four terms in office, would remain at the helm in a caretaker capacity.

Should talks drag on for a little over three months, until just after mid-December, Merkel would become her country’s longest-serving leader, beating her party’s former leader Helmut Kohl, the architect of German reunification, who served as chancellor from 1 October 1982 until 27 October 1998.

Thomas Sparrow (@Thomas_Sparrow)

If results remain so tight, coalition building will probably take a LONG time.

And for Angela #Merkel that would mean one thing: she could break Helmut Kohl's record as the republic's longest-serving leader.

She would have to be in power until December 17 (5,869 days in office) pic.twitter.com/48qXkeQFVF

September 26, 2021

Updated at 2.12pm EDT

The latest projections for the public broadcaster ARD, based on a combination of exit polls, the first official ballot counts from polling stations and a partial count of postal votes, show the Social Democrats on 25.2% of the vote.

That represents a wafer-thin lead over outgoing chancellor Angela Merkel’s CDU/CSU, on 24.6%. Potential coalition partners the Greens are on 14.3%, the pro-business FDP on 11.6%, and the far-left Die Linke on 5%.

Translated into seats, that would make Olaf Scholz’s SPD the largest party in the Bundestag with 200 seats. Armin Laschet’s CDU/CSU would have 198, the Greens 113, FDP 92 and Die Linke 40.

Updated at 2.04pm EDT

The Greens’ candidate for chancellor, Annalena Baerbock, has praised the performance of her party - set to be a key player in coalition talks - as the “best result in our history” in a speech to supporters in Berlin.

The Greens, who were briefly ahead in the polls in May and June, are on course for 14.6% of the national vote, a significant improvement on their previous highest score of 10.7% in 2009, but well down on their polling levels earlier in the campaign.

“We ran for the first time to shape this country as a leading force,” Baerbock said. “We wanted more ... but the party made mistake. I made mistakes.” She said Germany “needs a government for the climate - that’s what we’re continuing to fight for now, with all of you.”

More from Social Democrat Olaf Scholz’s speech to the party faithful at Willy Brandt House in Berlin, and a subsequent interview with German public broadcaster ARD. Both main parties’ candidates for chancellor have now said they believe they have a mandate to form Germany’s next government:

So many voters ticked the box for the SPD because they want a change of government. I am confident that the citizens will also be happy afterward to have made the decision for the SPD ... The citizens want a change. They want the next chancellor to be the chancellor candidate of the SPD.

Updated at 1.48pm EDT

Social Democrats edging ahead?

The pollsters are adjusting their exit poll estimates as the evening advances and the first official results start to come in from polling stations around the country.

Very early days yet, of course, but the Social Democrats may take heart from the fact that they are now ahead - if only fractionally - in both projections:

Europe Elects (@EuropeElects)

Germany: both projections - Infratest dimap and Forschungsgruppe Wahlen - see the centre-left SPD (S&D) now ahead of the centre-right CDU/CSU (EPP) alliance. Here is the current lead in %-points:

Forschungsgruppe Wahlen (6:45 PM): +1.6
Infratest dimap (6:43 PM): 0.2% #btw21

September 26, 2021
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