Germany’s Election: What Happens Next?

The votes have been counted in Sunday’s historic German election, where the center-left Social Democratic Party (SPD) beat out Angela Merkel’s center-right Christian Democratic Union (CDU) for the first time since 2002, ending an era. But there still are more questions than answers. 

Our colleagues in Berlin share some insights on what comes next:

  • ​​Mathematically, there are three options for the new government
    1. a grand coalition of SPD and CDU/CSU as a continuation of the status quo
    2. a “traffic light” coalition of SPD, the environment-focused Greens and the pro-business Free Democratic Party (FDP)
    3. a “Jamaica” coalition of CDU/CSU, Greens and FDP 
  • The SPD and the CDU/CSU have already ruled out the grand coalition. So it’s now up to the Greens and the FDP to choose a partner. The Greens, a relatively new party, have become the kingmakers. 
  • In a “traffic light coalition,” the SPD could demonstrate strength. The Greens and the FDP will have no choice but to hold talks with the election winner (SPD). The Greens have repeatedly emphasized that they want a coalition with the SPD. But the FDP would have a long way to go to convince its members of a coalition with two rather left-wing partners. It would have to make major concessions in economic and tax policy. And it’s unclear whether the SPD— which will negotiate in a position of strength for the first time in a long time— will agree to the FDP’s demands.
  • The Jamaica coalition could be the election loser’s way out. The CDU/CSU will not give up without a fight. In their poor negotiating position, the CDU/CSU will have to make significant concessions to the Greens and the FDP. The FDP have made it clear that this option would be the path of least political resistance for them, as the CDU/CSU is their natural political partner. For the Greens, as the only potential left-wing partner, this coalition could offer great opportunities to raise their profile on climate protection and social issues. But there could be consequences for ignoring the election winner, SPD.

Read more insights on the German election here.