Six months away from an extraordinary election, is German politics about to get interesting?


At the end of March, we are six months away from the legislative elections of September 26, and such is the importance of the poll, the Germans have nicknamed 2021 a “Superwahljahr” or “super electoral year”.

German politics can be seen as a somewhat sober affair compared to the merry-go-round of the Italian prime ministers or the hysteria of the British elections, but this year promises to reverse that trend and move away from the yawn.

Two key things make this election remarkable: Chancellor Angela Merkel is bowing out after 16 years in power and, perhaps more importantly, the fact that no one can really predict what will happen now after years of certainty.

Before the big vote, when the Germans elect a new federal parliament and, therefore, a new chancellor, several local and regional elections will serve as preparatory acts.

With polls showing the Greens overtook the Social Democrats as Germany’s second-most popular party, logic based on previous results called for them to join Merkel’s center-right Christian Democrats (CDUs) for form a new “grand coalition“.

But with “Mutti” on the verge of resigning and a series of pandemic-related missteps seeing the CDU take a hit, the next six months could prove to be critical for Germany’s political future.

What do the recent local elections tell us?

The first major political test in Superwahljahr was the tight parliamentary elections in Baden-Württemberg and Rhineland-Palatinate in mid-March.

While Merkel’s CDU historically enjoyed strong support in both areas, it lost ground, with the Greens clinging to power in Baden-Württemberg and the left-wing Social Democrats (SPD) retaining the Rhineland. Palatinate.

Could this be a sign of things to come in the national vote? The outcome would certainly have been a source of concern for CDU leaders, but Manes Weisskircher, a political scientist at the Dresden University of Technology, warned against seeing it as a prediction of the outcome in September.

“It is impossible to make predictions at this point,” he told Euronews.

He added that several actors had an interest in interpreting the regional results as a forecast of the national results, but while the CDU did not expect such bad results, it “did not have particular hope for the regional elections. , to begin with, especially in Baden-Württemberg “.

The opposition parties, including the Greens and the Social Democrats, have an interest in treating this round of regional elections as predictors of the general vote and Weisskircher thinks that “some within the CDU will also have an interest in pleading for the existence of a crisis for the party. “

This includes the leader of the CSU, the CDU’s Bavarian sister party, Markus Söder, who is “widely seen as having an interest in becoming the CDU / CSU’s best candidate for the September elections”.

What are the key issues?

The choice of the CDU candidate for chancellor and the government’s handling of the pandemic are the factors most likely to tip September’s result, according to Weisskircher.

Merkel’s government has recently come under fire for the way it has handled the vaccine rollout in Germany and a scandal over allegations of corruption in the purchase of masks involving two Tory MPs saw her party beaten.

“The important thing I think here is that there is still time,” said the political scientist. “If the handling of the pandemic improves in the eyes of voters, it might have been forgotten by September.”

The place for the CDU / CSU candidate chancellor remains empty and who fills it and what they do in the months to come will be critical, Weisskircher said.

Pollsters say Söder is more popular in both the CDU and Germany than Armin Laschet, who was elected party leader in January.

The recent state elections in Baden-Württemberg and Rhineland-Palatinate, where the CDU performed poorly, were seen by many as Laschet’s first major test.

“It is possible that if Söder were to become the first candidate, the CDU could see an increase in the number of polls: in their optimistic view, the matter would be settled and there would be no internal disturbances within the party”, Weisskircher explained. .

Söder could “rally the troops behind him” which could eventually give them new strength.

The question of who takes the helm will be answered in the coming weeks, but until that is resolved the CDU rankings are unlikely to improve, according to Weisskircher.

“Of course, there are possible coalition scenarios which do not include the Union,” he added. “But I don’t think they’re more likely at the moment than scenarios with the CDU.”

How corruption scandals, the pandemic, and the CDU’s choice of the best candidate all influence voters, but six months before the election nothing is certain and there is plenty of room for debate. speculation.

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