Why are unlikely candidates elected

Bundestag election in Germany: Baerbock taxed special payments, Söder speaks out against entering a government led by the Greens

The latest developments

At the end of September, the Germans will elect a new parliament. Regardless of the result, a political turning point is imminent, as Chancellor Angela Merkel will no longer run.

The latest developments

  • The green candidate for Chancellor Annalena Baerbock is apparently paying tax on the special payments that have recently become public. "Ms. Baerbock duly reports these special payments to the tax office and pays taxes on them," said a party spokeswoman on Saturday (May 22nd). On Wednesday (May 19) it became known that Baerbock had reported extra payments of more than 25,000 euros to the Bundestag administration, which she had received from her party in previous years as federal chairman. The majority was made up of Christmas bonuses. But this also included a corona-related special payment from December 2020 in the amount of 1500 euros. This special payment is actually intended for employees as an addition to their wages. But Baerbock does not get a salary from her party because she already receives an income as a member of the Bundestag. "All special payments that the federal office pays to Ms. Baerbock are reported by the accounting department of the office to the social security agencies and the tax office," said the spokeswoman. Baerbock has also already submitted the corona-related special payment with all other tax documents to your tax advisor for the 2020 tax return in order to tax it as part of your income tax return. The accounting department booked the payment as tax-free. However, Baerbock does not make use of this tax exemption.
  • The CSU boss Markus Söder excludes participation in a government coalition that is not led by the Union. «If the Union no longer provides the Chancellor, then it is de facto voted out. And a party that has been voted out has to take a different path of renewal - in the opposition, ”said the Bavarian Prime Minister to the newspapers of the Funke media group. Entering a government as a junior partner of the Greens would in the long run cause fundamental damage to the Union. However, he is convinced that the Union will be ahead in the end. Söder also spoke out in favor of the head of the CSU regional group in the Bundestag, Alexander Dobrindt, as the party's top candidate. "But we'll talk about it together," he said. "We want a younger, more female list and will compete equally - this would be a novelty for the CSU in the federal election." There will be a joint election program for the CDU and CSU for the Bundestag election. "But since we are an independent party that only competes in Bavaria, we have to supplement the program."
  • Baerbock against Laschet against Scholz. As the first “triell” in German television history, Westdeutscher Rundfunk advertised a discussion between the three candidates for Chancellor Annalena Baerbock (Greens), Armin Laschet (CDU) and Olaf Scholz (SPD), which took place on Thursday (May 20th) . The subject was European policy. "What annoys you most about the EU?" Was one question. Laschet called the “obsession with detail”, Scholz was bothered by the fact that “everything takes so long”, and Baerbock wants to abolish the “principle of unanimity”. Laschet committed himself to the goal of investing two percent of the gross domestic product in defense, but ruled out that this would be achieved as soon as next year. Baerbock, on the other hand, questioned the goal: "We have seen in the past that the question of security obviously does not go hand in hand with this goal," she said. Differences of opinion also became apparent with regard to the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline. Scholz and Laschet stated that the project had to be completed. Baerbock, on the other hand, criticized the fact that the German government had "completely opposed the line of the EU" with its opinion on Nord Stream 2.

How Germany would vote in the federal election

If the general election were on Sunday, the SPD, FDP and AfD would have to expect losses. The Greens could grow strongly. After consistently higher values, the Union is now falling back to the 2017 level by around 30 percent. This is shown by a continuously updated NZZ analysis of the latest data from all major polling institutes.

An analysis of the polls shows how the political mood has developed since the last federal election.

When do you vote?

The general election will take place on Sunday, September 26th. On the same day, new state parliaments will be elected in the eastern German states of Berlin, Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania and probably also in Thuringia. In order to participate in the federal election, the parties must have identified their direct candidates and submitted their state lists by mid-July. In addition to the parties represented in the Bundestag, around two dozen other parties will run for the Bundestag election.

Why is the choice special?

After sixteen years in office, Chancellor Angela Merkel will no longer run. It is the first federal election since 1949 in which the incumbent does not stand for re-election. Apart from Merkel, only Federal Chancellor Helmut Kohl was in office for so long. He ruled from 1982 to 1998.

Which coalitions would be possible?

A black-green coalition or a black-green-yellow alliance currently seems plausible.

Possible coalitions

Expected number of seats in the Bundestag according to the latest surveys
The CDU / CSU and the Greens together have 374 members (53%).
CDU / CSU, Greens and FDP together have 461 members (65%).
The CDU / CSU and SPD together have 301 members (42%).
CDU / CSU, SPD and FDP together have 388 members (55%).
CDU / CSU, SPD and Greens together have 490 MPs (69%).
The CDU / CSU and FDP together have 272 members (38%).
The Greens, the SPD and the Left together have 356 MPs (50%).
The Greens, SPD and FDP together have 392 MPs (55%).

Mathematically possible, but politically unrealistic, a merger of the CDU, FDP and AfD as well as a rainbow coalition from the left to the FDP would also be. However, the federal CDU and the FDP have categorically ruled out alliances with the far right or left.

Mathematically possible but unlikely coalitions

Expected number of seats in the Bundestag according to the latest surveys
CDU / CSU and AfD together have 266 MPs (38%).
CDU / CSU, AfD and FDP together have 353 MPs (50%).
Left, Greens, SPD and FDP together have 443 MPs (62%).

For the coalition options, the NZZ converts the percentage of votes from the polls to parliamentary seats. The number of seats depends on the size of the current Bundestag (709). The future Bundestag is likely to get bigger again after the election in September - despite the reform of the electoral law.

How is the pandemic affecting the election?

There will probably not be any major party events because of the risk of infection. Home visits by candidates are also conceivable at most in the case of vaccinated persons. The election campaign on the Internet will thus gain in importance again. The number of postal voters has been increasing for years, and the office of the Federal Returning Officer expects more postal voters than in the previous federal election in 2017, especially because of the pandemic. At that time, 30 percent of those eligible to vote voted by post.

Which top candidates do the parties send into the race?

CDU / CSU: After a ten-day, at times brutal, power struggle in mid-April, the Union parties agreed on CDU chairman Armin Laschet as candidate for chancellor. He has been Prime Minister of North Rhine-Westphalia since 2017 and has only been head of the Christian Democratic Union since January 2021. At the party congress he prevailed against Norbert Röttgen and Friedrich Merz after an election campaign lasting almost a year. Laschet was in Düsseldorf before his office as head of government opposition leader in the state parliament. He also has experience as an integration minister in his federal state and as a member of the Bundestag and EU member of the CDU. His opponent for the candidacy for chancellor, CSU boss Markus Söder, has officially promised his support for the election campaign.

SPD: Earlier than any other party, the SPD nominated Vice Chancellor and Finance Minister Olaf Scholz, 62, as a candidate for chancellor in summer 2020. In contrast to party chairmen Saskia Esken and Norbert Walter-Borjans, he is not part of the left wing of the SPD and is supposed to bring votes from the bourgeoisie to the Social Democrats. Scholz was Secretary General of the SPD and Federal Minister for Labor and Social Affairs. Before he was appointed finance minister in 2017, he was mayor of Hamburg. In 2019 he had applied for the SPD chairmanship, but could not prevail in a membership decision.

Greens:Annalena Baerbock prevailed in the duel for the candidate for chancellor against the party co-chairman Robert Habeck. The 40-year-old has been in the Bundestag since 2013, and has been the party leader since 2018. Like Habeck, she is part of the “Realo” wing of the Greens. One of her strengths is that she is well networked within the party and that she has broad support at the grassroots level. Their main weakness is the lack of government experience.

FDP: The Liberals have elected party and parliamentary group leader Christian Lindner, 42, as the top candidate. He led the party back to the Bundestag in 2017. There is currently no one in the FDP who would dispute him for the top position. Lindner moved into the Bundestag for the second time in 2017. Previously, he was state and parliamentary group chairman of the Liberals in North Rhine-Westphalia.

AfD: The alternative for Germany has not yet nominated any top candidates. The decision should bring a member decision, which runs until the end of May. The co-chair of the AfD parliamentary group, Alice Weidel, 42, wants to lead the party as a duo in the election campaign together with co-party leader Tino Chrupalla, 45.

left: The party enters the race with the two top candidates Janine Wissler and Dietmar Bartsch. The 63-year-old co-chairman of the Bundestag faction is considered a pragmatist and has long been campaigning for the Left Party to take on government responsibility within the federal government. The 39-year-old co-party leader Wissler is assigned to the radical wing. Although she is fundamentally open to participation in the government, she refuses to move away from certain positions, for example when the Bundeswehr says no to foreign deployments.

How does the voting process work?

Each voter has two votes: The first vote is used to elect the direct candidate for the constituency. This is where the majority principle comes into play: The candidate with the most votes moves into the Bundestag, while the votes for the defeated candidates in the constituency are forfeited. Therefore the second vote is the more important one. With it the state lists of the parties are elected. The more votes a party receives, the more candidates it can send from its list to the Bundestag. However, only if she skips the five percent hurdle. If a party wins more direct mandates than it is entitled to seats in the Bundestag through the second votes, it is allowed to keep these as so-called overhang mandates. However, they are compensated for by compensatory mandates for the other parties so that the distribution of seats in the Bundestag corresponds to the second vote result. After the electoral reform passed last year, there is only a compensation mandate from the third overhang mandate.

Distribution of seats in the Bundestag