Merkel or Schulz: where next for German politics?

14th September 2017

This event brings together leading observers of the German political scene, who will review the election results, presenting an analysis of voting patterns, and set out what the results mean for Germany, the European Union, and indeed the important implications for the United Kingdom.

Event Details
7:00 pm - 8:30 pm

Nash Lecture Theatre (K2.31), Strand Campus, King's College London, London, WC2R 2LS

The electoral race between Angela Merkel of the CDU/CSU and Martin Schulz of the SPD remains a fascinating contest. After a short-lived bout of “Schulz mania” following his nomination as the SPD’s candidate for the chancellorship in the spring, recent polls and forecasts firmly predict another victory for Merkel. Another term as chancellor would see her catching up with the legacy of her political mentor Helmut Kohl, who was in power for a total of 16 years.

As always in German politics it remains to be seen how exactly the numbers play out in the Bundestag, and which coalition will be formed following the elections on 24 September. There is limited appetite for yet another grand coalition between CDU/CSU and SPD on both sides, but it might be the only chance for the social democrats to stay in government on the basis of current polling.

A novelty in German politics is that for the first time in its post-World War II history six parties are likely to make it over the 5 per cent hurdle and win representation, meaning the CDU/CSU has more potential coalition partners than the SPD. With the return of the liberal FDP to the forefront of German politics Merkel could potentially revert to a traditional ally which would please those in her party which have been sceptical of her socio-economic move towards the centre ground. Also, the Green party has emerged as a viable coalition option which remains popular with urban liberal elites and those who put environmental issues at the top of their policy priorities. It is not certain that either the Green party or the FDP will get enough votes to lift Merkel back into office but a three-way coalition between them is also an option that has gained popularity.

In particular, internal party politics and results of the coalition talks will determine what this election would mean for Europe and Britain. Whether Wolfgang Schäuble carries on as finance minister will have an impact on a possible revival of the Franco-German relationship and Macron’s reform agenda for Europe. For Britain, although Angela Merkel has been a challenging figure, a strong role for Martin Schulz in the new government would probably represent a higher hurdle for the UK to jump during Brexit negotiations.