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Can anyone stop Angela? Germany is going to the polls and Merkel wants four-in-a-row

The German Chancellor is likely to continue leading Europe’s largest economy.

Germany Government Angela Merkel has been German Chancellor since 2005. Source: Markus Schreiber/PA images

AFTER HIGH-PROFILE European elections this year in the UK, France and the Netherlands, this month Germany is in the spotlight.

Chancellor Angela Merkel is looking for a fourth term in office and the indications are looking good for the woman who’s led Europe’s largest economy for almost 12 years.

Merkel’s CDU (Christian Democratic Union) is currently in a grand coalition with the second-largest party in the Bundestag, the SPD (Social Democratic Party).

Earlier this week she debated SPD leader Martin Schulz in a TV debate in which the veteran chancellor was seen as coming off on top.

That wasn’t great news for Schulz with polls giving Merkel’s conservatives a double-digit lead over his centre-left SPD.

The CDU have traditionally been Germany’s main conservative party but under Merkel it has moved closer to the centre by adopting policies such as ending army conscription, scrapping nuclear power and opening the country’s borders to refugees.

The latter policy led to an estimated 900,000 new arrivals in 2015 and prompted somewhat of a political backlash for Merkel.

But the ‘open-door’ policy has since been tightened and Germany’s strong economy means satisfaction among its leader remains steady.

The SPD is the natural home of the working class and the country’s powerful union but it has struggled to shine as the junior partner in coalition.

This is despite pushing through a minimum wage, gay marriage and measures for more equality in the workplace.

SPD election campaign with Martin Schulz The SPD leader is former President of the European Parliament Martin Schulz. Source: Guido Kirchner/PA Images

Hopes that Schulz could turn the tide and replace Merkel as chancellor have fizzled out along with his brief surge in the polls.

Merkel’s party the CDU have an alliance with Bavaria’s Christian Social Union (CSU) at national level so their poll numbers are usually taken together.

Most polls have them at around the 39% mark compared to about 24% for the SPD.

It means that even though Merkel is well ahead of her main rival, her party is below the 50% mark to govern by themselves.

The race for third place is wide open and Germany’s coalition means system the smaller parties could tip the balance of power.

Among those seeking to be kingmakers are the pro-free market FDP and the Green Party.

Currently polling in the single digits, some commentators predict the Greens will have to choose between staying in opposition or joining a Merkel-led government that could also include the FDP, dubbed a “Jamaica coalition” after each party’s colours.

Elsewhere, far-left Die Linke is currently the main opposition party but is unlikely to feature in any post-election shake up. The party advocates the dissolution of Nato and the end of German military deployments.

Another party that won’t be getting anywhere near government is the anti-Islam, anti-immigration Alternative for Germany (Afd).

The party’s literature has contained nationalistic references to German ethnicity and “homeland” and are seen as especially radical in the German context.

Source: BBC Newsnight/YouTube

After capitalising on widespread anger over Merkel’s refugee influx, AfD won seats in 13 of Germany’s 16 state parliaments.

But endless infighting and a recent slowdown in asylum arrivals have sapped support for the party.

How the voting works?

For Germany’s national parliament, voters are required to cast two votes on election day.

Their first is a first-past-the-post vote where electors select a candidate for their electoral district.

In the second vote, voters select a party and each party that receives over 5% of the vote gets a place in the Bundestag.

Bundestagswahl2005_stimmzettel_small Source: Wikimedia

The overall seat distribution is based on a combination of both votes in which the second has more weight.

After the seats have been allocated, coalition discussions take place and when a deal appears to be in place is in place Germany’s President appoints the chancellor, who is then confirmed by the representatives.

Germany’s national election takes place on 24 September.

- With reporting by © – AFP 2017

Read: Explainer: Who are Germany’s ‘Citizens of the Reich’? >

Read: Nurse jailed for killing two hospital patients ‘murdered at least 90 people’ >

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Rónán Duffy

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