Germany Goes To The Polls

Sep 25, 2017 By Hannah, Young Editor
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All eyes were on Germany this weekend as the country went to the polls to choose its next leader. Big issues like immigration, climate change, and the eurozone crisis were at the center of the elections. 

This year, for the first time, six parties entered the race, each one bringing their own set of plans to improve Germany. 

Angela Merkel's Christian Democratic Party (CDP) has won a fourth consecutive term and she will be the country's leader for four more years. However, what really took a turn in elections this year is the rise in support for the Alternative for Germany Party (AfD) whose strong anti-immigration opinions have made it popular amongst voters.

How German Elections Work

Germany’s parliament is divided into two parts. There is the Bundestag, the lower house that holds the legislative power to make laws. The Bundesrat which is the upper house serves as an advisory council to the Bundestag. While the Bundesrat members are appointed by state governments, Bundestag members have to be elected in an election that takes place every four years.

In the election, voters are supposed to vote twice: first to vote for someone in their district to represent them. There are 299 districts, so 299 (half of the 598 seats in the parliament) go to elected officials from these districts.

Second, the citizens vote for a specific political party. The remaining half of the 598 seats are split based on the percentage of votes each party wins in the election. For example, since Angela Merkel's CDU party took nearly 33% of votes, 33% of the seats in parliament would go to her party. If the number of district officials from a particular party exceeds the percentage of seats for that party, additional seats would be added to make sure the right percentages are maintained.

The leader of the party that gains the most votes in the elections is chosen as the chancellor. After the president nominates the chancellor, an anonymous vote is held on whether or not the rest of parliament approves of this decision.

Forming a Government

If a party does not have a clear 50% majority in parliament, it will need to form "alliances" with other parties. These are known as coalitions. Even though the different parties that form a coalition may have different opinions, they have to support the same things once they form a group. However, when parties with smaller percentages join with larger ones, they have more of a say in the laws that gets passed.

In the last term, the CDU and the SDP were able to form a grand coalition. However, this time around, Martin Schulz -- the leader for the SDP party, has openly announced that he will no longer work with Merkel.

It remains to be seen whom Merkel's CDU will partner with to get the 50% majority vote. However one thing is clear - German politics is entering a new era. The arrival of new political parties like the AfD could make things better or worse for the long-standing CDU.