Everything you need to know about the German elections 2021
For 16 years, Chancellor Angela Merkel has led a government led by her center-right Christian Democrats (CDU / CSU). Young voters cannot remember any other chancellor. Now the 67-year-old is stepping down and the CDU / CSU is struggling in the polls, with many quarrels over future leadership.
It looks like a pivotal election.
Voting begins Sunday at 8 a.m. Some 650,000 volunteers will be stationed at 88,000 polling stations across the country to distribute ballots and help with the count after the polls close at 6 p.m.
Who is running for election?
No one will directly elect the chancellor on Sunday, but members of parliament, the Bundestag, are running for a four-year term.
It was these representatives who would later elect a chancellor to lead a new government.
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The German electoral system is a style of proportional representation. This means that each voter has two votes.
The first vote directly decides a candidate in each of the 299 electoral districts according to a first past the post system. This ensures that every district and region has a representative in parliament. Applicants must be German citizens over the age of 18. People without party affiliation can also run. To do this, they must have 200 signatories from their respective constituencies supporting their candidacy.
The second vote is used to elect a party: it determines the composition of the Bundestag.
It is not possible to predict exactly the size of the future parliament, due to the difference between the number of directly elected representatives and the results of the second vote.
How many parties are there?
A total of 47 parties are participating in the elections this year. To be represented in parliament as a group, a party must cross the 5% threshold or have three directly elected candidates.
The CDU / CSU, the center-left social-democratic SPD, the Free Democrats (FDP) in favor of the free market, the Green Party of the Greens, the far-right populist Alternative for Germany (AfD) and the Left Socialist Party have been represented in parliament for the past four years and all are expected to maintain their presence in the body.
Who can vote?
Anyone who is at least 18 years old, has German nationality and has lived in Germany for at least three months can vote. Germans living abroad can vote on request.
Unlike local elections, people who have a German passport but have not lived in Germany for several decades cannot participate in the election.
According to the Federal Statistical Office, around 60.4 million Germans can vote. The number of emancipated women (31.2 million) is higher than that of men (29.2 million). Four years ago, in the last election, around 61.7 million people were eligible to vote.
About 2.8 million so-called first-time voters have turned 18 since 2017. That is 4.6% of the total electorate. In comparison, 21.3% of the electorate are aged 70 or over.
The turnout in German federal elections is higher than in regional and local elections. The highest participation rate ever recorded was recorded in 1972 (91.1%) and the lowest in 2009 (70.8%). In general, more people participated in elections in the years leading up to the early 1980s than in the decades since. Voter participation has traditionally been seen as an expression of political commitment.
Why is voting not compulsory?
Compulsory voting has sometimes been discussed in the past but seen as contradicting the freedom to decide if and how to vote. When East German civil rights activist Joachim Gauck became President of Germany on March 18, 2012, the 72-year-old used his inaugural address to recall the first time he participated in a free election and democratic – exactly 22 years old. earlier, March 18, 1990.
“It was a good Sunday,” Gauck said. “After 56 years of dictatorship, millions of East Germans could be citizens for the first time… Beyond the joy of this moment, I was certain of one thing: that I would never – never miss – an election. I simply had to wait too long for the joy of participating to forget forever the helplessness that comes with oppression.
How is a fair election guaranteed?
Only official ballots are allowed for voting and online voting is not possible.
Only once, in the 2005 Bundestag elections, were more than a million people able to vote by computer. The Federal Constitutional Court subsequently ruled that the use of voting computers contradicted the principle of the public nature of the election and was unconstitutional. In light of suspicions of hacker attacks – or attempted attacks – on electronic elections in other countries, concerns about electronic voting have increased in recent years, encouraging Germany to continue its practice.
Strict guidelines are in place for in-person and postal voting, for which all ballots must arrive by 6 p.m. on polling day.
Elections are a public procedure. Anyone can go to a polling station throughout the day until the votes have been counted.
Since the 2009 federal elections, election monitoring has been carried out by the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) in each case. Some experts from the 57 OSCE states are monitoring the implementation of the elections in Germany.
When will there be a result?
Just after the polls close at 6 p.m., the exit polls are published.
It is followed by the extrapolation of the results when the first votes have actually been counted. They are updated as the count continues until the early hours of the next morning when there is a provisional result. Several weeks go by before the official election results are published.
And an election result can be contested.
Is Angela Merkel still chancellor after the elections?
The newly elected Bundestag must meet within 30 days of the vote. But that doesn’t mean there will be a new government by then.
After the election, preparatory exploratory talks begin between the parties. These then turn into real coalition talks with the aim of forging a majority government. It may take several months.
The new government takes power when the Bundestag elected a Chancellor with an absolute majority of over 50%. Then the head of government appoints cabinet ministers and when all have been formally appointed by the president and sworn in in parliament, the new government takes office.
Until then, Chancellor Angela Merkel will remain in the post on an interim basis.