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German election 2021 — at a glance

Kate Martyr
September 27, 2021

Need a refresher on Germany's historic election as the Angela Merkel era comes to an end? DW has the most important facts and figures and the most important things you need to know right here.

A ballot box
Over 60 million Germans were eligible to vote and turnout was 76.6%Image: Daniel Karmann/dpa/picture alliance

What were the results?

According to the preliminary official result, the center-left Social Democrats won the largest percentage of seats in the German parliament, known as the Bundestag, with 25.7%.

The conservative Christian Democrats (CDU) and Bavarian sister party CSU came second with 24.1%, or 196 seats.

This was over 8% down on the previous election and their worst result since World War II.

The environmentalist Greens recorded their best-ever result, coming in third on 14.8%. The neoliberal Free Democrats (FDP) also made significant gains compared to the previous electrion in 2017.

The other parties who will be represented in the new parliament are the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) and the socialist Left party.

Is Angela Merkel still chancellor of Germany?

Yes. Merkel did announce before the election that she would be stepping down after 16 years in office. However, she will remain in the top post for now in a caretaker capacity.

She will only be relieved of this duty when a new governing coalition has been formed, which may take a while yet.

Once a new government is in place, the German president nominates a chancellor to be elected by the Bundestag. This is typically the main candidate from the senior coalition partner in the newly-formed government.

What did the party leaders say?

SPD chancellor candidate Olaf Scholz said: "Three parties have been strengthened, therefore this is the clear mandate that the voters have formulated." The three parties refers to his SPD, the Greens and the FDP.

Armin Laschet, the leader of the CDU, contested this, saying: "None of the major parties have a clear government mandate."

"Only the person who manages to bring together opposites can become chancellor," he said. His comment referred to likely kingmakers the Greens and the FDP that have vastly different political agendas.

Greens chancellor candidate Annalena Baerbock said: "The next government will have to be a climate government." She added: "That's a clear mandate after this election — we improved our vote share significantly, and that's a clear mandate for us Greens, too."

FDP leader Christian Lindner said his party "was and is ready to take power," pointing out that the FDP was already in coalitions in three state governments in Germany.

Germany has voted: A fresh start or more of the same?

What are the coalition possibilities?

According to these preliminary results,one option is a continuation of the "grand coalition" of the conservative CDU/CSU bloc and the SPD that has governed Germany since 2013.

Alternatively, Germany could be headed for a three-way coalition for the first time since the 1950s at the federal level.

Options include a coalition between the CDU/CSU, the Greens and the FDP.

Alternatively, the SPD could also seek to partner up with the Greens and the FDP.

All parties have ruled out entering into a coalition with the AfD.

How long are coalition talks going to take?

It is not known how long coalition talks will last. But both Laschet and Scholz have said they would like to have discussions wrapped up by Christmas in December.

But it could take longer. Following Germany's 2017 general election, it took almost 6 months of talks before the CDU/CSU and SDP eventually agreed on a grand coalition.

The Greens and FDP are already set for preparatory coalition talks with a view to then approaching the other parties as kingmakers. But the parties have vastly different political ideologies and policies, particularly on social and economic issues. The Greens' co-leader Robert Habeck described future talks on these areas as "where worlds collide."