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What are the German party programs?

September 25, 2021

When laying out their election programs, parties aim to distinguish themselves while also signaling to potential partners that they're open to working together. Here's an overview of the six main parties' platforms.

A woman looking at election posters
Six parties have been represented in the Bundestag — what do they stand for?Image: Christoph Hardt/Geisler-Fotopres/picture alliance


The center-right Christian Democrats and their sister party, the Bavarian Christian Social Union, want to "make good things better," according to their program. The message is that, after 16 years under Angela Merkel, Germany is doing well but could do even better.

Climate and transport 

The CDU/CSU plan to focus on "efficient market-economy tools" to meet the Paris climate goals. They want air travel to stay a "competitively priced mode of transportation" and aircraft to use synthetic fuels in the future. They oppose introducing a speed limit on the autobahn and banning diesel fuel.


The CDU/CSU election program restates the parties' commitment to the fundamental right to asylum, but they want tighter restrictions. The parties plan to increase the number of so-called safe countries of origin, restricting who qualifies for asylum and expanding who can be deported if their asylum application fails to be approved. They stress the need to deport refugees who have committed criminal offenses in Germany.

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Social policy and housing

The party program makes no commitment to pegging pensions to an average income. There is a split between the CDU and CSU over pension benefits for mothers, with the CSU wanting a large payout to mothers who gave birth prior to 1992.

In their program, the CDU and CSU want to promote the construction of more than 1.5 million new homes in Germany by 2025 through tax relief and cutting bureaucracy. They focus on housing associations and the builders and owners of owner-occupied homes. They consider sufficient living space the best rent protection.


The CDU/CSU has promised to abolish the "solidarity surcharge" tax — a tax on personal and corporate income originally introduced as a temporary measure in 1991 to pay for German reunification and other costs. The move is expected to primarily benefit higher earners, as is the planned increase in the tax allowance for children.

They have also pledged to reduce taxes for lower- and medium-income earners, but have not provided details. They plan to cut corporate income tax from 15% to 10%.

Foreign and security policy 

The CDU/CSU support Germany playing a leading role in world affairs, and support more Bundeswehr missions abroad. They want to focus on trade, climate policy and the fight against organized crime and terrorism with their partners. In the program, China's growing influence is seen as a challenge and Russia as a possible military threat.


The center-left Social Democrats (SPD) have titled their election program "Out of Respect for Your Future."

Climate and transport

The SPD wants to slash emissions from cars. The party wants a 130-kilometer-per-hour (78 mile-per-hour) speed limit on the autobahn and at least 15 million electric cars on the road by 2020. They also want rail travel to be "cheaper and more attractive than flying" in Europe. 


The SPD wants no further restrictions on immigration. To aid in integration, the SPD wants to allow more family members of asylum-seekers to join them in Germany.

Social policy and housing 

The SPD wants a stable minimum pension. The party would require additional state revenue to top up pension funds. The SPD rejects further raising the retirement age, which stands at 67. 

To combat the housing shortage and rapidly rising rents, the SPD wants to promote the construction of 100,000 social housing units per year and introduce a rent freeze that ties rents increases to the rate of inflation. The party wants to ensure that municipal land is not sold to companies and for a nonprofit housing authority to develop a not-for-profit segment of the housing market.


The SPD wants a minimum wage of €12 ($14) an hour, a wealth tax of 1% on "very high wealth" and an easing of the tax burden on low and medium earners. To balance that cut the party is discussing raising income tax to 45% on incomes over €90,000 and 48% for incomes over €250,000 (€500,000 for families.).

Foreign and security policy 

The SPD program defines "foreign security" broadly, including the fight against climate change and the promotion of fair trade. The party wants one-third of development aid — 0.2% of gross national income — reserved for the poorest developing countries. The SPD advocates a common European army and is committed to NATO, but takes a less confrontational tone than the CDU/CSU on Russia, stating that "there can be peace in Europe not against, but only with Russia." The SPD also denounces human rights violations against China, while emphasizing the need for cooperation in areas such as climate change.

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Green Party 

In their program, the Greens put emphasis on infrastructure development. They want to invest billions of euros in schools, rail, bike paths, universities, internet cables, wind turbines and charging stations. They plan to finance it all through debt, with the argument that debt is less of a burden in the long run than decaying infrastructure. 

Climate and transport

Starting in 2030, the Greens want only emission-free cars to be allowed on the road and for the CO2 price per ton to rise to €60, in 2023 with relief for low-income individuals. They want to establish a network of fast train connections that would make flights within Europe redundant.


The Greens say Germany is a country of immigration but it lacks "an immigration law that actually promotes immigration and does not make it more complicated." They want to facilitate immigration and to make naturalization easier. They want to grant refugees a secure right to stay after five years while blocking deportations to Syria and Afghanistan.

Social policy 

The Greens want pensions to have a mandatory minimum payout of 48% of the salary level. Any difference is to be covered through tax revenue, while a new system is established to which civil servants would also contribute. They also support a "guaranteed income," "basic child security" and an increase in the minimum wage.


The Greens want to ease pressure on low and medium earners by raising the amount of income exempt from income tax. The difference is to be made up by raising taxes for higher earners. They want income over €100,000 taxed at 45% instead of at 42%, rising to 48% for income over €250,000. They also wanted a tiered system applied to investment income instead of the current flat rate. 

Foreign and security policy 

The Greens want to remove nuclear weapons from German soil, but support NATO despite criticizing the goal of spending 2% of GDP on defense. They want a foreign policy that more directly criticizes China and Russia for human rights violations and a quota requiring half of the negotiations to be conducted by women.

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The Free Democrats(FDP) continue their pro-free market, liberal focus catering to their well-educated, high-income voter base. 

Climate and transport

The FDP rejects a speed limit on the autobahn, wants more competition for the railways and more privatization. The party wants to liberalize the taxi market, abolish the aviation tax and promote air traffic. The FDP's climate strategy relies heavily on technology that hasn't been invented yet. 


The FDP wants skilled workers who have a job offer in Germany to be granted blue cards, an approved EU-wide work permit. The party wants to enable skilled workers to be able to migrate to Germany to a limited extent with a points system based on the Canadian model. 

War refugees are to be granted temporary protection status quickly with minimum bureaucracy, and should return home after the relevant conflict has ended.


The FDP wants to abolish the solidarity surcharge and the sparkling wine tax and rejects a wealth tax, as well as the tightening of inheritance tax, and wants to "reduce the tax burden for employees and employers back to below 40%." The FDP opposes "expropriations, rent control or rent caps." Christian Lindner, the head of the party, has said a rejection of tax increases will be a precondition for the FDP's entering into any coalition.

Social policy and housing

The FDP wants to introduce a statutory equity pension based on the Swedish model. The party want to introduce more generous supplementary income rules for people who receive benefits. 

The FDP is opposed to any rent cap. The party wants to see an increase in owner-occupied homes.

Foreign and security policy 

The FDP wants 3% of GDP spent on international security, including development aid and diplomacy. The party is critical of Russia and China and wants negotiations for secure trans-Atlantic data traffic. The party wants to be able to cancel development aid if the rights of lesbians, gay men, bisexuals and transgender and intersex people are restricted. 

Interview with the FDP's Christian Lindner

Left Party

The socialist Left Party is focusing on empathy with the disadvantaged in society.

Climate and transport

The Left Party wants an end to the fossil-fueled combustion engine by 2030 at the latest, a speed limit of 120 kilometers per hour on highways and complete state ownership of Lufthansa and Deutsche Bahn. Short-haul flights of up to 500 kilometers (just over 300 miles) are to be banned, regional airports are to be closed and coal mining ended before 2038.

The party makes suggestions for new jobs for laid-off employees in those sectors: Coal mines could be replaced with large-scale hemp plantations and employees from the airline industry could be employed in an expanded rail network, they suggest.


The Left Party rejects deportations, wants to dissolve the EU border protection agency, Frontex and demands asylum for poverty, environmental and climate refugees. In its election program, the Left Party calls for the legal, political and social equality of all people living in Germany and wants to give all long-term residents the right to vote and to stand for election. The Left Party wants to improve the recognition of foreign qualifications and introduce a quota for people with a migrant background in public administration. 

Social policy and housing

The Left wants a minimum wage of €13 an hour and to lower the retirement age. The party also wants to introduce a "solidarity minimum pension" of €1,200 — financed through tax revenue.

The Left Party wants to launch a public housing program worth €15 billion a year, creating 250,000 social housing units and 130,000 municipally and cooperatively owned apartments. The party supports a nationwide rent cap and wants to prohibit conversions from rental to owner-occupied housing in tight housing markets and to strengthen tenants' rights.


The Left wants tax relief for people who earn less than €6,500 gross a month. The party wants taxes on millionaires to balance this cut.

The Left Party wants to raise the basic tax-free allowance to €14,000. The top tax rate should rise to 53% and apply from €70,000. The Left Party also wants to tax assets of €1 million or more at 5%. To finance COVID expenses, the Left Party also wants to introduce a wealth tax of between 10% and 30% for assets over €2 million. 

Foreign and security policy 

The Left Party wants the dissolution of NATO, the withdrawal of the Bundeswehr from all foreign missions and an end to weapons exports. They advocate cooperation with Russia and China. But they have toned down their rhetoric on this topic, as it stands in the way of any possible coalition negotiations.

Interview with Janine Wissler from the Left Party

Alternative for Germany (AfD)

The election program of the far-right populist Alternative for Germanyis called "Germany — but normal." It continues its focus on opposing immigration and limiting international organizations. No other political party is considering an alliance with the AfD.

Climate and transport

The AfD does not believe that global warming is caused by humans. It supports and promotes motorized individual transport, opposes any ban on the use of diesel fuel and wants to scrap the carbon aviation tax. It wants to pull Germany out of the 2015 Paris climate agreement.


The AfD wants to drastically curb immigration, and rejects reunification of refugees in Germany with their family members.

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Social policy and housing

The AfD wants to stabilize the pension system with additional tax revenue provided by reduced spending on migration, climate and EU issues.

The AfD wants to deregulate rental and construction law, to support the construction and real estate industry. A shortage in affordable housing is blamed on immigrants.

Foreign and security policy

The AfD supports international organizations such as the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe and NATO "for the time being," but considers both a threat to the "self-determination of peoples." It wants to limit NATO's operational area to the territory of its member states and replace the EU with a new organization.

While you're here: Every Tuesday, DW editors round up what is happening in German politics and society, with an eye toward understanding this year’s elections and beyond. You can sign up here for the weekly email newsletter Berlin Briefing, to stay on top of developments as Germany enters the post-Merkel era.