Christoph Mielke is an associate director in APCO Worldwide’s Germany offices.
Today APCO Worldwide’s Berlin office published an analysis of the upcoming German federal elections in September.
Most observers assume that Chancellor Angela Merkel will be re-elected when Germans go to the polls on September 22, 2013. She is extremely popular, and her party is far ahead in the polls. In fact, if Germans were given the opportunity to vote directly for the chancellor, opinion polls suggest that Merkel would win a formidable 63 percent of the vote. However, opinion polls never tell the whole story. Just recently, Merkel’s party experienced a shocking defeat during the state elections in Lower Saxony (which was thought to be a sure win for her party). Even if the polls do turn out to be accurate, Merkel is likely to struggle to form a coalition with her existing partners, the FDP. The outcome of the German election campaign is certainly more ambiguous than the numbers suggest.
While it appears that the traditional German parties are still likely to hold the reins of power after the election, two new minority political movements are causing uncertainty for the established parties: namely, the Pirate Party and Alternative for Germany (AfD) party. The Pirate Party has been gaining popularity in regional elections due to voters’ frustration and disillusionment with the traditional parties and the general parliamentary process (in particular around issues such as online transparency and internet freedom). The euro-skeptic AfD is a conservative spin-off from Merkel’s own party and from the neo-liberals, which appeals to German voters who are both politically conservative and frustrated with the euro crisis. If the AfD registers itself as a proper party in time, the center-right vote could split. This is a worrying prospect for Merkel and her party.
As Germany is Europe’s most powerful economy, the German election will be watched closely around the world. Interestingly, however, the election campaign as a whole has placed little emphasis on either the domestic economy or the euro crisis, with less complex issues such as social fairness instead dominating campaign rhetoric. The German election campaign so far is catering to populist demands, so the economy, perhaps surprisingly, is not a major focus for any of the traditional parties.
As the election date approaches, APCO’s team in Germany will continue to provide analysis of the potential impact on key industries as well as insights regarding how the various political outcomes could mean for both Germany and Europe.