Merkel likely to remain German chancellor, but who will come third?

Unless a campaign miracle happens for the SPD, Angela Merkel will stay on as German chancellor, but which party will come third in the Bundestag?

Angela Merkel’s centre-right CDU/CSU are going into the 2017 federal election with an air of confidence. The polls indicate that they are on course for their fourth victory in a row, something which would be a brilliant triumph for Angela Merkel who has been in power since 2005.

At the 2005 election, the party went into coalition with their main rivals, the centre-left SPD, forming a grand coalition. In 2009, they formed a coalition with the socially and economically liberal FDP before going back into a grand coalition with the SPD in 2013.

Victory looks almost certain for Angela Merkel, but one question on everyone’s minds is: who will they govern with? There’s always the possibility of another grand coalition, but if the FDP return to the Bundestag then Merkel’s party could once again rely on her liberal allies for a majority. However, that too will depend on the make-up of the Bundestag. With six parties all polling above the 5% threshold to enter parliament, it is possible that Angela Merkel could have to cobble together a multi-party coalition.

This further begs the question, which party will end up third in election? In 2009, the FDP won 14.6% of the vote, securing them 93 seats in the Bundestag and making them Germany’s third party. Then, damaged by their time in coalition, they lost all their seats in the 2013 election, allowing the Left to become the country’s third party.

What about 2017?

Polling indicates that six parties will enter the Bundestag: Merkel’s CDU/CSU, Martin Schulz’s SPD, the Greens, the Left, the FDP and the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD).

The latest INSA poll (11th – 14th August) indicates a close race between the four smaller parties. It puts the AfD on 10% just ahead of the Left and the FDP both on 9%. It also puts the Greens on 7%.

However, the most recent Forschungsgruppe Wahlen poll puts the four minor parties each on 8%, showing just how tight the battle for third place could be.

As for the betting markets, Ladbrokes gives odds of 5/2 for the Left becoming the third largest party. The same odds are given for the AfD while odds of 3/1 are given for both the FDP and the Greens.

Right now, it's anyone's guess.

What sort of coalition could there be?

Using the Pollytix seat calculator, recent polls suggest that a CDU/CSU coalition with the FDP could fall just short of a majority, indicating that the parties might have to reach out to the Greens in what has been commonly called a Jamaica coalition due to the colours of the parties matching those on the Jamaican flag.

The Pollytix calculator also suggests that a SPD/Left/Green coalition looks unlikely to get a majority in the Bundestag.

The battle for third place may not seem so important in British politics where hung parliaments – until recently – are less likely, but in German coalition politics, the battle of the junior parties could be crucial in determining the make-up of the next government.