7 possible German election outcomes – will Merkel win?

Angela Merkel looks set to clinch an historic fourth term as German chancellor, but modern politics shows that anything can happen.

Here are seven possible outcomes of next month's elections. Germans go to the polls on 24th September.

1. CDU/CSU-FDP deal

One likely option is a return to the coalition government of 2009 – 2013 where Merkel’s centre-right CDU/CSU got into bed with the socially and economically liberal Free Democrats. At the 2013 election, the junior coalition partner failed to win any seats in the Bundestag prompting Merkel to form a grand coalition with her centre-left SPD rivals. Polling suggests that the FDP will get more than the 5% threshold to enter parliament this time around, but the Pollytix seat calculator suggests that a CDU/CSU-FDP deal would be unlikely to get a majority, based on recent polling.

Nonetheless, a last -minute surge in support for either of the two parties could propel them into power.

Likelihood: 5/10

2. CDU/CSU-FDP-Greens

As stated, current polling indicates that the CDU/CSU and the FDP alone are unlikely to get an overall majority, however, one option would be to form a “Jamaica” coalition – or deal – with the Green party. Such an outcome could make life difficult for Merkel as her party would need to make agreements with two different parties, but parliamentary arithmetic could make it the only option available to avoid another grand coalition. 

There is precedent for such an arrangement, with all three parties governing together in Schleswig-Holstein.

Likelihood: 7/10

3. SPD-Linke-Greens deal

If Schulz takes a leaf out of Jeremy Corbyn’s campaign diary he could end up giving “mutti” a run for her money and get his SPD to emerge as the largest party. Right now, it seems unlikely, but the UK’s 2017 general election showed us that anything is possible and that a radical left-wing champion can breakthrough existing perceptions and carve a path to success. Such an outcome, with the Left as the second largest party could result in some sort of SPD-Left-Green deal. And even if Merkel’s party emerges as the largest, if the numbers add up for left alliance, then Martin Schulz could become chancellor.

Such an arrangement already exists at state level in Berlin.

Likelihood: 4/10

4. SPD-Greens deal

In this scenario, the SPD would need to emerge the largest party and the Greens would need to do particularly well. For this to happen, Merkel would need to perform poorly, and the FDP would likely have to struggle to get into the Bundestag. A straight-up red-green alliance looks very unlikely, based off recent polling numbers, but successful campaigns can change everything.

A government of these colours already exists in the city-states of Bremen and Hamburg.

Likelihood: 2/10.

5. SPD-FDP-Green deal

Current polling suggests this “traffic light” option is unlikely, but if all three parties have a good showing come election day, it could be the only sensible option. The FDP could be willing to support a SPD-Green minority coalition in exchange for key policies if all three parties added together to make a majority. The party suffered from its previous coalition so might be less likely to get involved in a formal coalition, making confidence and supply a much more likely option.

According, to Politico, the SPD’s chancellor-candidate Martin Schulz has considered this as a viable option.

Such a government already exists in the Rhineland-Palatinate state of Germany.

Likelihood: 3/10.

6. Grand coalition

Another option is more of the same. This time it looks like all six parties will enter the Bundestag, including the far-right AfD, but complex multi-party coalition talks might not go so well, prompting Angela Merkel to seek another term as leader of a grand coalition with Schulz’s SPD. Such an outcome would be disappointing for the SPD who had put so much hope in Schulz being a success, but such an arrangement could be a better option than an unstable three-party coalition.

Likelihood: 6/10.

7. Reverse grand coalition

In this scenario, the SPD would have to do extremely well to become the largest party. Talks with the Greens, the Left, and even the FDP would need to fail before Schulz went to Merkel’s party to ask for a new coalition. Such a coalition, where the SPD would replace the CDU/CSU at the topwould bring about a new relationship between the two parties. Merkel would likely resign, paving the way for someone else to lead the junior party of government.

Likelihood: 4/10.