Germany almost live

9.20am German time: So with everything counted we now have the official seat allocation. Out of 735 seats – up 26 in total on last time, because of additional overhang seats to preserve proportionality – the SPD finishes in the lead with 206 (up 53), ten ahead of the CDU/CSU on 196 (down 50), followed by the Greens on 118 (up 51), FDP 92 (up 12), AfD 83 (down 11) and Left 39 (down 30).

That leaves one seat unaccounted for, which goes to the South Schleswig Voters’ Association, contesting its first federal election since 1961. As a representative of a minority ethnic community it is exempt from the 5% threshold, so its 0.12% of the vote was enough to win a seat.

Of the possible governing combinations, the incumbent grand coalition has 402 seats, a majority of 69; SPD+Greens+FDP (a “traffic light” coalition) has 416, a majority of 97; and CDU/CSU+Greens+FDP (a “Jamaica” coalition) has 406, a majority of 77. But the left-of-centre combination of SPD+Greens+Left has only 363, five short of a majority – or four short if the Danes came on board.

4.00am: I don’t think there’ll be much movement for a while, so I’m going to take a break. Just to recap: the Social Democrats have topped the poll, so they will get the first shot at trying to form a coalition with the Greens and FDP. But the Christian Democrats are keen to do the same thing, so it’s up to the two smaller parties as to which one will ultimately succeed. If the Greens and FDP can’t agree (as they couldn’t last time), or if they pitch their demands too high, the two major parties could again end up together, this time with the SPD on top.

Last time around, the big story was the rise of the extremes, with far right and far left winning 21.8% of the vote between them. That figure is now down to 15.2%: voters have swung back to the centre, although they’re still not that keen on the two major parties, with the CDU/CSU recording the lowest vote in its history.

3.45am: The Left is now definitely back: it’s held three of its five constituencies (and lost one, with the fifth still undecided). So it will get its share of proportional seats, even though it only has 4.82% of the vote. Otherwise there’s not much change, although the SPD lead over CDU/CSU has edged up to 1.5%.

3.10am (German time, remember): And with all but 12 constituencies in (most of them in Berlin), the numbers look like this:

SPD 25.8% (up 5.3%)
CDU/CSU 24.4% (down 8.5%)
Greens 14.5% (up 5.6%)
FDP 11.5% (up 0.8%)
AfD 10.4% (down 2.2%)
Left 4.7% (down 4.5%)

That’s a very good result for the opinion polls, with nothing much outside expectations. But the fact that SPD, Greens and Left are all just a bit on the low side of what was predicted means they’re probably going to fall just short of a combined majority: ZDF’s projection says 367 out of 740.

2.50am: The other state election yesterday was in Mecklenburg-West Pomerania, another eastern state. There the outgoing government is a grand coalition of SPD and CDU. Results (almost complete) are here: the SPD is the big winner, getting a 9.0% swing to go to 39.6%.

The Greens and the FDP also gained slightly, which is important because it puts them both back above the 5% threshold – the previous state parliament had only four parties represented (SPD, CDU, AfD and Left). So while the grand coalition will still have a majority, the SPD will now have other options, although on the present figures its preferred option, coalition just with the Greens, is one short of a majority.

2.30am: Incidentally, the reason why Berlin results haven’t come in yet is probably that there was a state election in Berlin at the same time, because they seem to have counted it first. The state results are here; the big thing is the drop in the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) vote, down 6.1% to 8.1%. The Greens are also well up, from 15.2% to 18.8%, and otherwise not much change.

The outgoing state government was a coalition of SPD, Greens and Left; it will still have a clear majority and will probably continue in office.

2.05am, German time: The projections and the progress results are now much closer than they were starting out, although ZDF’s projection is still a bit worse for the Christian Democrats (CDU/CSU) and a bit better for the Greens and the Left.

On the question of the Left possibly dropping out, it’s important to remember that it doesn’t necessarily have to reach 5% to win proportional seats; it can also do it by winning a minimum of three constituency seats. (If it only wins one or two constituency seats it still gets to keep them, but can’t add proportional seats; in New Zealand, which otherwise has the same system, it would only have to win one.) Last time it won five – it’s held one of them, in Leipzig, but the other four are in Berlin, which hasn’t reported results yet. Three of those, however, were very safe last time, so odds are it will hold at least two.

But I still don’t think that will produce a left-of-centre majority: the three parties only have 44.6% between them, while the other three (CDU/CSU, FDP and AfD) have 46.6%. And since the others won’t co-operate with AfD, there’ll be no route to a majority without both FDP and Greens, except by continuing the existing grand coalition.


It’s 12.50am in Germany, almost seven hours since the polls closed, and yesterday’s election (see my preview here) is very close – although the closeness of the result and the uncertainty over who will form government are only partially related.

You can follow the official results here: “percentage of second votes” is the key thing. It doesn’t give numbers of seats, but they are strictly proportional for parties that win more than 5% of the vote. (You also need to add the CDU and CSU figures to get the total Christian Democrat vote.)

The various networks give projections of seats based on exit polls and partial results; here’s ZDF, for example, which is well regarded. Early in the night, the exit polls are generally more accurate than the partial results, but by now there’s enough counted (239 out of 299 constituencies in) to iron out most of the regional differences.

A quick recap on what we’re looking for. Based on what the polls were saying beforehand, there were three main items of uncertainty.

First, would the incumbent grand coalition of centre-right (CDU/CSU) and centre-left (SPD) retain its majority? The polls said it probably would, and they were right. The two currently have 50.7% of the vote and will have a clear majority. That might not be much consolation for them – this is the first time it’s even been a question; the CDU/CSU has recorded its worst vote ever and the SPD is still way below its historic level – but it’s something. Continuing as before will be an option (a point that seems to have eluded the BBC), if an unattractive one.

Second, who would come out ahead as between CDU/CSU and SPD? The SPD has led in the polls for the last month, but that lead was narrowing in the last week. It looks as if the SPD has held on; the exit polls put it a point or two ahead, and the official results now agree (by 0.9%), although the centre-right was ahead earlier. Keep watching this, not because it matters for the parliamentary arithmetic, but because the moral advantage of topping the poll is significant in coalition negotiations.

Third, would the three left-of-centre parties – SPD, Greens and Left party (Die Linke) have a combined majority? This was important, not only because a coalition between them was a possible outcome but because the threat of it could provide leverage for SPD and Greens to bring the Liberals (FDP) on side. The polls said it was likely, but they appear to have been wrong. The Left is polling below the 5% threshold, and even if it squeaks in (it has been gaining during the count) I don’t think there are enough votes there. But this also is well worth watching.

Updates to follow as more results come in.


10 thoughts on “Germany almost live

  1. The way I figure it, there will be a ‘traffic light’ coalition government (SPD, Greens, FDP) if the FDP is willing; if the FDP is not willing to join such a government, there will be another grand coalition government (with an SPD Chancellor this time; there’s never been a grand coalition with an SPD leader before, but there’s a first time for everything, and I think there have been several state governments on the equivalent basis). (A ‘traffic light’ government is also something that–so far–has happened at the state level but not the national level.)

    I know that there are other theoretical possibilities, but I can’t figure them plausible in the current circumstances.


    1. I think they’re the most likely options; the other possibility would come if the FDP & SPD can’t reach agreement and the Greens are put in a position where they have to choose between joining with the CDU & FDP, or else standing aside & allowing an SPD-CDU coalition to be formed without them. In that case they might well go with the former.


  2. A few bits of trivia.

    The Left Party (PDS/SED re-badged) are back only because they managed 3 direct seats; they failed the 5% hurdle (as the AfD and FDP both did in 2013), and won their third (Leipzig II) by a few thousand votes. Forming a majority coalition without them would have to have been easier. Their lunch looks to be being eaten by the Greens in Berlin – what was until fairly recently a mostly western party is now getting traction in the east.

    The Union has done poorly almost everywhere (it picked up two direct election seats, but lost many many more), and has now been all but wiped out in truly urban areas, following a pattern seen in France, the UK and the US (and, perhaps, in a post Morrison world, here? Are Frydenberg and Wilson safe?). Yet they’ve held both Dresden seats (Saxony has now turned into AfD land, but was a third leg in the Union stool, together with Westphalia and Bavaria/B-W until 2015), one with a winning margin of … 18.6%. Surely a record, or close, for the winning vote share in a First Past the Post election.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh yes, thank you for finding that – that Dresden II seat is beautiful! Six candidates with between 10 & 20% of the vote, and the CDU wins by 39 votes from AfD.
      I wonder whether it really would have made much difference if the Left had dropped out. The basic arithmetic doesn’t change: SPD+Greens and CDU+FDP would both be closer to a majority, but still a long way short – AfD stubbornly holds the balance of power between them. It would make all of the possible coalitions a bit more secure, and so less prone to worry about defectors, but it’s not clear which side (if any) that would favor.


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