A low for the CDU/CSU during the German elections: the current ruling party received only 24.1 percent of the vote last weekend, after almost 33 percent of the vote in the previous elections.

Three reasons for the historic loss.

The preliminary results in brief:

  • The center-left SPD party is the largest with 25.7 percent of the vote.

  • This is followed by the CDU/CSU of the current Chancellor Angela Merkel.

    Conservatives won 24.1 percent of the vote.

  • The two parties did not gain enough votes for a majority.

    That is why the eyes are now on possible coalition partners The Greens (14.8 percent of the vote) and FDP (11.5 percent).

1. Many CDU voters switched to SPD

The election results are striking, but not surprising.

This is largely due to the departure of the current Chancellor and party leader of the CDU Angela Merkel.

Thanks to Merkel, many former SPD voters voted for the CDU in the previous elections.

Many of those people voted for the SPD again this year.

"They want change, but not too much, otherwise they wouldn't have voted for Scholz," said Carsten Brzeski of ING Research during a meeting of the Germany Institute of the University of Amsterdam.

The SPD has done particularly well with the elderly: among the over-50s, the party won the most new votes.

Top Chancellor's Candidates

  • SPD: Olaf Scholz

  • CDU/CSU: Armin Laschet

  • The Greens: Annalena Baerbock

  • FDP: Christian Lindner

2. Blunders and discussion at CDU (and The Greens)

Disagreements at CDU/CSU and De Groenen also led to more people voting for SPD.

Brzeski describes the election campaigns of the three biggest contenders Olaf Scholz (SPD), Armin Laschet (CDU/CSU, pictured in the photo above this article) and Annalena Baerbock (The Greens) on the basis of a sprint competition.

"Laschet and Baerbock stumbled and fell on the track. Scholz didn't even run like a real athlete, but he did cross the line first."

The bumbling of Laschet and Baerbock sparked a discussion within the parties about whether they had nominated the right candidates for chancellorship.

That question arose at De Groenen after Baerbock committed several missteps.

For example, she was accused of committing plagiarism in her book.

Laschet also made blunders, which certainly played a role in the fall of the CDU/CSU.

Hanco Jürgens of the Germany Institute mentions as an example the video in which Laschet can be seen laughing while President Frank-Walter Steinmeier addresses the residents affected by heavy flooding.

That is a defining moment, says the expert.

"The question therefore arose as to whether Laschet was a crisis manager."

"It is the tragedy of the party that has supplied the chancellor for so long," says Rem Korteweg of the Clingendael Institute.

Now that Merkel is stepping down as chancellor after 16 years, it is difficult to find a worthy successor.

Whether the CDU/CSU had found a successor to Merkel with Laschet has been part of discussion throughout the election campaign.

"They have been in this chaotic situation for a year in which there is no clear successor to Merkel," Korteweg said.

"And the chaos within the CDU/CSU is of course complete after this result."


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3. SPD was just 'amazingly' united

Against the discussions within CDU/CSU and the Greens, there was an "astonishing" united SPD, says Jürgens.

According to the expert of the Germany Institute, the party campaigned differently than in the previous elections.

"The SPD no longer constantly hammered on social justice, nor did it run an anti-Merkel campaign, but a campaign with which the party wanted to follow in Merkel's footsteps."

SPD leader Scholz, like Merkel, is seen by many voters as a good crisis manager.

In addition to being the current finance minister and vice chancellor, he is also the face of the large-scale support measures for the German economy during the corona crisis.

What are the most likely coalitions at the moment?

  • CDU/CSU, FDP and The Greens.

    Also called Jamaica coalition because of the colors of the parties: black-yellow-green.

  • SPD, FDP and The Greens.

    Also called Traffic Light coalition: red-yellow-green.

It is not yet clear who will replace Merkel.

That will not be known until the new government is formed.

Although the SPD has a very good chance of supplying the chancellor with Scholz, Laschet has also indicated that he wants to be chancellor of the so-called Jamaica coalition.

According to Korteweg, it remains to be seen whether Laschet will be awarded, or whether he will be judged on the "dramatic" campaign.

See also: Germany faces a difficult formation: 'Can go on for quite a long time'