German federal elections are not for the faint-of-heart – or the colour blind. For the first time in decades, when the polls open for 60 million German voters on September 22nd, Europe – and the world – will be watching. The huge level of international attention is down to the cause and effect of the euro crisis. The domino effect in the crisis exposed just how interlinked our European economies and political systems already were. Shifts in Europe’s political tectonic plates are under way, pushing Berlin to the fore and its influence on post-crisis measures that will, in future, bind us even closer together. So what is at stake? At its most basic, Germans will decide whether or not to reward Angela Merkel with a third term for steering a relatively steady economic ship in turbulent waters. The opposition Social Democratic Party (SPD) are busily poking holes in the Merkel crisis recipe: it has resulted in an astronomical bill for bank rescues, they say, leaving less money for education and investment and Germany increasingly a country of haves and have-nots.
In the euro crisis, the SPD says Europe expects and deserves a clear roadmap from Germany on where the continent is headed, and greater flexibility on stimulus measures for struggling economies.
So what do German voters want? If they could choose their leader directly (they can’t: the parties in the new Bundestag do), then Angela Merkel would already be the election winner. Showing little of the usual signs of two-term fatigue, almost two-thirds of voters prefer her to her SPD challenger, Peer Steinbrück.
The only certainty in this election is that the new government, like all post-war (West) German governments, will be a coalition. But which?