General Elections - September 2009
On 27 September 2009, over 62 million German voters were called upon to cast their votes and elect the members of the 17th German Bundestag. The parliamentarians then in turn elect the Federal Chancellor. The outcome of the election decided who would lead the government and move into the Federal Chancellery in Berlin. People were discussing whether there will be a repeat of the CDU/CSU and SPD grand coalition that has governed for the last four years under the leadership of Germany's first female Federal Chancellor, Angela Merkel (CDU). According to the opinion polls, the votes might suffice for a Conservative-Liberal coalition made up of the CDU/CSU and FDP. However, other multiparty coalitions are also conceivable under which SPD leading candidate, Vice-Chancellor and Federal Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier would become Federal Chancellor. The responsible Federal Electoral Committee had approved 29 parties for the Bundestag election.
On 27 September 2009 German Chancellor Angela Merkel claimed victory for her preferred center-right coalition with the Free Democrats, after winning a second term of office in German parliamentary elections. The early projections showed the Social Democrats with just under 24 percent of the vote, the Party's worst showing since World War II. The election was not so much a victory for the Christian Democrats, whose showing was about the same as in 2005, as in was a stunning defeat for the Socialists, who lost votes in every direction. The Left party had just under 13 percent, while the environmentalist Green party was carrying 10.5 percent, both showing substantially better than in 2005. Germany may now be said to have three small leftist parties, of which the SPD is merely the largest. Merkel had hoped for a big win to cut its ties with the center-left Social Democrats. After four years of co-dependency, the two main parties were more alike than different, leaving the electorate without a clearly defined choice. The big win by Merkel allowed the Chancellor to break up with the Social Democrats, which had frustrated her efforts to push through economic reforms. The Chancellor would team up with the small pro-business Free Democratic Party, which would be more open to her economic policies.
The last ARD-TV Deutschland trend opinion poll before the September 27 Bundestag elections found that the SPD had increased its popularity by three percent at the expense of the Left Party and the Greens, while the CDU/CSU and FDP remained stable. According to the poll, the CDU/CSU would get 35 percent, the SPD 26 (up 3), the FDP 14, the Left Party eleven (down one) and the Greens ten (down two). Conventional wisdom was that the SPD improved its popularity because its chancellor candidate, Steinmeier, managed to raise his profile in last Sunday's TV debate with Chancellor Merkel. If the chancellor would be elected directly, 53 percent (down two) said they would reelect Chancellor Merkel, while 30 percent (up seven) said they would prefer Steinmeier. Twenty-four percent of the people said they were still undecided. Handelsblatt carried an article on what ex-US Ambassador to Germany, John Kornblum, thought about the election campaign. He openly said that he considered the election campaign to be "a sign of hopelessness." He added that Chancellor Merkel is pinning her hopes "exclusively on stability" as if she were "afraid of the voter." He added that there are hardly any controversial debates, hardly any issues and hardly any controversies over individual issues.
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