Open Europe Blog

Don’t think the German elections are a done deal – and, in particular, don’t rule out Germany’s anti-euro party, Alternative für Deutschland.

Though Merkel’s CDU/CSU is doing well the polls – as has been noted – her party could still flunk this one. German election surveys are notoriously  unreliable – and in the past, the polling figures for the CDU/CSU in particular, have tended to be higher than the actual election results. The central scenario for the new German government is still definitely a CDU/CSU-FDP coalition. However, a grand coalition of CDU/CSU-SPD is very much on the cards. If the FDP fails to get into the Bundestag, we could even be looking at a SPD-Green coalition – but that’s still unlikely.

The thing to remember is that the share needed to secure a majority in Bundestag isn’t the same as overall support in the polls, as the votes below the 5% threshold  parties need to win seats in the Bundestag will be dropped, while some seats are actually first past the post. So it’s not all that straightforward.

One interesting question, though: will Alternative für Deutschland shock Europe and make it into the Bundestag? A Forsa opinion poll for RTL/Stern today put the party on 4% .

This means we’re very close to a scenario where AfD is in and FDP is out. The assumption so far – including initially from us – was that AfD would struggle to get above 5%. Its window would instead be the European Parliament elections (without 5% threshold and possibly following a series of tough decisions in the Eurozone). However, we’re not confident of that any longer. Before the Italian elections, we predicted that Beppe Grillo’s (at least semi anti-euro) Five Star Movement would do better than many assumed. Deja Vu?

Possibly.

First, there are a huge number of swing voters swirling around Germany – over 30 per cent are undecided according to some polls, with one recent one even claiming 72 per cent. We literally have no idea where all these votes will go, but they could prove favourable for AfD. They could, of course, also go against the party.

Secondly, polls can easily underestimate the strength of  a new, protest party – as in the case of Grillo. Online polls tend to put AfD higher than polls conducted over the phone, suggesting that voters are still embarrassed to actually admit publicly, and to pollsters, that they’ll vote AfD. German polls aren’t actually that great at predicting outcomes, for various reasons.

Now, AfD won’t do a Grillo  – who absolutely exploded onto the scene. However, a lot more sensational things have happened in politics than AfD landing a spot in the Bundestag.

We won’t call this one either way.

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