Federal election 2021: The election in which many things are different

As of: 09/26/2021 12:02 p.m.

A lack of alliance commitments, a chancellor who goes out of her own accord, and a record percentage of postal voters: This federal election is special. This is another reason why predictions about the outcome are difficult.

By Jörg Schönenborn, WDR

The word of the day in Berlin is “exciting”. Whether passers-by on the street or colleagues here in the team: Everyone has the need to emphasize how it gets exciting in the evening. In fact, there is maximum uncertainty behind the tension – on all sides.

With the parties, because despite all the polls they don’t know who will be ahead in the end, let alone which coalition will come about at some point.

And among the voters, who are missing two important anchors of orientation that were almost always there in previous elections. On the one hand, in the history of the Federal Republic one could always decide for or against an incumbent chancellor. On the other hand, there were mostly clear alliance promises like the classic “red-green” versus “black-yellow”. This time around, three or even four parties may have to work together to form a government. If you want to choose tactically, you can easily lose track of things.

Many worry about their own prosperity

When it comes to social sentiment, the Infratest dimap surveys reveal a somewhat different picture than four years ago. At that time, the Federal Republic had a long and powerful upswing behind it. Now the concern for one’s own prosperity has increased. After a year and a half of the pandemic, the economic situation is assessed more cautiously than in 2013 and 2017 – but still significantly better than in the 2000s.

In their own opinion, the majority of respondents still live in a country where democracy works well and where all in all things are fair. For many, the struggle for their own voting decision is shaped by the question of which party can stay that way. The data do not indicate – as is often criticized – that the election campaign was empty of content, on the contrary. With social security, the economic situation and climate change, there are three major issues that are of particular importance for the voters’ decision.

Focus on top staff – also because Merkel is leaving

The candidates nevertheless played a major role because the chair in the Chancellery will definitely be refilled. All three, Annalena Baerbock, Armin Laschet and Olaf Scholz, led the field in the so-called direct election question in one phase of the election campaign. Baerbock took the lead after her nomination in May, Laschet took over when Baerbock had to justify herself for her résumé and her book. And Scholz has been ahead since Laschet acted unhappily in the flood disaster.

Whether the SPD will be able to carry its survey lead of just a few points to the target cannot be foreseen with the means of demoscopy. The distance is within the statistical error tolerance. In addition, a significant part of the electorate is likely to have only made a decision in the past few days or even today. So it would be a miracle if the result tonight corresponded to what the institutes collected a few days ago, i.e. before the final decision-making phase.

Highest percentage of postal voters so far

In addition, there is the highest percentage of postal voters of all previous Bundestag elections. Interim reports from the electoral offices suggest that 40 to 50 percent of those involved have already cast their votes by letter, sometime between the end of August and today. It is impossible to understand who made the decision in which political situation and when and can cause further surprises.

On the other hand, it is no surprise when the next night, at the end of the count, is the largest Bundestag of all time. The parties have not succeeded in changing the electoral law in such a way that the parliament comes at least close to the 598 deputies provided for in the Basic Law. The electoral reform passed by the Union and SPD last year against the votes of the opposition will only slow the growth of mandates slightly.

The number of mandates is likely to grow significantly

Actually, overhang mandates from the same party can be offset between different national lists. That is supposed to dampen the size of Parliament. In the case of the CSU, however, this regulation remains ineffective because it only competes in one federal state, namely in Bavaria, and therefore does not have to offset its overhang mandates with the CDU in other countries. If her result is even close to the surveys, she is likely to receive some overhang mandates, each of which entails 20 or more compensation mandates from other parties. The result in Bavaria alone could therefore ensure a Bundestag that significantly exceeds the previous number of 709 seats.

And one more provision of electoral reform could be important. The Union and the SPD have stipulated that up to three overhang mandates will not be compensated. For a party with many overhang seats, this can have a mathematical advantage over the second vote result, which in the most acute case can even decide on the formation of majorities.

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