Why German elections matter

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Germany will go to the voting booths on Sept. 22 to pick its new parliament and leader of the country, which officials will have to make important decisions regarding Europe and the rest of the world.

Germans vote their government leaders on Sept. 22.
Germans vote for their government leaders on Sept. 22.

Europe experienced an economic recession just like America did, and it is only starting to emerge from the crisis. Germany survived economic challenges that gravely injured other European Union (EU) countries such as Greece and Italy. While these countries would like a lending hand, Germany has maintained austerity measures that reduce government spending in order to balance its own budget.

Germany’s importance transcends EU boundaries as well. “Germany is a powerful exporting country,” said Wade Jacoby, a political science professor who specializes in German politics. “Its companies make products that are in demand all over the world.”

sidebarGermany is a strong exporter of vehicles, metals, pharmaceuticals and food. The U.S. imports more from Germany than from any other European country, which made up for 4.7 percent of total U.S. imports last year according to the CIA’s World Factbook.

Angela Merkel, the current federal chancellor, is running for her third term. The Christian Democratic Union party she leads has been polling well and even took 40 percent of the Bavarian regional vote this week.

However, polls show that Merkel’s partner party, the Free Democratic Party, has hovered around the 5 percent mark. According to its constitution, political parties in Germany require 5 percent of the vote in order to receive any seats in Bundestag. This means that Merkel will need to find a new coalition partner if the FDP is too weak to support her.

Creating a coalition can be difficult because each party has to make concessions and still maintain its own interests. “Top party leadership present to one another their key demands, and the negotiations can take some time — days or even weeks,” Jacoby said.

Should the FDP fail to achieve the 5 percent hurdle, Jacoby said the Social Democratic Party would be the most likely coalition partner. The SDP is currently the second-largest party in Bundestag with 167 of 620 seats.

Many people believe Merkel will remain chancellor regardless of her coalition partner, despite attacks on her reaction to NSA spying claims in Germany. “It’s not that big of an issue,” said Hans-Wilhelm Kelling, a German-born professor at BYU. “The opposition would like to make it a big issue, but to Germans it’s not that big of an issue.”

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