Thursday, 15.07.2021

A Historic Bundestag Election and an SPD comeback

Election analysis, New Statesman podcast, events and more


The Bundestag elections 2021 stand out in a number of respects. For the first time (with the exception of the first Bundestag election in 1949) there was no Chancellor seeking re-election. Furthermore, three parties were fielding a candidate for Chancellor. On top of that, the election took place during a pandemic, which, on one hand, had direct effects on the conduct of the campaign, and on the other, brought into focus people’s crisis management capabilities. These special features, coupled with Angela Merkel bowing out after 16 years in the Chancellor’s office, the global challenges of climate change and the resulting need for a social and ecological transformation of the economic system made the 2021 Bundestag election into something of a choice of direction.

Who will be entrusted with the leadership of the government in these uncertain times? Who will lead Germany out of the Covid-19 pandemic and take the necessary steps to ensure prosperity and social cohesion in the country going forward?

The FES has produced analyses, podcasts and events to attempt to understand the international and European significance of the SPD's victory, as well as what it means for social democracy, at home and abroad.


Analysis of the Bundestag Elections 2021

The FES has developed a homepage for the German Election which provides analysis of the key results, FAQs, prognoses for future coalition arrangements and publication recommendations for further reading. Do have a look.


Podcast: German Election 2021 with Jeremy Cliffe and the New Statesman

In a special episode of the Germany Elects podcast, Jeremy Cliffe talks with an array of experts on progressive politics in Germany to discuss the prospect of a “traffic-light” coalition of the centre-left SPD, the Greens and the centre-right FDP.

He is first joined by Martin Schulz, the FES president and SPD chancellor candidate at the 2017 election, to discuss the significance of the election on 26 September in German and European politics.

Then he is joined by SPD MP Jens Zimmermann and commentator Ulrike Herrmann to discuss the SPD in the Bundestag and how a “traffic light” government might govern domestically.

Finally he is joined by MEP and former federal justice, labour and families minister Katarina Barley as well as the editor of the IPG journal Anja Wehler-Schöck to discuss what the election means for Europe and the wider world.

The podcast is embedded at the top of this page - you can play it from our site or access it via the New Statesman, where other Germany Elects podcasts are available, as well as on all major streaming platforms. 


Germany at the Traffic Lights (Podcast – Coming soon)

The election in Germany saw progressives surge and conservatives suffer at the polls. For months it looked as if the conservative CDU would hold onto power at the national level, despite early signs of a Green revival.

But late in the day it was the SPD candidate Olaf Scholz who won out, beating the CDU into second place, at a loss of 50 seats – the party’s biggest defeat in decades.

A progressive-led government now looks a near certainty, though the exact composition is up for debate. One likely outcome – the so-called ‘Traffic Light’ Coalition (red/yellow/green) – would include not just the Greens, but the right-leaning liberal FDP.

What will a new governing arrangement mean for the country and the wider world? Will Olaf Scholz’s late embrace of the climate agenda be born out in practice? What does the rise of smaller parties mean for the priorities of the incoming regime?

And what can we in Britain learn from the progressive electoral successes – and the alliance-building challenges to come?

John Kampfner, journalist and author of Why Germans Do It Better: Notes from A Grown-Up Country, and Michèle Auga, head of the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung in London, joined Compass to discuss these questions and many more – and to learn some lessons from Germany.

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