4 storylines to watch for in Germany's upcoming election

Urope's economic giant Germany is set to hold its federal election on September 24, 2017.

Of those, 31.7 million are women and 29.8 million are men.

"It feels very unusual to be a first-time voter at the age of 68", says Michael Lawton, a retired TV producer living in Berlin who acquired German citizenship last September. The Washington-based think tank recently launched a digital tool to monitor the Twitter activity of a network linked to the German-language account of Kremlin-controlled news website Sputnik. Only 63 percent of all voters in the poll state that they are certain about whom they will vote for.

The populist, anti-immigrant movement saw its star rise amid the refugee crisis in 2015. "Why would people vote for the copy if they can vote for the original [the AfD]?" Each voter can give his vote to the party of his choice or decide not to vote at all.

"There are nearly 30% of non-voters in Germany but no one questions their allegiances - only that of Turkish German citizens".

A voter can vote for a constituent from one party, but then vote for another party's list, effectively splitting their vote.

The prospect of an estimated 60 MPs from such a nativist outfit taking seats in the Bundestag - the lower house of parliament - has added urgency and angst to what had always been dismissed as a suspense-free campaign.

Germany's multiparty democracy and five percent threshold to win seats in the Bundestag discourages wild swings to the left or the right.

And how much a new far right party might succeed in gaining seats.

German voters do not directly elect the chancellor.

There is also a president, a largely symbolic head of state, now Frank-Walter Steinmeier, a former foreign minister who was sworn in in March 2017. The potential partners for a broader progressive project, the SPD and the Greens, have shown no interest in left-wing policies, instead orienting themselves towards the political center and presenting themselves not as representatives of the opposition, but as potential coalition partners for Angela Merkel, who will nearly certainly win the election.

Who are the key parties?

Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel, also a Social Democrat, said the party is led by "people who incite hate, who spread Nazi propaganda".

On domestic matters, the positive news for German households is that whichever configuration Angela Merkel ends up leading in government, there is broad consensus on implementing tax cuts. She dropped her support for nuclear energy after the Fukushima nuclear disaster, for example.

'We must fight against the leaders of the party, but we must not attack their sympathisers, ' said the SPD candidate. But the party is ideologically close enough to the centre-right CDU to allow for cooperation in parliament. Although a grand coalition remains our base case (CIO estimate: 60%), uncertainty is much higher when it comes to the CDU/ CSU's future coalition partner.

Established in 1863, the SDP is Germany's oldest political party.

But even Turks critical of Erdogan are disappointed by how the two German candidates for chancellor are tackling the Turkish issue.

One researcher found Facebook searches for political discussion groups in Germany are steered toward right-wing parties, which he said made little sense. The two are traditional rivals but have governed together in a "grand coalition" of the biggest parties for the past four years.

At the beginning of 2017, nearly all Europeans who believed in further integration saw the year as critical for the future of the EU.

For Europe buffeted by anti-establishment and nationalist currents Merkel's return will reinforce the ideal of a cooperative European Union.

Peter Rosenstreich, head of market strategy at Swissquote Bank, discusses potential market impacts of the election. But regarding the accession, he agrees with Daskin: "Except for Germany and Austria, no other European Union state is ready to cancel the negotiations".

While Merkel has been pushing her stability and prosperity agenda and Schulz seeking to sway voters with his pledges for greater social equality, the AfD has diverted attention.

Louise Churcher, 57, an English teacher from Winchester who has lived in Babelsberg, just outside Berlin, for the past decade and became a German earlier this year, says the sensation of being an outsider is gone now that she can vote.

  • Leroy Wright