Germany won’t elect a Green Chancellor in 2021. Greens will be in the coalition

Lee Heidhues 9.12.2021

The Green Party got a lot of media buzz earlier in the  year when some polls predicted a Green could be elected Chancellor.  

These high expectations have faded.

As the election day draws near pollsters predict an aging German electorate will opt for familiarity. That’s not to say the Greens won’t have a voice. In the coalition style system in Germany the Greens will likely be a partner in a Social Democrat administration. This means the Greens and its young leader Annalena Baerbock will have a major voice in the Bundestag and positions in the governing cabinet.

Angela Merkel will soon step down after 16 years as German Chancellor. If the polls are correct it appears the German electorate will choose the next Chancellor from one of the nation’s long standing parties, the Social Democrats.

German Greens I 6.7.2019.jpg
Green Chancellor candidate Annalena Baerbock

Excerpted from Deutsche Welle 9.12.2021

About 60.4 million people are eligible to vote in Germany on September 26 — that’s a drop of 1.3 million on the last general election four years ago. And more than half of the electorate is over the age of 50.

An aging voter base 

Age is  an important factor when it comes to prioritizing political issues. Climate change has been found to be the most pressing topic for young voters in Germany. For older voters that does not seem to be the case, according to a survey by the Nature And Biodiversity Conservation Union (NABU). Of those over the age of 65, 60% said they would not let the climate and nature conservation interests of younger generations influence their voting decision.

NABU President Jörg-Andreas Krüger called the results of the survey shocking. “We know from other surveys that climate and environmental protection are among the most important issues for the Bundestag elections,” he told broadcaster ntv. The consequences of climate change “will have to be dealt with above all by our children and grandchildren.”

Blogger Lee at Frankfurt Courthouse – 2018

As the population ages, there’s a shift in the generational balance of power in elections. In West Germany’s 1987 national election 23% of voters were under the age of 30 and 26% were over 60. For the 2021 election, the office of the Federal Returning Officer expects the number of voters under 30 to fall to under 15% and those over 60 to rise above 38%.

This change has further shifted influence to baby boomers — the generation born after World War II that is in its 60s today. And this trend will continue, as younger Germans have fewer children.

German election II 9.12.2021.jpg
The center-right Christian Democrat CDU and its Bavarian sister party CSU are symbolized by the color black. The center-left Social Democrat SPD is red, as is the communist Left Party. The pro-free market Free Democrats’ (FDP) color is yellow. And the Greens are self-explanatory. German media refer to the color combinations and national flags using them as shorthand for political combinations.

Turnout is traditionally much higher among older voters. At the previous general election in 2017, 76% of voters over 70 turned out to vote and 81% of voters were in their 60s. Turnout for voters aged 21 to 24, meanwhile stood at only 67%. 

Older and younger Germans also tend to have different voting behaviors: “Older voters are more likely to have a long-term party affiliation than younger voters. This often developed in earlier phases of life,” Nico Siegel, managing director of the Infratest dimap polling institute in Berlin, tells DW.

Older voters in Germany tend to vote for the Christian Democrats or the Social Democrats, Germany’s historic big tent parties, and are less likely to shift their allegiance.

More than 30 years after unification, there are still differences in how Germans in the east and west vote. The center-right Christian Democratic Union and its sister party, the Bavarian Christian Social Union (CSU), the center-left Social Democrats (SPD), the pro-free market Free Democrats (FDP), and the Greens draw most of their support from the west of the country. 

The communist Left Party and the far-right AfD, however, draw most of their support from the east, the territory of the former communist German Democratic Republic, which is less densely populated—with just 12.5 million residents of the country’s total 83.2 million.  

Support for political parties appears to be influenced the most by income levels. Voters for the CDU/CSU, SPD, and especially the Greens and FDP are generally above the total median income. SPD voters are generally around the median, and supporters of the Left and the AfD generally earn below the median income, many of whom are based in east Germany and regions that have been affected by deindustrialization.

German election III 9.12.2021.jpg
Aging German electorate soon goes to the polls

The Greens perform best in urban areas with a young, well-educated population. The Greens have traditionally won a large percentage of the youth vote: At the 2019 European parliament election, they won 34% support from Germany’s under 24-year-olds. 

But even during the Greens’ brief surge over the summer, they failed to make major inroads in the east. In June, 26% of those surveyed in western Germany said they’d vote for the Greens compared with just 12 % in eastern Germany, according to pollster Forsa.