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In the last federal election in 2009, the Christian Democratic Union (CDU); its Bavarian sister party, the Christian Social Union (CSU); and the Free Democratic Party (FDP) won the election with Angela Merkel as Chancellor and Guido Westerwelle as Vice-Chancellor. The Social Democratic Party (SPD) however suffered its worst defeat, SPD leader Frank-Walter Steinmeier conceded and announced his intention to become head of the opposition in the Bundestag.
The date of the next German federal election is governed by the constitution, the Basic Law and the Federal Election Law (Bundeswahlgesetz).
Article 39 of the Basic Law states that the Bundestag is elected between 46 and 48 months after the beginning of the legislative period. As the 17th Bundestag convened on October 27, 2009, the next election will be scheduled between August 27 and October 27, 2013. As the Federal Election Law states that the election day must be a Sunday or public holiday, the dates of September 1, 8, 15, 22, 29, October 3 (Day of German Unity), 6, 13, 20 or 27 would be within the scope of constitution and law.
Usually, to avoid school holidays, a date in late September is chosen. In 2013, September 22, was chosen.
The Basic Law provides for three possibilities to shorten or prolong the legislative period and therefore to move election day which have in the past been used never or rarely.
In case of an imminent or ongoing attack on Germany the Federal President is to declare the Case of Defence (article 115a of the Basic Law). In this case, the legislative period ends six months after the end of the Case of Defence (article 115h).
The more probable cases of shortening the legislative period are provided for in articles 63 and 68 of the Basic Law. The former states that the Federal President may (or may not) dissolve the Bundestag if during a vacancy in the office of Federal Chancellor the Bundestag is unable to elect a new Chancellor with a majority of votes within fourteen days after the Federal President proposing a new Chancellor. The latter article allows the Federal Chancellor to ask the Federal President to dissolve the Bundestag after the Chancellor has lost a vote of confidence in the Bundestag. The President is once again free to choose whether to dissolve the Bundestag or not.
Of these three possibilities of changing the legislative period of a Bundestag, only the dissolution according to article 68 has been used in practice (1972, 1983 and 2005).
In case of a dissolution the snap election must take place within sixty days. During the Case of Defence the dissolution of the Bundestag is not possible.
The electoral system must be changed under an order of the Federal Constitutional Court. The court stated that a provision in the Federal Election Law which makes it possible for a party to lose seats due to more votes violates the constitutional guarantee of the electoral system being equal and direct.
This change must be made by June 30, 2011.
In Germany, there are regular polls during the whole of the legislative period. Current polls as of August 2010 suggest that, were the next election to take place the next Sunday, Chancellor Merkel's CDU/CSU and opposition SPD would be contenders for securing a plurality of votes (at about 30 % each). The Greens (opposition) would be able to achieve big gains (15-20 %) while the Left (opposition) would be struggling to repeat their 2005 result with about 10 % and the FDP, the junior partner in government, would lose strongly with some polls even suggesting for it to fall below the 5 % threshold needed to win parliament seats. Every poll suggests that SPD and Greens, partners in the 1998-2005 Schröder government, would be in reach of getting a majority of seats together.
- "Der Wahltermin für die Bundestagswahl 2009". Der Bundeswahlleiter. Retrieved 2009-01-05.
- "Merkel's rival concedes defeat in German election". The Daily Telegraph. London. 2009-09-27. Retrieved 2010-05-20.
- Federal Constitutional Court decision on the Federal Election Law
- A rather up-to-date compilation of poll results by wahlrecht.de
- Official voting results from the Federal Returning Officer
- Opinion poll tracker with data
- Opinion poll tracker with graph and weekly average
- The Candidates