Reichstag race: what you should know about German election
Angela Merkel is set for a third term as Chancellor - but what really matters is who she partners
BARRING a last-minute shocker, the question of who will be Germany's next Chancellor is "all but settled", says the Financial Times. It seems "likely" that Angela Merkel will be returned to office in Sunday's election, agrees The Guardian.
If she gets in, it will be Merkel's third four-year term as Bundeskanzlerin - a word that had to be freshly coined for her as the country's first female leader in 2005. She heads a right-of-centre alliance, the CDU-CSU.
Who's the challenger? Peer Steinbrück, whose left-leaning Social Democratic Party (SPD) was for many years the main force in German politics, appeared last week on the cover of the Süddeutsche Zeitung magazine ‘giving the finger' to his critics – a gesture which some said showed he had given up on winning.
But if the top job seems to be secure, what is still unknown is which parties will get together to form a coalition government, given it is "pretty well certain" no one party will win enough Bundestag seats to govern alone, according to the BBC.
Why does it matter outside Germany? The make-up of that coalition will have huge ramifications for the rest of Europe and therefore for Britons. While we are traditionally more attentive to American elections, it's Sunday's result that really "sets the agenda for our part of the world", says The Guardian.
Merkel's party is currently propped up by the liberal FDP – but last Sunday in a Bavarian state election its support slumped from eight percent of the vote to just three. If that pattern is repeated this weekend, Merkel will need a new dance partner.
Enter (or re-enter) Steinbruck, says The Guardian. While some on Germany's left are fearful of a ‘grand coalition' with their chief rival, the newspaper urges in its editorial that the case for such a deal is "a strong one" – and not just from a leftist perspective.
What about austerity reforms? "The advantages would start with the stability such a government would provide at the heart of Europe in a time of crisis," says The Guardian. For the seven per cent of Germans currently unemployed, there might be a move towards greater welfare.
But the people with the most riding on this election live in the southern European nations who are currently toeing the line of austerity measures imposed from the north – the SPD might use its influence to ease the strictures they face. Writing for the Financial Times, Wolfgang Münchau is not convinced, however. If Merkel and Steinbruck agree to tango, "expect little immediate change", he says. If the current coalition endures, he doesn't expect "any effective debt relief, which is what is needed to resolve the crisis". ·