The future of the European Union is on the line in the German elections this week.
The country faces economic weakness and a growing refugee crisis — but will any of that really tip the outcome on Monday?
Could the collapse of Germany’s grand coalition — in which Chancellor Angela Merkel’s party shares power with the Social Democrats — raise a new coalition leader? Will the center of power shift back and forth between the SPD and the conservatives? Will the smaller parties finally get a chance to really stand for something and hope to advance their cause?
Much of the discourse over the past week has been dominated by talk of high-flying populists such as Alternative fur Deutschland, whose leader Ingolf Huppert handed out party bumper stickers and leaflets to supporters and party members Sunday.
The populist AfD party, which is very much on the rise but doesn’t have its own government, is expected to win more than 13% of the vote — putting it in the top five parties in parliament. That would leave it as one of Germany’s largest parties, but could also trigger fresh negotiations if the former party of the opposition came to power.
Alexander Gauland of the nationalist National Democratic Party (NPD) said on Sunday that he would form an alliance with the AfD, but Frauke Petry, the leader of the populist, anti-immigrant Alternative for Germany, told supporters at a campaign stop that the two would only share power if they agreed not to form a coalition. “These are two parties that have agreed that they would not form a coalition in case of election,” she said.
The center-left Social Democrats are polling around 30% this year, putting them in the running for power. But as the junior partner of Merkel’s conservative CDU party, they’ve been invited to lead three consecutive governments since 1998. The party’s voters are disgruntled after seven years under Merkel, whose first term was dominated by euro crisis.
Photojournalist Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images contributed to this report.