A new head of government will soon be elected after the highly popular incumbent chose to end her 16 years in the top job.

Angela Merkel will not seek reelection for German chancellor. Merkel, who has served since 2005, will step aside and let a different person lead the European Union’s strongest economy and most populous member state.

Her successor’s election is expected to be a close one and might not be decided for weeks. Germans went to the polls in a national election that was too close to call on Sept. 26.

The center-left Social Democrats (SPD) mounted a strong challenge to Merkel’s conservative Christian Democratic Union (CDU) of Germany colleagues.

Prominent parties will assess themselves after the election before beginning more formal coalition negotiations. This could take months, putting Merkel–67–in a caretaker role.

“We all sense that this is a very important federal election,” CDU candidate Armin Laschet said according to the Business Standard. “It is a federal election that will decide the direction of Germany in coming years and therefore every vote counts.”

Potential suitors

German politics, like the United States, is controlled by two major political parties–Merkel’s center-right CDU and left-leaning SDP. For the previous eight years, the two parties have led Germany in a grand coalition, according to Fox News.

Laschet was nominated on a joint ticket with Bavarian sister party, the Christian Social Union (CSU). He is minister-president of North Rhine-Westphalia, the country’s most populated state.

The SPD’s nominee is current federal Finance Minister and Vice Chancellor Olaf Scholz. He is considered to be the front-runner.

Germany has a plethora of political parties that have risen in popularity and importance. The Green Party, whose leader Annalena Baerbock is a candidate for chancellor, is one of them. The 40 year-old is the youngest and only female contender, and one of the three without prior government experience.

Election process

Germans do not directly vote for their chancellor. They vote for a local legislator and their favored political party.

The Bundestag elections in Germany are held under a proportional representation system, which means each party’s vote share is proportional to the number of seats it receives in parliament. This makes it nearly impossible for a single political party to form government. Instead, coalitions must be created after the vote, and these coalitions frequently include more than two factions.

Once election results are in, a new race to form a governing coalition begins. The chancellor leads that alliance.

Due to the pandemic, many German voters have already voted by mail ahead of Sunday’s election.

Hot topics

Climate change dominated political debate in Germany in recent years. The country’s devastating summer floods have further exacerbated the issue. The Green Party seized on natural disasters to widen its popularity among voters.

Although major parties are committed to tackling climate change, the Green Party’s policy for reducing greenhouse gas emissions is most aggressive.

Economic matters like raising the minimum wage and reforming the pension system are also hot topics.

Foreign policy remains an afterthought in the present campaign, unlike in the United States. During a recent televised debate, no one asked a single question about it.

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