What Is Happening in Germany? An Election That Will Decide Angela Merkel’s Successor


German voters on Sunday will elect a new federal parliament—the first step toward appointing a successor to Angela Merkel. This marks the first time since 2002 that Ms. Merkel, one of Europe’s longest-serving leaders, won’t lead her party into a general election and the first time since World War II that a sitting German chancellor isn’t seeking a new mandate.

What else makes this year’s German election special?

German elections, especially in the Merkel era, have been pretty predictable. Not this time. Polls show the ballot is too close to call, with Ms. Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union and its Social Christian Union sister party in Bavaria trailing a few points behind their main rival, the center-left Social Democratic Party, after the conservatives saw their early lead melt away during the summer. The chancellery—which is elected by the new parliament rather than being directly on the ballot—is in play and the outcome of the vote will have far-reaching implications for Germany and Europe.

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