By Bruce Stokes, Director of Global Economic Attitudes, Pew Research Center

Special to Foreign Policy (subscription required)

Germans go to the polls on September 22 to elect a new Bundestag and ruling party or coalition of parties. The latest German polls show Chancellor Angela Merkel’s incumbent Christian Democratic Union (CDU) and her partner, the Christian Social Union, likely to emerge victorious. Still in question is whether these conservatives can rule alone or will need a coalition partner for a legislative majority, and if that coalition will be a grand coalition with the Social Democrats.

To date, the campaign has largely been a referendum on Merkel’s leadership since she became Germany’s chancellor in 2005. With an economy that is outperforming most others in Europe and an unemployment rate of just 5.4 percent — about half that of France’s and a fifth of Spain’s — 75 percent of Germans think the economy is doing well, according to a Pew Research Center survey conducted in March. Little wonder that economic performance under the Merkel-led government has not been a major electoral issue. With growth, joblessness, and inflation of limited concern to German voters, inequality has emerged as a sleeper campaign topic. The Social Democrats have pledged quick action on instituting a national minimum wage and higher taxes on top earners as a means of currying favor with voters.

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