Support for Angela Merkel’s party has been just short of 40 percent since May. The Social Democrats, who briefly polled neck and neck with the conservatives earlier in the year, are down to 25 percent.
The Greens, liberal Free Democrats, far-left Die Linke and far-right Alternative für Deutschland would split the remainder of the vote.
Unless the numbers change dramatically between now and September, Merkel would have three ways to stay in power:
- A continuation of her “grand coalition” with the Social Democrats;
- A center-right coalition with the Free Democrats; or
- A center-left coalition with the Greens.
A right-wing pact with the Alternative can be ruled out.
Another grand coalition — Merkel’s third — would be the least disruptive, but the Social Democrats are not eager. Every time they rule with Merkel, they come out less popular than they were going in.
The Free Democrats share many of the Christian Democrats’ tax and spending policies, however, they are more skeptical of a grand bargain in Europe that would give Germany closer economic integration in return for debt and deficit relief for the southern member states.
Merkel seems open to such a deal now that the reform-minded Emmanuel Macron is president of France.
Likelihood: Medium to high.
A coalition with the Greens would be difficult on the specifics. Their economic and foreign policies are far to Merkel’s left. Conservatives would worry that a more liberal immigration regime, advocated by the Greens, could lead to defections to the far right.
But this option could be politically advantageous to Merkel. A government with the Greens would face opposition from the left (Social Democrats and Die Linke) as well as the right (Free Democrats and the Alternative) and thus occupy the middle ground — which is where the chancellor is most comfortable.