The first German election without Angela Merkel as a candidate in over one and a half decades would turn out to be one of the most unpredictable in the history of the Federal Republic. For most of the election year, a conservative-Green alliance appeared the most likely outcome, potentially even with a Green chancellor at its head. However, the final months of campaigning showcased the volatility of the increasingly fragmented party system and the relevance that candidate selection and external events can have on political majorities. Having been stuck in third place for about three years, the spd's well-organized campaign managed to complete a remarkable victory, allowing the Social Democrats to come in first for just the third time in close to half a century. Transcending traditional ideological divides, Olaf Scholz's subsequent three-party “traffic light” alliance serves to perfectly reflect the changes that Germany's party system has undergone since reunification.
Frank Decker is a Professor at the Institute for Political Science and Sociology, University of Bonn. His main interests focus on problems of institutional reforms in Western democracies, party systems, and right-wing populism. Recent publications include Die deutsche Demokratie (2022), Politik in stürmischer Zeit (2022, co-written with Eckhard Jesse and Roland Sturm), Aufstand der Außenseiter (2022, co-edited with Bernd Henningsen, Marcel Lewandowsky, and Philipp Adorf), and Baustellen der Demokratie (2021).
Philipp Adorf is a Research Assistant at the University of Bonn. His past work has addressed the rise of racial resentment within the Republican Party in the United States and the success of right-wing populist actors in a variety of European countries. He is currently researching the relevance of white status anxieties concerning the formation of political preferences in the increasingly diversifying democracies of the Western world.