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German elections 2017 - live updates: Far-right enters Bundestag for first time in half a century

Follow the latest updates live

Jon Stone
Berlin
,Chloe Farand
Sunday 24 September 2017 21:18
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The AfD party has entered parliament for the first time
The AfD party has entered parliament for the first time

Initial results in the German elections show the country’s far-right winning seats in the Bundestag for the first time in half a century.

The populist Alternative fur Deutschland (AfD) comfortably took third place in the election, while the centre-left SPD crashed to a historically low result.

Angela Merkel is expected to be easily returned as Chancellor for the third election straight with a predicted 32.5 per cent over the vote, while small parties were up across the board.

The exact shape Ms Merkel's government will take after the election is uncertain, with an array of coalition options involving the SPD, the centre-right liberal FPD, or even the Greens, who sometimes cooperate with Ms Merkel’s CDU party at the state level.
 
Ahead of the election an average of major pollsters showed the far-right AfD on 13 per cent of the vote, ahead of left-wing Die Linke (11 per cent) the FDP, and the Greens (eight per cent). The results would leave the AfD, which currently has MPs in 13 out of the country’s 16 local state assemblies, with around 70 seats in the national parliament.
 
There had been speculation that the AfD could do even better than polls suggest, because of Germans keeping their support for the party secret. One survey commissioned by the tabloid newspaper Blid suggested that 40 per cent of Germans believe the party will do better than expected.

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Welcome to The Independent's coverage of the German elections, live from Berlin

Jon Stone23 September 2017 23:21
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Here's the view of the election battlefield from Berlin on the eve of polls opening:  Angela Merkel is expected to be easily returned as Chancellor for the third election straight with a predicted 34 per cent over the vote, with her main rivals – and current grand coalition partners – the centre-left SPD set to poll a dismal 21 per cent.But the exact shape her government will take after the election is uncertain, with an array of coalition options involving the SPD, the centre-right liberal FPD, or even the Greens, who sometimes cooperate with Ms Merkel’s CDU party at the state level. The final week of campaigning has also seen volatile changes to all the parties’ vote shares, raising the possibility of a last-minute upset.Ahead of the election an average of major polls showed the far-right AfD on 13 per cent of the vote, ahead of left-wing Die Linke (11 per cent), the FDP and the Greens (eight per cent). The results would leave the AfD, which currently has representatives in 13 out of the country’s 16 local state assemblies, with about 70 seats in the national parliament. There has been speculation the AfD could do even better than polls suggest because of Germans keeping their support for the party secret. One survey commissioned by the tabloid newspaper Bild suggested 40 per cent of Germans believe the party will do better than expected.  Read on here:   The German far right are about to win MPs for the first time in half a centuryThe IndependentGerman voters are going to the polls on Sunday amid predictions that the country’s far right will win seats in the Bundestag for the first time in half a century. Surveys show the populist Alternative für Deutschland (AfD) party comfortably taking third place in the election, with a noticeable upward trend continuing into the last week of the campaign.

Jon Stone24 September 2017 08:12
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Voting started at 8am – and continues until 6pm German time, which means 9am and 7pm UK time.

We should have a good estimate of how the parties have done shortly after polls close.

Jon Stone24 September 2017 08:17
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Some crucial background to the election results: the SPD faces yet further collapse after years in coalition with Angela Merkel.

If pollsters are correct, Angela Merkel will secure her place at the helm of German politics for what will be a total of 16 years following Sunday’s election results.

The 63-year-old Chancellor has certainly provided the country with a sense of stability for more than a decade, but political apathy has gripped the nation and left many voters disillusioned about the lack of an alternative.

For the centre-left Social Democratic Party, which has ruled with Ms Merkel’s conservative alliance in a grand coalition since 2013, engaging with consensual politics has left it struggling to create any real opposition to the Christian Democratic Union during the election campaign.  

Lagging in the polls with around 22 per cent of voting intentions, far behind Ms Merkel’s conservative CDU which is stable at around 37 per cent, the SPD, led by former EU Parliament President Martin Schulz, is soul-searching.

Read more analysis below:

Jon Stone24 September 2017 08:20
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A little fact: there are 61.5 million eligible voters, out of a German population of 82.7 million. The median age of the average voter is 52 years.

Jon Stone24 September 2017 08:24
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Here's a seat prediction from the election.de website. If it comes to pass, it tells us some interesting things about Angela Merkel's coalition options.

Parties would need 343 seats to get a majority in a Bundestag of this size – the parliament actually varies in size each session because of the proportional 'top up' electoral system that Germany uses to elect it.

The prediction suggests Angela Merkel's CDU/CSU would fall short of a majority on its own, and also be unable to get one with just the liberal FDP.

However, a so-called 'Jamaica Coalition' of the CDU/CSU, the liberal FDP, and the Greens - named for the colours of the country's flag - would give her enough seats. This coalition sometimes happens at state level but has never been tried at national level.

For context, Germany's Green party is far more centrist than those in the UK and regularly cooperates with both the SPD and the CDU.

Another so-called 'grand coalition' between the SPD and CDU also delivers a majority.

Jon Stone24 September 2017 08:32
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Early indications from polling stations across the country appear to suggest that turnout is up compared to the previous 2013 and 2005 federal elections.

Here are some early voters who spoke to AP

Pollsters said earlier in the week that many of the 61.5 million who were eligible to vote had remained undecided until the very last moment. That included Bernhard Sommerfeld, a 62-year-old book seller, who cast his vote Sunday morning in Berlin after the opening of the polling stations at 8 a.m. (0600GMT). 

"I was really undecided," Sommerfeld said. "I didn't know which party I should cast my vote for — it was very difficult." 

Only a few people came to the polling stations on a cold and drizzly morning in the German capital, which also hosted its annual marathon Sunday. Many streets in the city were blocked as runners zigzagged their way through Berlin in an often festive mood with local bands playing on street corners and bystanders cheering and applauding. 

Jens Schubert, an orchestra manager, also said this election was a difficult one for him. 

"I usually vote for the same party from the left spectrum — the Green Party — but this time I voted for a different party," the 54-year-old said as he came out of a polling station in Berlin's Mitte neighborhood where Merkel was also expected to cast her vote later in the day. 

Jon Stone24 September 2017 11:00
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The Independent’s Chloe Farand has this from a Berlin polling station:

I'm in Franzosisch Buchholz, in the electoral district of Pankow 1 where the AfD took a large 22 per cent of the vote in last year's local election in Berlin.

There is a calm atmosphere as parents with children and elderly people cast their vote.

Many are wary of the media amid increasingly alarmed headlines at the rise of the AfD, which is up to 13 per cent in the latest polls on the eve of the election.

But on their way to vote, some are unabashed about their support for the far-right group.

Jens Birkholz, 56, is an AfD supporter who says he has always voted for nationalist parties in Germany. He hopes the AfD will receive more than 10 per cent of the votes: "This is an important day for Germany. The government must go, today we are optimistic.

“The AfD could be the main opposition to the government. The problems [facing Germany] are Islam, Europe and the capitalist system.

“Islam as a religion is a problem. The Islamists want to wage a war against our civilisation and we must fight that.”

Christel Silg agrees. The 78-year-old, who has lived in East Berlin her entire life, describes herself as a “nationalist”. “I will vote AfD against Islam," she said. “That's the problem.”

Jon Stone24 September 2017 12:47
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Jon Stone24 September 2017 12:50
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Here's German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier arriving at a polling station with his wife Elke Buedenbender to cast their ballots.

Wriing in German tabloid Bild this morning, he said:

"It has perhaps never been as clear that the elections are about the future of democracy and Europe," he wrote, amid polls showing that as many as a third of Germans were undecided.

"If you don't vote, others decide."

Jon Stone24 September 2017 12:51

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