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A quick guide to the parties may be helpful. As the system is modified PR, you get a greater choice of substantial parties than in Britain.

The Christian Democrats (CDU) and their Bavarian (CSU) allies maintained a solid lead until quite recently, but their Chancellor candidate is seen as far less solid than Mrs Merkel, and in troubled times German voters really like serious gravitas.

They’ve found it in the Social Democrat (SPD) Chancellor candidate, Scholz, who is agreeably
moderate and dull, precisely in the manner of Merkel. The SPD are traditional centre-left Labour. Originally a major party of government, they have weakened in recent years as junior partner to the CDU, but have every prospect of a good election.

The Greens are a very centrist variety, unlike the British Greens. They are naturally keen on the environment, but otherwise have policies hard to distinguish from the CDU or SPD. They had a big polling boost before the election as a plausible alternative to the CDU, but have had an unhappy election due to their Chancellor candidate running into one alleged inaccuracy after another.

The Free Democrats (FDP) are classic liberals, very close to business and all about free trade. They used to hold the balance of power after every election, so would feature in each coalition with CDU or SPD, but they fell on hard times for a while as voters tired of their eternal role in government. They have perked up in opposition and are serious candidates for a coalition under Scholz.

The Alliance for Germany (AfD) flourished in the backlash over Merkel’s generous welcome to Syrian refugees, but they continue to suffer from a far-right label which is anathema to most Germans for obvious historical reasons. They are drifting along at around 11% and are not regarded as “salonfaehig” (literally “the sort of people you’d have in your living room”). In time it’s likely that this will wear off – but not yet, so they don’t feature in any coalition scenario

The Left (Linke) were originally an alliance of ex-GDR communists and West German leftists, with the former notably more moderate. As GDR memories fade, they are losing ground in their GDR strongholds, but have picked up a little in the West as a “normal” left-wing party. Ironically, the ex- communists are more comfortable potential allies than the far left and have partnered with the SPD in some ex-GDR state governments, because they’re used to the compromises of government. The Left have become just about salonfaehig for most centre-left voters. Nonetheless,Scholz is centrist enough to find them uncomfortable.

The broad outlines of the election next Sunday are clear: the Social Democrats are going to win, all the other major parties will get over the 5% threshold to share in proportional top-up seats, and the new Government will be almost certainly be formed from the SPD, Greens and either FDP or the Left, with the former much more likely.

If any of these claims are wrong it will be a real surprise, since the polls have been consistent for weeks, and German polls are usually pretty good; moreover, perhaps 40% of the electorate have already voted by post. You can check on the current polls here:

Does that give any betting opportunities? Some suggestions:Scholz ought to be overwhelming favourite as next Chancellor, but he’s only 1.3 on Betfair at the time of writing. Anything over 1.2 is value. It’s a better bet than SPD most seats at 1.24 – a situationwhere the SPD wins but Scholz is not Chancellor is hard to imagine.

The CDU have stabilised after their dramatic slump. It’s hard to see them going below 20%, but Ladbrokes will give you 5/6 on that.

The SPD/Green/FDP government is still more than evens on Betfair. It should be odds on, and you can get a saver on SPD/Green/Left at 6.

Finally, the Greens have drifted close to 15%. Ladbrokes will give you 7/4 on their dropping below that. That’s a tempting bet, but only if the odds lengthen to something like 5/2.

Nick Palmer (Former LAB MP for Broxtowe)



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