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WRITE-THROUGH UPDATE Germans elect 19th Bundestag with little expectation of an upset

September 24, 2017 -

September 24, 2017, GERMANY, A fourth term for Chancellor Angela Merkel seems probable following a recent win for her conservative party. Speculation has shifted to which party or parties will govern in coalition with her Christian Democratic Union (CDU).

Most postwar German governments have been coalitions.

The Social Democrats (SPD), the junior party in her present coalition, scared the CDU when it put up its own candidate for chancellor, former European Parliament president Martin Schulz. The entry of the popular Schulz into the campaign boosted the prospects of his party in the 631-seat Bundestag, presenting a potential threat to the CDU and its sister party, the Christian Social Union (CSU). According to a poll reported by Politico in Dec 2016, Schulz is as popular as Merkel.

CDU optimism returned when her party defeated the Social Democrats in the western state of North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany’s most populous state and the SPD heartland, in May. The SPD had led the state for all but five years since 1966. Schulz had been hoping for a boost after two previous state election defeats sapped his party’s momentum.

Politico magazine sees Merkel in another Grand Coalition with the Social Democrats, or teaming up with liberal Free Democratic Party, a coalition that could also include the Greens.

Reuters describes the anti-immigrant Alternative for Germany (AfD) party as less of a threat to Merkel’s fourth term. It stole voters from Merkel during the migrant crisis, but the slowing influx and a controversy about how to deal with Germany’s Nazi past have damaged the party's image.

Bloomberg news service reports that the country’s economy is seeing steady growth and record-low unemployment , and that Merkel is promising to keep Germany a reliable partner in an unsettling world, hold the euro area to its fiscal pact and deliver a 15 billion-euro ( US $17 billion) tax cut mostly for mid-level incomes.

Germany's AfD picks leaders for election drive, seen shifting right (Reuters Apr 2017)

Martin Schulz as popular as Merkel in Germany: survey (Politico Dec 2016)

The Latest: Germany's Schulz concedes 'stinging defeat' (AP May 2017)