Postal vote begins ahead of Germany’s September election

Christian Democratic Union (CDU) leader and the party's top candidate for parliamentary elections Armin Laschet speaks during a news conference after a party leadership meeting, in Berlin, Germany August 16, 2021. REUTERS/Christian Mang/Pool

Postal voting for Germany’s federal election began on Monday (16 August), piling pressure on conservative chancellor candidate Armin Laschet (pictured) to reinvigorate his floundering campaign or else risk losing out to a left-leaning coalition, write Andreas Rinke and Paul Carrel.

An official at the Federal Election Commissioner’s office confirmed postal ballots would be sent out from Monday, six weeks ahead of the 26 September election, after which Chancellor Angela Merkel plans to step down following 16 years in power.

Merkel leaves behind a fractured political landscape in which no party enjoys a comfortable lead, and Laschet has seen his ratings slump since he was seen laughing on a visit to a flood-stricken town.

Laschet’s woes have opened up the possibility that the Social Democrats (SPD) could lead a three-way coalition with the Greens and the business-friendly Free Democrats (FDP), though FDP leader Christian Lindner has downplayed such a scenario.

“A high share of postal ballots should benefit parties like the Greens, representing affluent, well-educated voters,” said Carsten Nickel at Teneo, a political risk consultancy.

“Postal voting requires quite some bureaucratic literacy and social capital. That poses huge hurdles for poorer and less knowledgeable groups.”