Germany votes: What’s the difference?
Expatica details the key proposals of Germany's main parties.
Germans heading to the polls on September 27 can choose between 29 different parties.
The five main parties are the Christian Democrats (CDU/CSU - conservative), the Social Democrats (SPD - centre-left), Free Democrats (FDP - pro-business), the Greens (leftist, ecologist) and the Linke (far-left).
In Germany, people do not vote directly for their leaders but for parties, which then engage in sometimes tortuous negotiations to form coalitions.
Barring surprises, Angela Merkel is almost certain to remain chancellor.
The question is whether she can garner enough votes to form a coalition with the FDP, as she wants, or whether she will be forced into another grand coalition with the SPD.
Following are the policies of the main parties on the key issues.
The CDU wants to reduce the lowest rate of income tax to 12 percent from 14 percent at present and raise the income level at which the top tax rate kicks in to 60,000 euros (88,000 euros) from 53,000 at present.
The SPD wants to reduce the lowest rate of income tax to 10 percent and raise the top rate to 47 percent from 42 percent at present.
The FDP has campaigned for a simplified tax system, with three tax rates of 10 percent, 25 percent and 35 percent.
The Greens want to raise the top tax rate to 45 percent and raise the ceiling at which the lowest tax rate kicks in.
The Linke want to raise the top tax rate to 53 percent.
-- Foreign policy:
All main parties except the Linke are broadly agreed that Germany should keep its troops in Afghanistan despite the unpopularity of the mission. The SPD's chancellor candidate, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, has called for a timetable for withdrawal and the Linke want an immediate withdrawal.
The CDU is opposed to Turkey's accession to the EU, preferring instead a "privileged partnership". The SPD says Turkey should join if it meets the criteria. The Linke wants Germany to pull out of the EU.
-- Energy policy:
The CDU and FDP are in favour of extending the lives of existing nuclear power plants but have pledged not to build new ones. The SPD and the Greens have said they would stick to a pledge to phase out nuclear power by 2020.
The Linke would mothball all current nuclear power stations as soon as possible and ban the construction of any new coal-burning plants.
-- Economy and jobs:
The CDU is counting on sustainable economic growth to pull Germany out of the crisis and create jobs.
The SPD has pledged to create four million jobs by 2020, mainly through the development of so-called "green jobs", turning Germany into the Silicon Valley of eco-technology.
The FDP aims to support Germany's Mittelstand, small and medium-sized firms that are seen as the backbone of the economy, mainly by cutting corporate tax to 10 percent and 25 percent from just under 30 percent now.
The Greens have said they can create one million jobs thanks to a "Green New Deal."
The Linke want to nationalise all private banks, ban mass redundancies at companies not facing insolvency and plough some 100 billion euros annually into public services to create two million jobs.
-- Family policy:
Faced with a declining population and one of the lowest birth rates in Europe, all parties have pledged to improve family policy in Germany.
The CDU wants to double the amount of parental leave Germans can take with a certain amount of their salary paid by the state from 14 months to 28 months. The SPD would increase this to 16 months.
All parties except the CDU have pledged improved conditions for same-sex couples who have signed a "life partnership" contract. Such couples would receive better tax conditions than at present and improved adoption rights.
-- Wage and labour policy:
Only the FDP wants to reduce job protection for workers. The CDU supports sector-wide minimum wage accords. The SPD wants a national minimum wage of around 7.50 euros. The Linke wants a minimum wage of 10 euros per hour.