Germany is going to the polls on the 24th of September.
I've done three previous posts that are recommended reading in general. This post outlines how much of a challenge the 3 left parties have. This projection is from exactly one year ago. This post outlines how things have been stable for a while.
It is hard to follow what the big issues are, but from what I can gather, there are none. One reason that Merkel and the CDU is doing so well is the simple lack of focus of attention on a few issues. As such voters default to their general view of the parties. The actual platforms of the (two leading) parties are not calling for much in the way of radical change. For this reason I do not expect much of a change between now and the vote.
However, I wanted to do a more full introduction to Germany, and as such, I will go through the parties contesting the election, in particular, those polling at rates to possibly win seats.
The CDU, at least, in the context I've been using it, is actually two parties. The CDU and CSU. The parties were formed after WW2 as a break from the old Centre Party (Zentrum) which had a similar political leaning and support base.
The (coalition of) parties are generally right-wing, but mostly moderate. The CSU is far more liable to have socially conservative views. The CSU itself is organized in Bavaria. It is seen as a successor to the BVP, or the Bavarian Peoples Party, which itself broke off from Zentrum during the Weimar Republic era.
The closest Canadian analogy to the CDU is probably the old PC Party.
The SPD, or Social Democratic Party, is the oldest of the major parties. The SPD was founded prior to WW1 in 1863, and won seats in the first elected of the united German Empire in 1871.
The Party is generally social democratic in nature, and has had its leanings match that of social democratic parties elsewhere in Europe and around the world, including the UK Labour Party.
The closest Canadian analogy is the New Democratic Party, perhaps a bit more left wing even.
The FDP, or Free Democratic Party, is the "Liberal" party. That is liberal in the European sense, or, more "libertarian" to most North Americans.
The party has spent nearly 60 years in government, as the junior coalition partner, due to its centrist position, a longer period of time than either the SPD or CDU.
It has no real match in Canada. In general, it can be thought of as a mash of the Liberal Party and the lesser known Libertarian Party. They are pro-business, but otherwise generally hold "Liberal" views on the issues.
Alliance 90/The Greens is the Green Party of Germany. They are generally a left-wing Green party. They current form government in one of the German states; Baden-Wurttemberg, across the Rhine river from Strasbourg in France, and bordering Switzerland. To specify, they lead a coalition with the SPD, and their 2011 victory was the first since WW2 to lead a state coalition that is not SPD or CDU (excepting a few interim FDP regimes lasting only a few days)
The party has an interesting incident. Starting in 1965, only the three parties listed above won seats. In 1983 the Greens won seats for the first time, and have always had seats since. However, in 1990, upon the merger of Germany (east and west) the same Greens that had been holding seats, lost. That is, there was a dual threshold to win seats, 5% in either West or East germany. The West German Greens did not meet the 5% and lost all of their seats; however the East German Greens, Alliance 90, managed to win 8 seats. This caused the cementing of the existing alliance (the Greens agreed to fully support Alliance 90)
The party is similar to that in Canada, except more of a traditional left-wing Greens and not the eco-Greens that are more common in Canada.
Die Linke, or, The Left in german, is the successor to the old Communist party in East Germany. Like most successor parties, Die Linke is fully democratic. They are strongest in the former East Germany, but have managed to win seats in a few other assemblies as well.
The party is on the hard left, and from time to time has rejected a coalition with the SPD or Greens. However, there are times that such coalitions have been formed. Die Linke currently leading the government in Thuringia, won in 2014, and is and has been the junior government partner in various former East German states.
The party has no match in Canada outside except possibly the Communist Party.
AfD, or the Alternative for Germany, is the hot new gig in town. The party failed to pass the threshold in 2013, but polls have them comfortably winning seats.
They've managed to win a few seats in various state assemblies. They are Nationalist in nature, and right-wing. They are Germany's answer to UKIP, Marie Le Pen, and Donald Trump. Given the former NAZI history of Germany, there are great concerns about this party within certain segments of the German voter base.
The closest match to the party in Canada is Kellie Leitch.
Polls suggest the SPD have returned to their low position prior to the selection of Schulz as the candidate.
Current poll average suggests the CDU and FDP could take 289 seats, short of the 300 they'd need for a majority. However, SPD, even with the Greens and Die Linke, only reach 251 seats. AfD is set to take 58, tied with Die Linke for 3rd.
As such, a continuation of the current CDU-FDP coalition, which would take 383 seats, seems most likely.