The New York Times profiles Karamba Diaby a candidate who might become Germany’s first member of the Bundestag to have African origins.
Diaby won the Social Democratic Party’s internal vote to earn the third place on the party’s list in the state of Sachsen-Anhalt. The NYT states that he will be elected if “the Social Democrats can defend the three seats they won here four years ago”.
Not so fast. Here is where it is helpful to know something about Germany’s electoral system. 2009 was a very bad year for the SPD. It won no single-seat districts, but due to the compensatory PR, it won three seats, all from the party list. We are not told whether Daiby also has a district nomination (but I checked–see below). But without a district nomination, if the party performed better than in 2009, the SPD might win only or mostly district seats.
Between 2005 and 2009, the SPD in the state fell from around 32% of the party vote to 17%. In 2005 it managed 10 seats, but none of them from the party list.
Thus if the SPD recovers, being ranked in the top 3 on the list is not a guarantee.
However, from Diaby’s own website, it is evident that he has a district nomination–in constituency 72. A quick check of the data (in my files) shows that his party won that district narrowly in 2005, but lost it overwhelmingly in 2009. So he is on the bubble, it would seem. This will be a fun case study to watch!
Today’s election for the state assembly of Lower Saxony, Germany, was considered too close to call as polls closed. It is regarded as one of Germany’s most important bellwethers, given the state’s large size and that its election is occurring several months before a federal election.
The state’s incumbent government mirrors the federal: a coalition of the Christian Democrats and Free Democrats. The latter party has had a string of bad results in state elections, and many pre-election polls suggested it might not pass the 5% threshold in today’s election. If it did not, the Christian Democrats (CDU) would not be able to govern except in a grand coalition with the Social Democrats (SPD).
However, exit polls suggest the FDP has reached 9%:
Its gain was attributed to the CDU governor of the state, half-Scot David McAllister, who tacitly encouraged his supporters to split their ballot to make sure the FDP would clear the 5-percent hurdle needed to remain in parliament — a precondition for him remaining in office.
Pre-election polls had put the CDU at 42% or higher, but all those threshold-surpassing list votes for the FDP had to come from somewhere. As a result, the CDU is down to 36%, according to the exit polls.
As for the SPD, its former federal chancellor (PM), Gerhard Schröder was shown on DW-TV campaigning directly on the promise of an SPD-Green coalition. He said (paraphrasing from the translation on DW English): voters know the SPD and Greens served them well when we governed before, because the SPD took care of jobs, while the Greens took care of the environment”.
The SPD is on 32% and the Greens on 13.5%. Thus the two opposing combines have almost the same combined vote totals. Both the Left and Pirates are below 5%.1
The campaign signs, photographed from the DW Journal (aired in the USA by Link TV), are interesting. Note how the CDU and SPD both emphasize their leaders, while the FDP and Greens explicitly call for list votes (Zweitstimme, or “second votes”) in the state’s two-vote mixed-member proportional system.
I had seen some polling that had the Left well above the threshold; maybe there was some tactical voting there, too, by soft Left voters who feared voting for the Left would only increase the odds of a grand coalition, given that SPD-Green-Left post-electoral cooperation would have been unlikely. [↩]
Is Germany about to revoke or modify its provision on “overhang” seats? Evidently there has been a Constitutional Court finding today against the current practice,1 and there is now a debate about how to respond.
Germany’s highest court declared the country’s complex electoral law unconstitutional Wednesday and ordered for it to be overhauled before the next general election…
The current voting system was passed only last year by Chancellor Angela Merkel’s governing coalition in an attempt to satisfy previous criticism by the Federal constitutional Court.
…the constitutional court again criticized that parties which win more seats than they would take under a purely proportional system can keep those seats — potentially skewing election results.
Merkel’s Christian Democrats and its Bavarian sister party gained an additional 24 seats this way in the 2009 general elections.
The provision is actually–dare I say it?–more complex than that. It is pretty much impossible under MMP not to allow a party that wins more than its proportional share to keep some if its resulting advantage. The only sure way would be to revoke a seat it had actually won in a single-seat district.
The German MMP (as also in New Zealand) adds further seats to the legislative chamber to “balance” these overhangs. These partially compensate other parties for the fact that some party is over-represented from its winning more single-seat districts than its proportional entitlement would be (based on its list vote, at the state level in Germany). It is not clear from the news story exactly which part of this process has been declared constitutionally invalid.
It certainly is the case that, even with the balance seats, the presence of overhangs means a “skewing” of results away from strict proportionality. Indeed, if one does not want this, one should use pure PR and not MMP. The potential over-representation for a party that performs especially well in single-seat districts is one of the ways in which MMP is a “mixed” or hybrid system, and not simply a proportional system.
I vaguely recall someone might have mentioned this case in another thread here. [↩]
As expected, it looks like another bad outcome for federal Chancellor (PM) Angela Merkel and her Christian Democratic Union (CDU).
Initial projections put the Social Democrats (SPD) on 38.8% of the vote, compared to the CDU’s 25.8%. That is a record low for the latter party, whose leader in the state immediately resigned.
It is still not clear if the vote of the Green Party will be enough to give a bare majority to coalition of the SPD and Greens. It was the minority government of these two parties that resigned after losing a budget vote, triggering this election.
The Pirate Party continues its run of success, with 6%. The Left, which was in the previous parliament, collapsed to 2.6% and thus will not have seats in the new parliament.
For the third consecutive state election in Germany, the Pirate Party has won seats, France24 reports. This time, in Schleswig-Holstein, where first estimates from today’s election show the party on 8.2%. This puts them just behind the Free Democrats, who are on 8.3%. This result for the FDP is a lot better than they have done in other recent state elections, or were expected to do in this contest.
The combined vote for the ruling coalition of the FDP and Christian Democrats is well below 50%, with the latter on only 30.6%. However, the alternate coalition, while bigger, also lacks a majority: Social Democrats 29.9% and Greens 13.6%.
Presumably this result will mean a grand coalition of the two big parties will now rule the state.
Germany’s largest state, North Rhine-Westphalia, will go to the polls in May, following the parliamentary defeat earlier this month of its minority coalition government.
The coalition consists of the Social Democrats (SPD) and Greens, but these two parties emerged from the July, 2010, election two seats short of a majority.
Minority governments are essentially unheard of in Germany. I do not know how this one survived initially, whether with tacit outside support from the Left Party or with tactical abstentions from the Christian Democrats (CDU) and/or Free Democrats (FDP). However, at this point, polls have been showing that the SPD and Greens would win a clear majority in new elections. So I assume this defeat was strategically planned by the government–sending up a budget the combined opposition would “have to” defeat.
As in many federal systems with staggered national and regional elections, in Germany state elections are often seen as bellwethers for the next national election. If that is the case, then not only the expected NRW result, but also recent elections in Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, Baden-Wurttemberg, and Rhineland-Palatinate, give the CDU and FDP reason to be very, very worried.
Some scenes of Dusseldorf, NRW, from my travel collection (June, 2010) follow. Dusseldorf, the city of Altbier!
The presidency of Christian Wulff appears to be coming to an end. I found some of the language a little more elevated than one would expect from say discussion of the governor-gneral of Australia:
It is very difficult now to imagine how Wulff will exude the luminosity that I had hoped of him.
It does raise the question of how best to appoint and remove a ceremonial president. On the face of it comparing cases like Ireland where the president is popularly elected and Germany and Australia where the president is indirectly elected, indirect election does not always seem to work well. Since 1972 two governors-general of Australia (and 2 state governors) have been forced to leave early by public opinion. I am not aware of that happening with any Irish presidents.
In the Berlin legislative elections yesterday, the Pirate Party won seats for the first time. Its planks include copyright reform and free public transport and wifi. It won 8.9% of the vote. Very timely, given that today is International Talk Like a Pirate Day. As the Pirates take up their seats in the city-state parliament, will they heed the advice “All hope abandon, ye who enter here”?
The run of terrible election results for the Free Democrats (FDP)–the junior partner in the federal coalition–has continued. It won 1.8% of the vote, meaning it will have no seats. In the last Berlin election it had 7.8%. Earlier this month, the FDP also fell below the threshold in Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania. And in other state elections in March, it suffered the same fate in Rhineland-Pomerania and narrowly remained above the threshold in Baden-Wurttemberg.
The outgoing government of Berlin was a coalition of the Social Democrats (SPD) and the Left Party. The SPD won 28.3% in this election and remains the largest party. However, the Left Party, with 11.7%, lost sufficient support as to leave the combine below 50%. The Greens, on the other hand, gained considerably, winning 17.6% (up from 13.1%). A new SPD-Green government would thus seem the most likely result. Arr!
The run of bad election results for the party of German federal leader, Angela Merkel, continues. Her Christian Democrats (CDU) lost over five percentage points in the party vote, relative to the 2006 election, in state parliamentary elections in Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania. The Free Democrats (FDP), the CDU’s partner in the federal coalition, suffered an even more dramatic fall. With only 2.7%, down from 9.6%, they will have no seats now in the state’s parliament.
The big winners were the Social Democrats (SPD), with 35.7% (up from 30.2%) and the Greens, with 8.4% (3.4). The Left Party gained slightly (18.4, from 16.8). The neo-nazi NPD dropped a bit (6.0, from 7.3) but remains in the parliament.
The combined seat total of the SPD (28) and Greens (6) remains short of a majority in the 71-seat assembly. Thus a coalition of the SPD and Greens would be a minority government, and would need a working arrangement with the Left (or the CDU). The current government is a grand coalition of the SPD and CDU; Spiegel states that this arrangement is likely to continue. Maybe, but after the last election, those two parties were almost tied in seats (23 SPD, 22 CDU). With such a big swing against the CDU and to the SPD, one wonders whether the rank-and-file of either party will want to remain in a grand coalition.
(A sidebar to the last-linked item says that there is no 5% threshold at the local level, and it appears that the NPD will be represented now in “virtually all” the state’s district councils.)
In response to a query about a challenge to Germany’s electoral law, Espen Bjerke has the following reply. (All of what follows is from Espen.)
It seems the deadline to fix the problem of “negative vote-values” will be missed, meaning that Germany will be without a valid electoral law starting 1 July. The deadline was imposed by the Constitutional Court three years ago when it ruled against that inherent paradox.
From what I just read it seems the problem is that the CDU wants to keep its current advantage but has been unable to come up with changes that would be constitutional as well as practical. The coalition parties say they will introduce something after the summer break, so that this rather Merkelian disarray is ended.
For those who read some German, wahlrecht.de is probably the best source on this, especially since they were among those who brought the suit in the first place.
It’s official, the Green Party has “won” the Baden-Wurttemberg state assembly election today. It won 24.2%, nearly doubling its showing of 12.5% in the last election. Via DW:
“It’s a dream come true… we could never have dreamed of a result like this a few days ago,” said Franz Untersteller, a Green party spokesman.
To say the Greens “won” with less than 25% is, of course, in need of some qualification, given that this does not even make them the plurality party. That would be the Christian Democrats (CDU), on 39%. However, the Greens edged out the Social Democrats (23.1%), and the “Green-Red” combo thus has a majority. That means the Greens will have the premiership in the new coalition government.
The CDU’s partners, the Free Democrats (FDP), just held on to their place in the assembly, with 5.3%.
In neighboring Rhineland-Palatinate, the FDP fell below the 5% threshold and thus will not be in the assembly. There the incumbent SPD lots its majority (36.1), but the Greens won 15.1% (up by 10.5 points), making a Red-Green coalition the most likely result there.
As noted previously, the Green surge owes much to the Fukushima effect.
The state assembly election this Sunday in Baden-Württemberg has a decent chance to result in Germany’s first state premier from the Green Party.
The state has been led by the Christian Democrats, the party of German federal Chancellor (PM) Angela Merkel, for nearly 60 years. The party has slid in polls nationally recently, down to around 33%, according to Spiegel. Among the issues contributing to the slide, in addition to a plagiarist ex-minister, is the government’s stance on nuclear power. It recently announced a temporary shutdown of seven nuclear reactors in response to the Fukushima crisis. In Baden-Württemberg, the political problem for premier Stefan Mappus and his CDU is even especially acute:
Mappus’ problems, however, go beyond his party’s sinking numbers nationwide. The Baden-Württemberg governor, after all, has long been a firm, even boisterous, supporter of nuclear energy. Last year, as Merkel’s government was preparing legislation to extend the lifespans of Germany’s 17 nuclear reactors, Mappus even went so far as to hint that Environment Minister Norbert Röttgen — a CDU party ally — should resign due to his reluctance to support the extension.
The combined Green-Social Democratic vote could be larger than that of the CDU and its partner the Free Democratic party.
Current polls show that even though the CDU can still count on 38 percent support on Sunday, it may not be enough to keep Mappus in power. His current coalition partners, the business-friendly Free Democratic Party (FDP), stand at 6 percent in the polls. The Social Democrats and the Green Party, for their part, add up to 47 percent support — three points ahead of the CDU-FDP alliance — with recent Green gains suggesting it may be possible that the party could claim the state’s governorship.* It that happens, it would be a first for the Greens in Germany.
The Greens and Social Democrats (SPD) are close in the poll, at 25% and 22%, respectively; the Green gain is 5 points in the past week (The Local).
The Green Party’s strength is not only due to Fukushima, as it has been gaining for months due to its leading of the opposition to a controversial redevelopment project in Stuttgart, the state capital.
If the Greens pass the SPD and the SPD-Green combo is greater than the CDU-FDP combo, the Green leader could become premier. That’s two “ifs” and both races are close. This will be one to watch.
Aside from some municipalities, is there a government anywhere that has been led by a Green chief executive?
* Contrary to Spiegel, I prefer “premiership,” as that captures the fact that the state executive emerges from and is dependent upon the assembly majority.
In North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany’s largest state, it looks like the next government will be a SPD-Green minority administration. The incumbent CDU-FDP coalition failed to retain its majority in recent elections, and the outgoing premier, Juergen Ruettgers, announced on Saturday that he would not stand for re-election as premier in the new assembly.
The SPD and Greens are two seats short of a majority, and will rely on the backing or abstention of the Left Party to sustain their cabinet.
Other outcomes were possible, and maybe even seemed more likely following the election: a CDU-SPD grand coalition, or a CDU-FDP-Green coalition, for example. But negotiations for such alternatives led nowhere.
Questions I hope someone will know the answer to:
1. How common are minority cabinets in German states?
2. Is this the first time outside the former GDR that a government has needed at least tacit backing from the Left?
Because states’ Bundesrat delegations are appointed by state governments, this will mean the federal coalition of the CDU/CSU and FDP will lose its majority in the second chamber.
Last week in Germany, everywhere we went in any city we were seldom far from a TV facing the sidewalk and tuned to a World Cup match. So it is a good thing that Wednesday was an idle day in the World Cup, allowing all of Germany to be tuned in to its presidential election.
Or maybe not…
There was no sign of this major event in the life of a democracy, aside from some special news coverage on TV–but not being played in the bars and restaurants. Of course, the reason for the far-from World Cup-like attention is that this was not a popular election. Germany’s president is chosen by a Federal Assembly consisting of the members of the Bundestag and an equal number of delegates from the states.
While there was a good deal of drama for those who were tuned in, the outcome was never in doubt, given the parties’ control over the delegates. That the coalition’s choice would prevail was a given because of the rule that stipulates that if no majority is produced in the first two ballots of the Assembly, a plurality suffices in the third round. However, given the nominal majority held by the Christian Democrat-Liberal governing coalition, that it went to the third ballot means that the government’s own delegates took the opportunity to give the coalition a bit of a bloody nose. In other words, the party control is not absolute, thanks in part to the secret ballot used in the Assembly. In the first two ballots, some members of the coalition’s delegation refused to vote for their candidate, Christian Wulff.
Had the election been by popular vote, the candidate of the Social Democrats and Greens might well have won. Joachim Gauck was a leader of the anti-communist opposition prior to the fall of the Berlin Wall. He evidently received some votes, especially in the first round, of Assembly members from within the governing parties’ delegation. He undoubtedly would have received many more votes from actual voters who favored these parties at the last general election if there had been a popular presidential election.
Then again, had the vote been popular, it is unlikely that Wulff would have been the conservative-liberal candidate. A career “insider” with little national profile, he is the sort of candidate parties often nominate to top positions in parliamentary democracies, but who are less likely to be selected when elections for an executive position are direct.
The opposition, on the other hand, essentially treated the contest as a de-facto popular vote. And it might have worked, but it would have required the Left party delegates to withdraw their own candidate. Given that the Left party is made up in part of the remnants of the old Communists against whom Gauk mobilized during the 1980s, that was never a realistic option. By nominating Gauck, however, the SPD and Greens succeeded in sending a strong signal to the nation of how unreconstructed the Left Party is. It would not join a broad left coalition to elect a popular “outsider” against the candidate of an unpopular government, even for the mostly ceremonial post of Germany’s presidency. Presumably, a large chunk of Left voters would have gone for Gauck in a popular runoff. In that sense, the SPD and Greens pulled off a big symbolic victory against their Left rivals even if they lost the election itself.
The whole contest also suggests that the electoral process for Germany’s head of state perhaps now has failed to maintain the delicate balance for which it was designed: being neither a simple ratification of the sitting government’s candidate nor an open popularity contest. This is a theme that I see some members of the F&V community have already begun discussing at an earlier thread.
If by my laws you walk, and my commands you keep, and observe them,
then I will give-forth your rains in their set-time,
so that the earth gives-forth its yield
and the trees of the field give-forth their fruit.
--Vayikra 26: 3-4