Unentschlossenheit Zweitausendunddreizehn
September 8, 2013 12:01 PM   Subscribe

On September 22, Germany will hold its 18th federal election since 1949 and the first since the European financial crisis. At the moment, the government is made up of the black/yellow coalition between the Christian Democratic Union and the Free Democratic Party, led by Angela Merkel, who have held power since 2009. The Social Democratic Party, The Left and Alliance 90/The Greens sit in opposition.

Every voter gets two votes. One is for a party list, the other for a direct candidate in the voter's electoral district. The party list candidates are allocated based on proportional representation, while direct candidates are elected on a first-past-the-post basis. All winning direct candidates enter the Bundestag, but to get list candidates in, a party must have at least 5% of the popular vote or 3 elected direct candidates. This combines to mean that, although 29 parties are on ballots in at least one state, only four to eight of those have a realistic chance of getting into the Bundestag.

Major issues in this election are the economy and the Eurozone crisis, jobs and work, and social spending. The polls have remained fairly flat since the start of the election, with the CDU hovering around 40%, the SPD in the high 20s, the Greens at about 10%, the Left at 6 to 8% and the FDP between 3 and 5%.

Major Parties

The Christian Democratic Union (CDU) are market liberal conservatives with a mild eurosceptic opinion. They exist in partnership with an equivalent party, the Christian Social Union (CSU), which only runs in Bavaria, where the CDU does not. Together, they are the senior partner in the current coalition and are strongly pro-austerity as well as favouring direct intervention in other countries to mitigate the effect of the Eurozone crisis. They are opposed to implementing a federal minimum wage.

The Social Democratic Party (SPD) are market socialists, and the second-largest party at the moment. They were last in power in the Grand Coalition with the CDU, between 2005 and 2009, and are currently stagnant in the polls. They are lightly pro-austerity and in favour of a minimum wage.

The Free Democratic Party (FDP) is a neoliberal party with a strong free-market ideology. They are the junior partner in the current coalition, but with the high end of their current popularity being at 5%, run the risk of not being in the Bundestag at the end of the election. They are in favour of austerity and market solutions and against a minimum wage.

The Left is the furthest-left major party in Germany. It evolved out of the Party of Democratic Socialism, successor to the East German Socialist Unity Party. They do not follow the general austerity consensus, preferring to raise taxes on high-income earners, and argue strongly for a minimum wage.

Alliance 90/The Greens are a party made up of East German dissident and activist groups, who merged with the West German Green Party in 1993. They were in power in coalition with the SPD in the Red-Green coalition between 1998 and 2005. At the moment, they are seeing their lowest levels of support since the last election, down from their peak popularity directly after the Fukushima disaster. They are in favour of completing the transition to using renewable energy, thus ending Germany's use of nuclear and coal plants, and encourage raising taxes rather than further austerity.

Minor Parties

The Pirate Party is a relatively new party, founded in 2006. Their major areas of interest are privacy, civil rights, governmental transparency and the concept of a guaranteed annual income. They have generally had between 2% and 3% support, but protest votes and outrage over NSA spying give them a slim chance of getting to 5% and into the Bundestag.

The Alternative for Germany is the largest of Germany's anti-euro parties. While they have received significant coverage outside of Germany, they also have only a very slim chance of having members in the Bundestag.

The National Democratic Party of Germany* is a far-right populist, anti-immigrant, anti-euro party, which has direct connections to, and shares members with, the National Socialist Underground (NSU). There was an failed attempt in 2003 to ban the party on constitutional grounds, and a second is ongoing, based on the party providing public funds to right-wing extremist groups.

* I have chosen to link to an article about the NPD rather than their website, because of not wanting to link to a nazi website in an FPP.

Potential Results

There are four likely results of the election. In order of decreasing likelihood:
  • Grand Coalition (Black-Red). If the FDP fails to make a showing, but the CDU is still the largest party, the CDU and the SPD may agree to form government together again, like they did in 2005
  • Black-Yellow. If nothing significant changes for the CDU or FDP, they may return to government with the same ruling makeup as before.
  • Red-Green. If the CDU loses support, and the FDP doesn't make a showing, the SPD and Greens may form a coalition government, though it is very unlikely that it would hold a majority of seats.
  • Red-Green-Red: An SPD/Green/Left coalition. Unlikely, even if it would shore a red-green coalition up to form a majority, as both the SPD and Greens have significant historical tensions with the Left and vice versa.
Bellwether Bavaria

The Bavarian state elections take place one week before the federal ones. While Bavaria has been ruled by the Christian Social Union for over 50 years, last election, the CSU was forced into a coalition with the FDP, their first non-majority since 1962. The SPD has chosen to run the popular mayor of Munich, Christian Ude, as their lead candidate, and shifts in the CSU's fortunes in that state will likely be used as predictions of the fate of the CDU federally.
posted by frimble (37 comments total) 37 users marked this as a favorite
 
Nice post. But which party is which color? Figuring it out feels like a logic puzzle.

Also, your Alliance 90/The Greens link in the first paragraph is messed up.
posted by nooneyouknow at 12:12 PM on September 8, 2013


But which party is which color?

CDU/CSU- black
FDP- yellow
SPD- red
Green- green (thank god)
Left- kind of a magenta? It's supposed to be red, but I think it's often a slightly different red to SPD's.

I'm endlessly amused by the different coalitions that get called what the colour combinations are. So the 'stoplight coalition' would be Green/FDP/SPD and the 'Jamaica coalition' FPD/CDU/Green (apparently Germans are expected to know what Jamaica's flag looks like).
posted by hoyland at 12:27 PM on September 8, 2013


In particular (with respect to Linke's slightly ambiguous red), red-red-green is the SPD/Linke/Grünen coalition.
posted by hoyland at 12:30 PM on September 8, 2013


Oh, and if anyone wants an explanation of how the voting system works, it's mixed-member proportional.
posted by hoyland at 12:36 PM on September 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


both the SPD and Greens have significant historical tensions with the Left and vice versa

As I recall, it's a little more serious than that; the Left, by virtue of being a straight-line descendant of the East German communist party, inherits the blame for some of its human-rights abuses. This stands out again now because of the parallels that have been drawn between the NSA and the Stasi.

(By "blame", I mean in the mind of the average voter. Given that there are German entities still paying reparations for Nazi-era atrocities, a simple "our predecessors were wrong" for events as recent as the 80s is not likely to provide much absolution.)
posted by Slothrup at 12:37 PM on September 8, 2013 [5 favorites]


Thanks for this. From British media I had formed the impression it was almost certainly going to be black/ yellow again.
posted by Segundus at 1:15 PM on September 8, 2013


apparently Germans are expected to know what Jamaica's flag looks like.

Well, it is the homeland of Bildung, where erudition is something not to be embarrassed about. Which is not to say that every German could enumerate the colours in any country's flag, but that the notable ones matching political party combinations or other useful contexts would seep into the body of common knowledge.
posted by acb at 1:21 PM on September 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


Lovely idea to have more than two parties to choose from.

I always get a smile on my face when listening to the US pundits claiming that Mr. O is oh so left/socialist (or worse). Now "The Left" is on the left side of the political spectrum.
posted by nostrada at 1:36 PM on September 8, 2013 [2 favorites]


It's not that odd to know what the colours of the Jamaican flag are, is it?
posted by dng at 1:47 PM on September 8, 2013


It's not that odd to know what the colours of the Jamaican flag are, is it?

Of course, not. It's basically green, with a yellow rhombus shape in the middle, inside of which there's a blue globe thingy.
posted by sour cream at 2:35 PM on September 8, 2013 [3 favorites]


Of course, not. It's basically green, with a yellow rhombus shape in the middle, inside of which there's a blue globe thingy.

With “order and progress” in Portuguese on it? That's the one!
posted by acb at 3:06 PM on September 8, 2013 [3 favorites]


>both the SPD and Greens have significant historical tensions with the Left and vice versa

As I recall, it's a little more serious than that; the Left, by virtue of being a straight-line descendant of the East German communist party, inherits the blame for some of its human-rights abuses.


I think it's actually more complicated. The PDS was the direct successor of the SED and never really got anywhere. Then there was a schism in SPD and some of the left wing of the SPD entered into an alliance with the Linkspartei (the renamed PDS). This caused some coalition-forming weirdness in 2005, as I recall. Schroeder wouldn't form a coalition with the Linkspartei, which maybe would have been natural policy-wise, but partly the SPD didn't like the people who'd left the party, and partly maybe if they ignored them, they'd go away and not repeat the electoral success. (Merkel made a lot of noise about not forming a coalition with them either, but that would surely have been a car crash coalition.) Anyway, there's definitely an element of the SPD and Greens feeling threatened by the Linke. After all, they're not going to pull voters from CDU/CSU or FDP.

However, Gregor Gysi, the leader of the Linke, definitely informed for the Stasi (though I think he still officially disputes that). I think it's still a bit unclear how unsavoury he is/was. He's not so toxic that they've had to remove him from the leadership, but he's not exactly clean either.
posted by hoyland at 3:32 PM on September 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


Didn't some Linke politicians recently make statements claiming that the fall of the Berlin Wall was a tragedy or something?
posted by acb at 3:50 PM on September 8, 2013


A lot of Germans had/have mixed feelings about the wall coming down. It came with big painful economic and social consequences that we didn't hear much about in the US.
posted by saulgoodman at 6:02 PM on September 8, 2013


Red-Green Coalition? Seven hours since posting and nobody's made a bad joke about the German government being taken over by Canadians doing bad DIY projets? I can't do it all myself!
posted by oneswellfoop at 7:35 PM on September 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


So, does Adenauer's social market economy still exist in any appreciable form? Or has his party, like so many other European Christian Democratic parties, gone the way of neoliberal economics, and become like shadows of the GOP (with muted neoliberalism and much less social conservatism, of course)? Whither ordoliberalism?
posted by Apocryphon at 8:04 PM on September 8, 2013


We've just learned the NSA spies on French diplomats, France's Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and the SWIFT network from the Glen Greenwald and Sonia Bridi piece NSA Documents Show United States Spied Brazilian Oil Giant. Apparently Germany already fears the NSA steals their industrial secrets so this might help the pirates, etc. Just maybe we've a more Germany centric mid-September Snowden surprise coming down the pipe too. :)
posted by jeffburdges at 8:15 PM on September 8, 2013


On the radio Saturday morning I heard some commentator suggesting that 'significant/(politically powerful) minorities in both the Green Party and the CDU are interested in forming a coalition...' Which I think points to how little anyone really knows.
posted by From Bklyn at 8:25 PM on September 8, 2013


Didn't some Linke politicians recently make statements claiming that the fall of the Berlin Wall was a tragedy or something?

That could also have been Die PARTEI, who also use as part of their mockery that the SED was, in the DDR, called "Die Partei" in casual speech.
posted by frimble at 10:31 PM on September 8, 2013


Red-Green Coalition? Seven hours since posting and nobody's made a bad joke about the German government being taken over by Canadians doing bad DIY projets? I can't do it all myself!

If the women don't find you handsome, they should at least find you proportionally represented.
posted by RollingGreens at 3:20 AM on September 9, 2013


Go Pirates!
posted by Meatbomb at 4:11 AM on September 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


Meh, the German Pirate Party destroyed their reputation with fierce infighting and will most probably fail to meet the necessary 5% of the votes to get into the Bundestag. They didn't even use the NSA scandal (a perfect topic for them, one would assume) to their favor...
posted by SAnderka at 5:47 AM on September 9, 2013 [2 favorites]


What a shame, I vaguely recall reading about their open source approach to policy platforms a few months back. They sounded revolutionary and excellent then.
posted by Meatbomb at 9:05 AM on September 9, 2013


If you are interested in polls, wahlrecht.de has a great summary of the most recent ones. In fact, they also have an archive for each of those institutes (if you click on the name).

For example, if you look at the archive for Infratest dimap, you can see how the Pirate Party went down from 11% in April/May 2012 to below 2%. Doesn't look like the NSA scandal had any effect.
posted by erdferkel at 9:08 AM on September 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


Just requires repeated attempts, Meatbomb. Good ideas are often derailed by personalities. I doubt the NSA will be magically forgiven by the Germans before the next election cycle. If anything, the all nations should try to infiltrate the NSA, CIA, etc. to learn the extent of the industrial espionage, which might stir up more messes. :)
posted by jeffburdges at 1:14 PM on September 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


The Bavarian election has been and gone, with the result being a return to CSU majority, with the FDP pushed out entirely and none of the minor parties getting in.
posted by frimble at 3:59 AM on September 16, 2013


Interestingly, this article from 19 August makes it sound like Merkel had considerably more interaction with the NSA than anyone acknowledged.
posted by jeffburdges at 3:40 AM on September 17, 2013


A round-up of the fringe parties contesting the election, courtesy of ExBerliner.

Bohemians and hippies and Communists and separatists and LaRoucheites, oh my!
posted by acb at 1:30 PM on September 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


First prognoses:

CDU: 42%
FDP 4.7% (out)
AFD: 4.9% (maybe in?)
SPD: 26%
Greens: 8%
Left: 8.5%
posted by ZeroAmbition at 9:16 AM on September 22, 2013


The Guardian's liveblog sez Merkel and the CDU might even have an overall majority of seats (though I guess they'd still look for a coalition partner)?
posted by rollick at 10:27 AM on September 22, 2013


Yeah, rollick, that's pretty unheard of since the late fifties. Wow. Not sure if Merkel will really try and do it on her own though. And if the AFD does go over 5% after all the seats will change again. Bye, FDP. You won't be missed (by me).
posted by ZeroAmbition at 10:45 AM on September 22, 2013


Last absolute majority federally ended in 1961, and the FDP gets to, I think, be the first party to get kicked out.
posted by frimble at 11:13 AM on September 22, 2013


According to the Spiegel coverage, after this election, the average voter's age will be above 55 for the next few decades.
posted by rollick at 12:33 PM on September 22, 2013


FDP gets to, I think, be the first party to get kicked out.

Not totally sure what you mean by 'the first party to get kicked out'. They're gone unless they break 5% or win a seat outright. There were some parties in the late 1950s/early 1960s that disappeared after having representation.* (I thought the Greens had slipped under 5% at some point, actually but they never did.)

*Though one was called Bund der Heimatvertriebenen und Entrechteten, which doesn't really sound like a name destined for long-term success, and then there was the bit where they were former Nazis.
posted by hoyland at 12:52 PM on September 22, 2013


I meant having representation in the Bundestag and then losing it again, and should really check rather than guessing off of things I remembered being told. Thank you for pointing out that it had indeed happened before.

As to the Greens, wasn't it them dipping below 5% that prompted their merger with Bundnis 90?
posted by frimble at 1:26 PM on September 22, 2013


Real-time results on this google map.
posted by rollick at 1:35 PM on September 22, 2013


As to the Greens, wasn't it them dipping below 5% that prompted their merger with Bundnis 90?

And I should read Wikipedia articles rather than just looking at the table of election results! I think what happened was the following. In 1990, the 5% mark was assessed separately in the new and old states. Unlike the other parties, the Greens ran two separate lists.* The list called Die Grünen in the west failed, but the list in the east, which was called Bündnis 90/Grüne, got eight seats (which I'm assuming are the 8 seats in the election results table in English Wikipedia). The official merger wasn't until 1993. I suspect if you asked them, the Greens would tell you they stayed in, but it was kind of in name only.

*I didn't try figuring out if everyone else technically had two lists. But the Greens had two separate entities, whereas the other parties had one.
posted by hoyland at 4:21 PM on September 22, 2013


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