Joachim Steffens - German General Elections

Tue, Sep 10th 2013 at 12:00 am - 12:00 am

Guest Speaker Rn Joachim Steffens on the German General Elections

Rn Joachim talked about the electoral system in Germany.


On 22 September the German electorate will vote for the members of parliament of the Bundestag (Federal Parliament) to be elected for four years. The electorate has two votes, one vote for the candidate in their constituency and one for the party. Unlike the first-past-the-post system in the UK, the German voting concept is the Proportional Representation, developed in 1878 by Victor D'Hondt, a Belgian mathematician. It means if a party gets 30 % of the votes it would also get (roughly) 30 % of the seats in the Bundestag. This system is also used in most countries in Europe and at the European Parliament election.


Under the German fundamental law there is a threshold of a set minimum of 5 % to receive any seats. Who are the political parties and what do the polls say?


According to a recent poll CDU/CSU (commonly referred to as Merkel-Party) would gain 39 % and become the largest party, but it will not reach an overall majority to form a government on its own. SPD (centre left) at 28 %, Greens 11, Left Party 8, FDP 4. There are also smaller parties that may not reach the 5 % hurdle. Another unknown factor is a new anti-Euro Party, called AfD.


The figures and history show Germany needs a coalition government. Possible alliances are the continuation of the CDU/CSU/FDP government, provided FDP exceeds 5 % through tactical voting. Another alternative is a so called grand coalition of CDU/CSU/SPD, that would command a huge 2/3 majority. CDU and Greens together could reach 50% (all according to the polls). A coalition of SPD/Left/Greens would make up 45 % and if they would come ahead of CDU/FDP that would mean a change of government and the end for Mrs. Merkel as Chancellor.


These poll figures for the competing fractions are to close to call. However citizens can use tactical voting, meaning to give the first vote to the favourite candidate and the second vote to strengthen the support for their favourite coalition party, as we have seen at the election four years ago.

Voting takes place on a Sunday and polls will close at 6 pm. (CEST). A few minutes later there will be the exit poll results, which should provide a fairly accurate picture.

Once the results have been confirmed, the German President will then ask the chairman of the leading party to form a government. The Chancellor will be elected by the Members of Parliament, who then will appoint his/her Cabinet.


Juergen Schuhmacher


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