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ANGELA MERKEL’S THIRD ELECTORAL SUCCESS September 25, 2013

Posted by wmmbb in European Politics, Global Electoral Politics.
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Angela Merkel has been returned as the German Chancellor, and Christian Democrats will be the majority party in the Bundestag. Which parties will form government and how many members will be elected has not been resolved.

According to Speigel Online:

These figures will vary from the final count, but it is interesting to observe how the parties of the left are more fractious than those of the right,  and the support for the CDU has been consolidated with the drop in support for FDP. The graph gives a picture of changes in party support from the previous election. It looks like the vote for the CSU Bavaria) has been combined with the CDU  in this graphic. They are sister parties that do not direct complete in the same constituencies. Voting patterns in the former East Germany differ with lower turnouts and more support for the Left Party, whose vote increased, perhaps at the expense of the Greens. In 2009, the SDU had their worst ever result.

The distribution of the party list vote was subject to the ruling of the Constitution Court  in relation to “overhangs” which explains why the number of parliamentarians elected is not pre-set, and became a new factor in the election. The 266 local or district seats are set. When the votes for the constituencies and the party list are aggregated, given the 5% threshold. Angela Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union won 255 seats or 40.5% of the Bundestag members. The sister party, Social Democratic Union of Bavaria won 56 seats or 8.9%. So jointly the attained 311 seats or 5 seats less than an absolute majority. This means that the remaining parties have the majority. The Social Democratic Union won 192 (30.5%), The Left (Der Linke) 64 seats (10.2%), and The Greens 63 seats (10%). (source: Wikileaks – refer for more interesting detail of the full vote.)

Thus the result does not match the news headlines claiming the Chancellor “romps to victory” and had a “huge election win”. The real story might be that the parties of the left cannot get their act together to form a coalition.The open question is whether the Social Democrats will join as the junior party in a Grand Coalition Government. This will probably happen, according to the reports from Germany. For what it is worth, based on experience in Germany and elsewhere, this could be bad news for the junior party and the democratic process. The voters of the minor parties that do not share ideological understandings and policy directions find themselves having voted for a government they have opposed. There are the spoils of office, but such parties tend to lose support. The SDU has had previous experience.

Charles Richardson at Crikey makes the same point:

Grand coalitions are popular with a certain class of commentator; Der Spiegel, for example, reports: “Many of Germany’s European partners regard a third term for Merkel with the SPD as her coalition partner as the best possible outcome.” But if they become a habit they are deeply subversive of democracy, since voters no longer get a real choice. The key to democracy is the ability to vote a government out. But if its main opponents — the only ones who could offer an alternative government — are always up for a grand coalition, then that option has in practice disappeared.

Since the election on Sunday, the question is now who will form a coalition with Chancellor Merkel. Her strong card in this position is that if agreement cannot be reached, a new election will be called with the consensus that the CDU/CSU alliance will perform better. Then the question would be how much better, because a narrow majority in Bundestag, and so the same search for a coalition partner would made.

Deutsche Wella appraised the possible coalition parties. The view is that another Grand Coalition with the SDU  is the most likely outcome. But:

. . . a grand coalition could run into difficulties in the Bundesrat, Germany’s upper house of parliament, which represents the 16 states. The SPD and Greens have a majority there, one which seems secure until 2016.

Germany’s states will have an important say on many legislative initiatives. And the Greens could use their leverage in the Bundesrat to block legislation proposed by a CDU-SPD coalition government. Such a political constellation would prove difficult and demand a lot of negotiating finesse.

Elsewhere DW noted:

Now, the difficult time of finding coalition partners has started. Merkel’s previous partner, the liberal FDP, missed the threshold for entering parliament, leaving the CDU/CSU with only three options:

Theoretically, they could join forces with the Left Party. But this option is highly improbable since the conservative CDU/CSU parties are more to the right of the political spectrum and have virtually nothing in common with the Left party.

The second option would be a so-called black-green coalition. At the state level, this has already happened in Hamburg. However, this coalition failed after two and a half years in 2010. At the federal level, the CDU/CSU and the Greens have never worked together before.

One of Chancellor Merkel’s great assets is that she raised in the East. In that sense she remains a unifying figure, although it seems her domestic economic policy has tended to create social inequality. Then there is the attitude to Europe, and the proposal to save the Greek economy promoted by the SDU. One prediction that the imposition of austerity on Europe will be moderated in some way, either symbolically or substantially with a new Grand Coalition in running the German treasury.

One suspect that a system in which the negotiation for joint party government should be carried out before the election, as seems to work in other proportional representation election systems.

The Left and the Greens with 20% of the seats in the Bundestag may be left to be the Opposition, and perhaps they should organize a coalition.

An interesting interview with a leading candidate for the Left Party:

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