Monday, 28 March 2011

Elections ...

The elections yesterday have certainly proved interesting. I'm not speaking of the outcome, that was pretty clearly going to deliver some changes, what I don't think the main parties here welcomed was the "Green Bounce" I suspect the fear and uncertainlty the nuclear disaster in Japan has induced.

It was a very interesting experience for me, as a first time voter in the German system - yes, as an EU citizen I have a vote in the local elections, more than one as it turns out. I found myself wrestling with several ballot papers, one of which was as large as a Bradsheet newspaper. On this one I had a choice to make for 61 candidates from six Parties and a group of Independents. While this may sound a ridiculously large number of votes to those used to the One Cross and first past the post system in the UK, the Germans actually prepare you pretty well for it. A dummy ballot paper was sent to me four weeks ago and the various Parties all sent their candidate biographies and their manifesto outlines well in advance so I went into the Polling Station actually with a fairly good idea of who I would be voting for.

A second large ballot paper also had the several parties candidates in columns, and on this one I had to select 45 candidates - again with a good idea of who I wanted and why. Another, for the local Community Council was much simpler and again I had a wide choice against which to make five crosses.

OK, it took me a while to fill in my forms, but for the first time in a long while I had the feeling that I - and every other voter - was getting a chance to actually make some informed and useful choices. Under this system I can select several candidates across the parties. It isn't a case of voting for the one candidate the one party has selected, take it or leave it. Most of the Parties here have something I agree with so my choices are based on what I think the individulas standing for election might be able to contribute that will benefit the community they wish to represent.

Yes, there is still an element of ignorance and voting for one party only no matter what here, but what is absent is the lurching from left to right and back again as one Party dominates another and the ideology swings with the change. Because this system produces coalitions rather than majorities, the lurches tend to be smoothed out - and the system means that every vote actually counts, not just those who voted for the winner.

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