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Friday, 27 September 2013

The Shifting Tides of Politics ...

It is, for me, a fascinating study to watch the to-ing and fro-ing of the various parties here in Germany as they jockey for position to form the new government. One of the things I find particularly interesting is the prospect of three 'minority' parties (none of them polled a major share of the votes, though the largest, the SPD, got 25.6%) might, by holding out and refusing to join the popular choice of the CDU/CSU (41.5%) in a coalition, become the government. That to do this they would have to accept sharing power with Die Linke (8.7% of the vote) is sufficient to make me wonder at how politicians have nothing but contempt for the voters. Die Linke is, after all, just the rebranded Communist (Partei des Democratischen Socialismus and before that the Socialistichen Einheits Partei, Deutschland)) Party that ruled (perhaps misruled is a better term) the former East German State known as the GDR.

That's right, the Party that built the Berlin wall, spied on its population, shot those who tried to escape and still defend this on the grounds they were "protecting" the people from the "evils of capitalism" and western lies. Yup, politics makes strange bedfellows for the power hungry, and gives short memories.

The Four Patries that have won the seats in the Bundestag (minimum 606 but may rise to accomodate 'extras' due to the way the seats are allocated by the dual vote system) gives Mrs Merkel's CDU/CSU the lion's share of the seats (the system allows for the 'direct' election of 299 of the seats, with 299 allocated from the party lists on the basis of the second vote for a party rather than a candidate, plus an allocation of 'extra' seats determined by vote share. Thus the new Bundestag will have 630 members.) with the SDP having the next largest portion, followed by Die Linke and the Greens. As the voter turn out was far higher than I have seen lately in the UK, I would say the result is certainly reflecting 'the will of the people', but this is where it gets tricky.

The CDU/CSU doesn't have enough of the seats to form a government on its own. It needs a coalition partner to have a majority in the Bundestag. This is not unusual in German politics, in fact, I suspect, the German's like it this way. It means one doesn't get the lurching from left to right and back again every five years, but this time round it is extremely likely that the SPD will end up in power supported by Die Linke and the Greens, all three leaning sharply to the left. The Greens in particular seem to be trying to get as far 'left' as they can. Of course, Die Linke are rubbing their hands in glee at the prospect of gaining control of key ministries which they will demand (and probably get) as the price of their support.

The final seat allocation is as follows -
CDU/CSU   311 plus 13 allocated
SPD             192 plus   9 allocated
Die Linke      64  plus   4 allocated
Green             63 plus    2 allocated

The FDP (Liberal), Alternative fur Deutschland and The Pirates all polled below the magic 5% and are therefore not allocated any seats in the Bundestag. (Source: The Federal Returning Officer)

Of course, it could go the other way. Today several key players in the SPD seemed to be trying to draw back from a commitment made by their Chancellor candidate during the election in which he proclaimed he'd 'never' form a coalition with Mrs Merkel. Funny how that is changing as their grass roots have started to make clear they don't like the idea of supporting or being supported by Die Linke. There have been a few resignations from both the SPD and the Greens (all for reasons NOT related to coalition partnerships, but ...) and the noises coming from the Party leadership are now a lot less confrontational.

Similar machinations are going on in almost all the Landestags as well, Bavaria being the only one where the CSU won an outright majority.

As someone who isn't directly involved (though I will be affected by it) I'm finding it fascinating. One thing is for sure though, it is, in my view, a lot better than the system of winner takes all I've always lived with. Here at least, even a vote for 'the other side' counts. There are no 'safe' seats and no predictable outcomes. The people speak.

For now, I predict "interesting times" among the politicians in Berlin.

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