Bell Curve The Law Talking Guy Raised by Republicans U.S. West
Well, he's kind of had it in for me ever since I accidentally ran over his dog. Actually, replace "accidentally" with "repeatedly," and replace "dog" with "son."

Monday, September 19, 2005

SPD and CDU-CSU Virtually Tied in Germany!

Hi All,

You may have missed that there was an election in Germany over the weekend. Apparently, the ruling SPD (34.3%) was barely edged by the opposition CDU-CSU (35.2%). The CDU-CSU was hoping for a clear victory. But a late surge by the SPD eliminated the early lead the CDU-CSU had enjoyed. The current chancellor, Gerhard Schroeder (SPD) is refusing to concede defeat. Given the overall results he may be right.

Here is the total picture:
CDU-CSU = 35.2% (225 seats)
SPD = 34.3% (222 seats)
Free Democrats = 9.8% (61 seats)
Left Party = 8.7% (54 seats)
Greens = 8.1% (51 seats)

So here is the reason behind Schroeder's statistician like claim of victory with a 1 percent deficit. The CDU-CSU (Christian Democrats, a heavily Catholic, Christian conservative party with factions ranging from "compassionate conservative" to "Mel Gibson") has been in coalition mostly with the Free Democrats (a secular, classical Liberal party favoring business and markets). There was once a CDU-CSU coalition with the SPD and there has been speculation of such a "Grand Coalition" in this situation.

Now, here is the situation on the left. The SPD (Social Democrats, a center left party with ties to labor unions) has been ruling in coalition with the Greens (a "new left" environmentalist party) for years. In addition, the SPD has been in local collations (on city councils etc) with the Left Party (used to the Party of Democratic Socialism which used to be the old East German communist party - SED).

HOWEVER! The German constitution REQUIRES A MAJORITY GOVERNMENT. This is important because if this election result happened in a country like Denmark, the CDU-CSU would be the clear winner. But in Germany the majority requirement means that there three options:

1) A CDU-CSU/SPD "Grand Coalition" with 69.5% of the seats.
2) An SPD/Green/Left coalition with 50.1% of the seats.
3) An SPD/FDP/Green coalition (Trafic Light Coalition: Red, Yellow, Green) with 52.2% of the seats.

The BBC is reporting a fourth option, a Christian-Liberal coalition (CDU-CSU/FDP). This is a traditional coalition in Germany. The problem is the BBC forgot to check the German constitution especially with regard to the majority government requirement. CDU-CSU/FDP coalition would only have 45% of the seats. Oops!

The FDP has been in coalition with the SPD and I believe has even worked with the Greens at the local level. But the FDP is a party much like the Libertarians here in the USA. They may not like working with the Greens on the national stage. But they've been out of government for a long time after being in nearly every government since World War II so...

So you see the problem. While the CDU-CSU won the plurality of the votes, the left over all won the majority. That means that, unless the FDP comes out and says they'll work with the Greens, Scrhoeder is in the drivers' seat. He can choose which coalition he wants: a left coalition with the Greens and the former East German Communists, or a Grand Coalition with the Christian Democrats. Schroeder has been an advocate of reforms that were often opposed by the Left Party. The CDU-CSU has been taking the position that Schroeder hasn't gone far enough. From a policy point of view, the Grand Coalition makes the most sense. But would Schroeder give up his position as chancellor to get such a coalition?

Let the games begin!!


Dr. Strangelove said...

According to what I found, the situation isn't quite settled... Dresden has yet to vote (it will do so Oct 2., local elections having been canceled due to a death), and then there's something called "overhang" seats which I don't quite understand. Anyhow, apparently 3 seats might be up for grabs. It ain't over yet.

Oh, and Der Spiegel notes that 51% of Germans voted for left-of-center parties, which they said was "hardly a mandate" for Merkel.

Anonymous said...

And some of us Americans think our elections are screwy. Never understood the parlimentary system. I suppose it proves you can get used to anything. 

// posted by Ronald Rington

Anonymous said...

I assume there is some provision for re-voting? 

// posted by Law Talking Guy

Anonymous said...

RE: Overhang Seats. The Germans each cast two votes. One vote is for a local district rep (just like we vote for House Reps in the USA). The other vote is for a party. The district votes are all counted the way we count ours: plurality wins the seat. But the party votes are counted using proportional representation. Complicating things, the seat shares for each party MUST equal their vote share exactly. Since there is a 5% minimum for any seats at all, the votes that went to the small parties that don't make the minimum must be realocated to the other parties - in proportion to their share of the vote. The bottom line is that the Bundestag seat distribution will look very much like the vote share numbers I found on BBC's website. There may be tiny differences but it would take a 10% gain for the CDU-CSU and the FDP either alone or together, to change the coalition situation.

Theoretically, no revote is neccessary. The only thing preventing an easy formation of an SPD led government is the refusal of any of the parties to work with the former East German Communists (The Left Party) and the refusal of the FDP to work with the Greens. I strongly suspect that before it comes to a revote, someone will find it in their interest to be more open minded than they are currently letting on.

RE: A Revote. Here is the relevent passage of the Grundgesetz:
"Article 63 (Election and appointment of the Federal Chancellor)
(1) The Federal Chancellor is elected, without debate, by the Bundestag on the proposal of the Federal President.
(2) The person obtaining the votes of the majority of the members of the Bundestag is elected. The persons elected must be appointed by the Federal President.
(3) If the person proposed is not elected, the Bundestag may elect within fourteen days of the ballot a Federal Chancellor by more than one-half of its members.
(4) If there is no election within this period, a new ballot shall take place without delay in which the person obtaining the largest number of votes is elected. If the person elected obtained the votes of the majority of the members of the Bundestag the Federal President must appoint him within Seven days of the election. If the person elected did not receive this majority, the Federal President must within even days either appoint him or dissolve the Bundestag" 

// posted by Raised By Republicans

Dr. Strangelove said...

Thanks for the description of overhang seats, RxR.

Anonymous said...

Oh, by the way, the number of seats in the Bundestag varies each election. They add seats so that the proportions come out exactly.

// posted by Raised By Republicans

Dr. Strangelove said...

Der Spiegel reports that German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer has now formally retreated from any leadership position. Said Fischer in a "gentle jab" at Schröder and the press, "The nice thing about this decision is that I don't have to deal with you anymore."

Fischer said he could not see how the Green Party could stay in government, and he renounced not just his claim to a cabinet position but also his claim to a leadership role in the Green Party. "I want back the freedom I traded for power 20 years ago," is how he reportedly put it behind closed doors.

If Fischer is correct that the Green party will not play a part in any coalition, then it looks like a Grand Coalition is the only option remaining--since apparently nobody wants anything to do with the faction representing East Germany's former communist party.

Anonymous said...

My understanding is that Fischer is quitting. But how can he enforce his own party's non-participation if he's not in power. BBC world news reported on the radio today that the Greens are currently in negotiation with both the SPD and the CDU. 

// posted by Raised By Republicans

Dr. Strangelove said...

Interesting news from BBC, thanks again RxR. btw, I said only that Fischer himself did not see any possible way that the Greens could be part of the government. I did not say he would be around to "enforce" that--but his opinion on the inner workings of the Green party still carries weight in my book.

Dr. Strangelove said...

Here's an interesting chart comparing the voting in former East and West Germany. Most parties were roughly the same, with two notable differences: the conservative CDU-CSU enjoyed more than 37% of the West German vote as opposed to only 25% of the East German vote, and "Der Linke" (The left) party had less than 5% of the West German vote but over 25% of the East Geramn--edging out the CDU-CSU. The East/West divide is still strong in politics.

Anonymous said...

Good point about the Greens and Fischer. Besides I think Greens are alergic to the very concept of "enforcement." They are still adjusting to adulthood after their founding as a hippie movement in the 1970s. 

// posted by Raised By Republicans

Raised By Republicans said...

Interesting. The CDU picked an East German woman as their leader specifically to get more votes in the East and they actually lost votes there. I guess East Germans look at more than the birth certificate of the party leader when they vote.

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