Emily Sieg, Guest Writer
Ideology: Social Democrat | Writing From: George Washington University
Schwarz-Gelb verhindern! Prevent Black and Yellow!
That was the slogan for the Green party. And that slogan fell through.
In the recent German elections, the CDU/CSU (Black) and FDP (Yellow) gained enough representatives in the Bundestag to form a majority government coalition. Instead of the center grand coalition between the SPD (Red) and CDU, Angela Merkel may now rule over a center-right coalition. Yet this is not necessarily good news for Mrs. Merkel.
The CDU and their permanent partner CSU have lost popularity, even if their representation in the Bundestag has increased. The German voting system requires that each voter vote twice. Since the Bundestag is divided between directly elected officials and proportional representation, the first vote must go towards an individual and the second towards a political party.
Looking at the votes, the CDU/CSU lost roughly 1% of their first votes and 1% of their second votes. These may seem like modest decreases, but somehow their representation increased by 2%. Now again, these figures may not seem like much, but the CDUs new partner, the FDP, increased their own representation by 5%. Even the CDU’s sister, CSU of Bavaria, which usually attains 49% of the second vote in that state, only received 43% in the recent elections. This seemingly minor shift in votes enabled the remnants of the Communist East German political system, Die Linke (Deep Red), to be elected in the conservative heartland of Oktoberfest and Lederhosen. In a political system of five prominent parties, little fluctuations in the vote make a big difference.
However, if anyone is interested in big numbers, look at the SPD. Representation in the Bundestag decreased by 76 people, a net reduction of 12%. They lost 10% of their first votes and 11% of their second. The results are so extreme and downright tragic, that a follow-up article would be necessary to explain them. Let it suffice, that anyone who might have voted for the SPD and did not, gave his vote to a third party.
Given that the CDU lost votes, but gained representation and that the SPD lost more seats in the Bundestag than they did votes, it is necessary to explain how this may have happened. Typically one would hope that other left parties would use their first vote on the SPD just to avoid a CDU candidate from getting elected. In fact, it seems that the Green party instructed its members to do so by means of their slogan: block the Black and Yellow! Yet instead, left, non-SPD voters often voted for their own candidates, who could not withstand direct competition with CDU or FDP. Consider the analogy of voting for the Green Party in the United States: one is ultimately just taking a vote away from the Democrats, because a Green candidate cannot stand for election against a Republican head-on, whereas their more like-minded Democrat could. The left votes were divided: and hence the structure of the current Bundestag, directly favoring the FDP and CDU.
But all this talk of percentages has put a real damper on the elections. There are heroes of all this, particularly for the Socialists and the laissez-faire Liberals. Guido Westerwelle, as the head of the Liberal Party, has enabled a significant increase of FDP representation. His organization of the party managed to take votes away from the CDU and even from the SPD. And as a free-market advocate, his success is even more shocking considering the financial crisis, in which mismanaged mortgage and speculation systems, in addition to the greed of bonus-grabbing CEOs, are portrayed as the causes of the poor man’s unemployment. Essentially, amidst the rotten fruits of unregulated business, the free market Westerwelle has gained strength. Consider however, the opposite case: Oskar Lafontaine, the leader of Die Linke. Through his leadership, the former East German communist party has not only done well in the former East, but made headway in the West, and as mentioned, even in Bavaria. The Left’s presence in Berlin has increased by 22 delegates. Lastly, and not to be left out, the Greens under Jürgen Trittin also made a modest proportional increase of 17 representatives in the Bundestag.
So why should any of this bother Angela Merkel? She is still the chancellor. She acquired the center-right coalition that she desired. But, she is the head of a government that is becoming more fractionalized. The fall of the SPD could strike the CDU in the future. Working with the FDP, Merkel will have to throw away some of the social clothes that she stole from the SPD and start governing like a real conservative. Whether she will actually want to take the party back towards the right has yet to be seen. She has recently shown hesitation regarding some of Mr. Westerwelle’s tax and business regulation proposals. It certainly should not please her that the smaller parties including the FDP, Greens and Linke are constantly gaining ground at the expense of the traditional people’s parties: the CDU and SPD.
But, in any case, it would seem that her immediate problems are solved. May the future prove fruitful for the newly re-elected chancellor, Angela Merkel.