Category Archives: Germany
Regional elections were held in the German land of Lower Saxony on January 20, 2013. The Landtag of Lower Saxony has at least 135 members, of which 87 are elected in single-member constituencies and the rest are allocated proportionally to parties winning over 5% of the vote in the state. In the German MMP system, the proportional element (second votes) seeks to correct disparities between votes and seats which may be created by the single-member system (first vote). There are additional seats in the legislature if a party wins more single-member seats than it is entitled to in the proportional distribution of the seats. After this election, the Landtag will have 137 seats, 15 less than the outgoing legislature, elected in 2008.
Lower Saxony is the fourth most populous state in Germany. The state is fairly important in German federal politics. Not only as it produced prominent national politicians such as Gerhard Schröder, Christian Wulff, Sigmar Gabriel and Ursula von der Leyen; it is also seen by some as a good bellwether for the rest of the country. Lower Saxony is a mix of rural and urban/industrial, Protestant and Catholic. The southern region of the state is a working-class Protestant region where the Social Democrats (SPD) have traditionally been very strong, in some cases since the days of the Kaiserreich. The SPD has always performed strongly in Hanover but also industrial towns such as Salzgitter, Peine, Wolfsburg (the home of Volkswagen) and Holzminden. In this regards, it is similar to the neighboring poor, rural or working-class Protestant regions of northern Hesse or Lippe (NRW). In the north, along the coast, the industrial harbours of Wilhelmshaven and Cuxhaven Since the end of the war, the rural and isolated Protestant region of East Frisia has also been one of the SPD’s strongest regions in the whole of Germany. On the other hand, the centre-right Christian Democrats (CDU) often win some of their best results anywhere in Germany in the rural and devoutly Catholic Oldenburg Münsterland, around Cloppenburg and Vechta.
Lower Saxon politics used to have a strong rural, conservative and Protestant regionalist movement, which existed from 1869 until the 1950s. At the outset, a German-Hanoverian Party during the Empire and Weimar represented the dethroned House of Welf, the dynasty which ruled the Kingdom of Hanover until it was annexed by Prussia in 1866. After the war, the German Party (DP) briefly carried on with this tradition, winning a few direct seats in the first three federal elections. In large part, this rural, conservative Protestant support has gone to the CDU. Post-war, the state’s politics were also heavily influenced by the Heimatvertriebene population (ethnic Germans displaced from the east after the war), who made up around 30% of the state’s population. The heimatvertriebene‘s impact of the state’s politics nowadays is more limited, but they have played a large role in the state CDU.
The SPD governed the state between 1946 and 1955, 1959 and 1976 and most recently between 1990 and 2003. Gerhard Schröder, who became Chancellor of Germany in 1998, was the state’s Minister-President between 1990 and 1998, he was succeeded shortly thereafter by Sigmar Gabriel, who is now the SPD’s federal leader. The CDU’s Christian Wulff won the 2003 elections, defeating a worn out and unpopular SPD government. Since then, the state has been ruled by a black-yellow right-wing coalition with the liberal FDP, the same coalition which is in power federally with Angela Merkel. The black-yellow government was reelected with a reduced majority in 2008. Christian Wulff resigned to become Germany’s President in 2010, but he was forced to resign from the presidency in disgrace in 2012. The state’s current Minister-President is David McAllister, a dual British-German citizen with a Scottish mother.
McAllister is described as a rising star in the CDU and a potential successor to Angela Merkel. As premier, he is quite popular – according to the exit polls, his approval rating was 68%. Like Merkel, who is personally very popular in Germany, his government itself is considerably less popular. A bit less than 40% approved of the state government. The SPD’s top candidate was Stephan Weil, the mayor of Hanover.
Education, particularly college tuition fees (the state is one of the few in Germany to still charge tuition fees), was the most important issue for voters in this election. 45% rated it as the biggest issue, against 24% who were concerned about unemployment and 13% about the economy. Family policies and nuclear energy closed the list, with 12% and 10% respectively.
These state elections have been painted as a first test for Angela Merkel before the September 2013 federal elections, in which she will be running for a third term. It was a high stakes election for the federal government, because Lower Saxony is ruled by the same coalition as the federal government (CDU/FDP). Most said that a black-yellow victory in the state would confirm that Merkel’s victory in September is a near-certainty, but a victory by the red-green opposition could indicate a more disputed contest federally.
As is the case federally, the CDU itself remained quite popular and its vote was holding up. The danger, however, for the CDU laid with its junior partner, the liberal FDP, which has been in dire straits for some two years now. Most polls, for now, show that it is polling below the 5% threshold for seats in the Bundestag. In government, the party had hoped to push Merkel’s economic policies to the right and promote its own low-tax agenda, but it has been outmaneuvered all the way by the Machiavellian Merkel, who is quite talented at shifting her policy to meet the current mood. It has been weakened by infighting, unpopular low calibre leadership at the federal level and a series of policy blunders and miscalculations which has caused it to lose most of its 2009 support to Merkel’s CDU. In Lower Saxony, the polls had shown the CDU polling well – roughly 40% – which was about 2.5% less than what it won in 2008. On the other hand, the polls showed the FDP hovering at the 5% threshold, which meant that there was a serious risk that the FDP would not get in. If the FDP had not passed the threshold, even if the CDU itself had done quite well; the red-green (SPD-Greens) would certainly have won a majority on their own. To ward off this possibility, McAllister and the CDU more or less openly called on right-wing voters to “lend” their second vote to the FDP, to allow the party to break the threshold and retain representation. A FDP clearing the threshold and a rather healthy CDU result would, they hoped, allow McAllister to win reelection.
Turnout was 59.4%, up from 57.1% in 2008. The results were:
CDU 36.0% (-6.5%) winning 54 seats (-14)
SPD 32.6% (+2.3%) winning 49 seats (+1)
Greens 13.7% (+5.7%) winning 20 seats (+8)
FDP 9.9% (+1.7%) winning 14 seats (+1)
Linke 3.1% (-4.0%) winning 0 seats (-11)
Pirates 2.1% (+2.1%) winning 0 seats (nc)
FW 1.1% (+0.6%) winning 0 seats (nc)
Others 1.5% (-0.9%) winning 0 seats (nc)
David McAllister’s incumbent black-yellow coalition was defeated in a race which went down to the wire and provided for lots of nail-bitting suspense on election night. The red-green opposition won 69 seats, the incumbent black-yellow coalition won 68 seats; giving the new government a one-seat majority.
The government’s defeat can be attributed to a wide array of factors. The SPD had a clear advantage over the CDU on the important topic of education, campaigning with the Greens on a promise to do away with college tuition fees. Exit polls showed that 45% of voters preferred the SPD on education, against only 33% for the CDU. Discontent with the federal government (which is not that popular, unlike Merkel) also played a role; state elections in Germany often double as opportunities for voters to register disapproval of the federal government. However, McAllister’s strategy to save his government by encouraging his voters to loan their second votes to the FDP backfired spectacularly on him and his party.
The CDU lost over 6% of the vote compared to the 2008 election, and won 36% – which is about 4-5% less than what the final polls had predicted. The loan strategy certainly worked out very well, given that the FDP not only managed to clear the 5% threshold easily but also managed to increase its support compared to the 2008 election by nearly 2% (amusingly, 9.9% is also the best state election result for the FDP…). The FDP has been able to save its skin quite well in recent state elections (NRW and Schleswig-Holstein in 2012), but in this case it owes its miraculous result to McAllister’s strategy of propping up the FDP in a bid to save his government. The exit polls confirm that the FDP’s ‘strength’ in this election came, in large part, from CDU/right-wing voters who voted for the FDP to save the CDU/black-yellow government. 91% of FDP voters said they could just have well voted CDU, 68% (!) said that their vote for the FDP was a classic “borrowed vote”. Only a minority of the FDP’s voters cited reasons which indicates that the FDP is their natural home: only a third of the party’s voters said the FDP was the party they felt closest to. One can also notice the nature of FDP second vote support by looking at the direct votes: the FDP won 3.3% in the direct votes, which in this case is down from both 2008 (5.6%) and 2003 (4.4%).
The result of McAllister’s FDP vote loaning campaign was that the CDU’s vote fell considerably and that the FDP did way better than anybody could have predicted. Certainly, the government was sunk by other factors, but the FDP vote loaning campaign backfired badly on McAllister and the CDU. It is questionable whether or not McAllister’s strategy, regardless of its actual outcome, was actually a good strategy. If he had not said anything about propping up the FDP, would the FDP have scraped together enough voters to clear the threshold? It is quite possible. The FDP was polling 4.5% or 5% in all the final polls, which would probably have been enough for it to save face. In addition, there were enough CDU voters to pull them over the threshold if they did not do so “on their own”. If the FDP had won 5% or so, enough to retain its foothold in the legislature, the CDU would not have lost 6.5% support; making the reelection of the black-yellow government slightly more likely (though still a tough fight).
Germany’s ‘vote transfer’ analyses are always quite interesting, even if they need to be taken with a grain of salt. According to the analysis for this election, the CDU gained 49k votes from 2008 non-voters, and 10k (?!) from the Linke. They lost a non-negligible amount of support to the SPD and Greens (37k and 20k respectively), but they bled a full 104 thousand votes to the FDP – strong movement which shows the ‘loaned votes’ to the FDP. The SPD lost 6000 votes to the Pirates and a more hefty 49k to the Greens, but they gained from non-voters (90k), the CDU (37k), FDP (20k), Linke (15k) and others (7,000). This means that black-yellow was also sunk by non-negligible direct loss of support to SPD (and Greens, as noted above). The higher turnout also helped the SPD quite a bit, the analysis says that they gained 90k votes from non-voters.
The FDP lost votes to all parties (even Linke?!) but the CDU, accounting for 42,000 votes altogether – but that was more than compensated by the loaned votes (104k from CDU) and some 9,000 non-voters who voted for the FDP this year. The Linke’s most substantial loses were to the ranks of abstention – 40,000 voters who had backed the party in 2008 did not vote this year. It also lost significantly to the Greens (17k), SPD (15k) and even CDU (10k).
The SPD and the Greens had a good night, especially the Greens. The SPD were not hurt by the SPD’s troubles federally in the past few weeks, after a series of blunders and gaffes from the party’s unpopular hapless chancellor-candidate, Peer Steinbrück. Its positions on education and family policies, as well as the relative popularity of its top candidate (Stephan Weil) helped the party increase its support compared to the last election, in which the party won its worst result in any state election. Nevertheless, in a longer historical perspective, 32.6% isn’t all that great – it is lower than 2003 (33.4%, a very bad result for the party already) and worse than every other state elections besides the last one. This reflects, in part, the Greens’ success. They won 13.7%, by far their best result in a state election (the first time they break 10% in a state election as well). Their support increased by over 5 percent. Nationally, the Greens have been benefiting from the uninspiring and mediocre leadership and opposition of the SPD. The collapse of the 2012 Pirate surge should also help them recover lost support. The lingering importance of nuclear energy in German politics, post-Fukushima, has also helped the party. In Lower Saxony, they benefited from controversy surrounding the proposed nuclear waste dump site in Gorleben (they won 20.4% in that constituency).
On the other hand, the Linke, which had won 7% in the 2008 elections (on the back of the SPD, in good part), fell below the threshold and lost all its seats. This result confirms Linke’s downswing in those western states where it had entered state legislatures in 2007-2009. As noted above, many of the party’s lost voters did not turn out, others returned ‘home’ to the SPD. Its brief foray outside of East Germany (and Saarland) will have proven quite short-lived.
The Pirates won 2% and fell far short of winning seats. This result confirms that the Pirate surge, which began after the Berlin state elections in September 2011 and lasted until the summer/early fall of 2012, is over. The Pirate surge carried over to state elections in Saarland, NRW and Schleswig-Holstein in 2012, but the party’s support has since collapsed. The Pirate surge was destined to be a fad, which still lasted for a surprisingly long time. It attracted politically disoriented or ‘homeless’ voters, non-voters, first time voters and a lot of more working-class youths who did not identify with any of the parties. Its surge was not based on any concrete political ideology, platform or ideas (besides the vague appeal of direct democracy, privacy and left-libertarianism). The party’s general lack of a defined platform and policy played a major role in its collapse. In the exit polls, 83% of voters agreed with the statement that the Pirates lacked positions on important issues.
Der Spiegel has a map of the results here. As expected, the CDU did best in rural areas, but particularly the rural Catholic Oldenburg Münsterland, where the CDU won over 50% of the vote – including 57.6% in Cloppenburg and Vechta. It also performed well in the Catholic Eichsfeld, and the rural Protestant areas between large metro areas. Likewise, the SPD’s support was quite traditional. It did very well in its East Frisian and southeastern strongholds, peaking at 46.4% in Emden (East Frisia) and hovering above 40% in its working-class bases in the southeast. The SPD performed quite well in Hanover, though its performance in other cities (Göttingen, Brunswick, Wolfsburg, Hildesheim, Osnabrück, Oldenburg) was weaker because of the Greens’ strong performance. The Greens peaked at 28.5% in the university town of Göttingen, and naturally their strongest results came from cities – 25.1% in Lüneburg, 25.8% in central Oldenburg and 25.3% in central Hanover. As noted above, in the Elbe constituency (20.4%), they benefited from controversy around the nuclear waste dump site in Gorleben. The FDP’s support was strongest where the CDU’s support was also strong, with some differences (they were not as strong in the Oldenburg Münsterland, though they still did quite well). Their strongest constituencies were some peripheral suburban areas, and a rural Protestant area to the west of Bremen.
What are the implications for the federal election in September? The CDU-FDP’s defeat is unwelcome negative media coverage for the CDU and Merkel. David McAllister, like her, was a very popular premier himself but his government was unpopular and most voters were eager for a change in government. Could Merkel suffer a similar fate in September? It is more doubtful, given that the federal SPD is not in the best of shape and their current candidate (Steinbrück) doesn’t measure up to Merkel. The CDU would like to insist that its defeat in Lower Saxony was due to local state issues, and does not indicate anything for the federal election. Nevertheless, her black-yellow finds itself in a similar position. Her CDU is polling very strongly (40-42%, against 33.8% in 2009) while the FDP is polling 2-4% support, which would shut it out of the Bundestag. The consensus is that she would form a grand coalition with the SPD; a red-red-green left-wing federal coalition with the Linke still seems a long way away. The disastrous result of McAllister’s FDP vote loaning campaign will scare CDU/CSU politicians away from endorsing such deals in September; the CSU has already said that it would not encouraging vote loaning for the FDP in the Bavarian state elections this fall. The FDP had some tense closed-door meetings after the election, ultimately Rainer Brüderle will be the FDP’s top candidate for the federal election but his rival, and incumbent party chairman, Philipp Rösler will keep his spot as party leader. Is the federal election more open than expected?
State elections were held in the German state of Saarland on March 25, 2012. All 51 seats in Saarland’s state parliament, the Landtag were up for reelection. The state is divided into three electoral districts (Saarbrücken, Neunkirchen and Saarlouis) and there is a 5% threshold for representation.
The heavily industrialized and largely Catholic working-class Saarland has usually been fought over by the CDU and SPD. The SPD, led by Oskar Lafontaine, governed the state between 1985 and 1999 until Lafontaine’s successor was defeated in 1999 by the CDU’s Peter Müller who governed without coalition allies between 1999 and 2009. In 2009, in state elections held a bit more than a month before the federal elections, Peter Müller’s CDU lost 13% support and ended up with 34.5% and 19 seats. At the same time, the SPD, which was in dire straits throughout Germany in 2009, won its worst result since 1955 in the state with only 24.5% (down 6% on an already terrible result in 2004). The SPD suffered a lot from the emergence of the post-communist socialist Left Party (Die Linke) in the home-state of one of its top leaders, Oskar Lafontaine. Lafontaine led the party to a dramatic result for the heavily GDR-based party in the western state: the Left took 21% of the vote. The FDP also did well, taking 9% of the vote. While a left-wing red-red-green coalition could have been formed with the SPD, Left and Greens, the usual problems with such a coalition combined by bad blood between the two main left-wing parties prevented the formation of a left-wing government. Ultimately, Peter Müller formed an historic ‘Jamaica’ coalition uniting the CDU, FDP and the Greens.
Müller resigned in August 2011 and was replaced by Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer. The coalition collapsed in January 2012 following internal wranglings in the FDP. Following the failure of talks with the SPD to form a Grand Coalition, snap regional elections were called. The results were:
CDU 35.2% (+0.7%) winning 19 seats (nc)
SPD 30.6% (+6%) winning 17 seats (+4)
Left 16.1% (-5.1%) winning 9 seats (-2)
Pirates 7.4% (+7.4%) winning 4 seats (+4)
Greens 5% (-0.9%) winning 2 seats (-1)
Familie 1.7% (-0.3%) winning 0 seats (nc)
FDP 1.2% (-8%) winning 0 seats (-5)
NPD 1.2% (-0.3%) winning 0 seats (nc)
FW 0.9% (+0.9%) winning 0 seats (nc)
The CDU ended up winning by a fairly comfortable margin, while the SPD underpolled quite a bit compared to pre-electoral expectations – the party was tied or ahead of the CDU in most of the last polls with roughly 34% support. According to the ARD’s vote transfer analysis for the SPD, while the party gained 7000 voters from the CDU and Left (and 8000 from the FDP and 6000 from the Greens) it lost 7000 voters to abstention – turnout fell by a full 6% since 2009 – and 3000 votes to the Pirates.
The Pirate Party had been the sensation of the state elections in Berlin last year, where they emerged as the fifth largest party with nearly 9% of the vote and 15 seats in the state parliament of Germany’s particularly left-wing capital. Berlin was a perfect territory for the Pirates, made all the more appealing by a terrible Green campaign. They took most of their support from young males who had not voted in previous elections or young left-wing voters who had voted for the Greens, Left or SPD in past elections. I ended up being wrong on the assumption that the Pirate Party’s success in Berlin would prove a fad and peter out quickly. The Pirate success in Berlin has had repercussions across Germany, with the party polling over the 5% threshold for seats in the Bundestag and registering support in a good number of other states.
The main reason for the Pirate Party’s success in expanding beyond their original base in Berlin seems to be the state of the German left. Pathetic would be a fair descriptor, as would divided. The Greens have fallen back considerably from their monumental surge(s) last year, as they lose some more left-wing young voters eager for a more radical and hip alternative to the Pirates. The Left is polling much lower than what it won in 2009, the SPD’s gains from 2009 probably coming largely on the back of the Left’s loses. Fortunately for the left, Chancellor Angela Merkel’s junior coalition partner – the liberal FDP – is in a state which is best summarized as ‘lol FDP’. The party has been averaging 1-2% at most!
In Saarland, the Pirates probably benefited from a local factor: left-wing Green voters punished the Greens for their unwise choice of entering a coalition with the right – a proven recipe for disaster for the Greens.
Exit polls are always interesting to analyse the Pirate phenomenon. The Pirates won 23% of first-time voters (27% of male first-time voters), and obviously did best (22%) with the youngest cohort (aged 18 to 24) and worse with the oldest cohort (2% with those over 60). As in Berlin, the Pirates also appealed to a not-so-artsy left-wing electorate (which are not Green voters): unemployed voters and working-class voters. The Pirates won 9% with the unemployed (against 30% for the SPD and 26% for the left), and 11% with ‘workers’. The Pirates, in this respect, have a wider potential base than the Greens, given that they carry an appeal to unemployed or low-income youths which the Greens certainly do not have.
The German tradition of vote transfer analyses is also quite instructive, as in Berlin. The party gained 8,000 votes from non-voters and 7,000 voters from 2009 Left Party voters. It took 4000 votes apiece from the CDU and FDP, and 3000 votes apiece from the Greens, SPD and other parties. The Greens had not done very well in the state in 2009, which might explain why their loses to the Pirates were less pronounced. The FDP, obviously, gained no voters, but lost a full 12,000 votes to the CDU and an additional 9,000 to abstention. The CDU’s gains from FDP voters compensated the CDU’s loses to abstention and other parties.
A grand coalition, CDU-SPD, seems to be the most likely option.
Legislative elections were held in the German state of Berlin on September 18, 2011. All seats in Berlin’s state legislature, the Abgeordnetenhaus or House of Representatives were up for reelection. There are 78 members elected in single-member constituencies through what is called in Germany the ‘direct vote’ while the remaining are elected through party-list proportional representation with a 5% threshold for representation (this is called the ‘second vote’). If a party wins more constituency seats than its overall size of the vote, the size of the legislature increases from the minimum 130 because of these overhang mandates.
Berlin is and has traditionally been a left-wing stronghold. During the Weimar Republic, Berlin, the industrial and political centre of Germany, voted heavily for the Communists and SPD. West Berlin was governed by the SPD between 1957 and 1981. Today, Berlin’s economy is dominated by the service sector. The city has a diverse and vibrant cultural scene, it is ethnically diverse (27% have immigrant backgrounds) but also quite poor as it has the highest percentage of people living on social benefits in all 0f Germany. There remains a marked distinction both socially and politically between West Berlin and East Berlin. West Berlin is more affluent, while East Berlin remains largely poor and its skyline has a lot of East Germany’s stereotypical plattenbauten blocks (especially in Marzahn-Hellersdorf borough). Politically, West Berlin is still rather left-wing but the CDU is stronger, the Greens are stronger while Die Linke polls quite badly (though it won 11% in the 2009 federal elections, it polled only 4% in the last state elections). East Berlin is far more left-wing, and Die Linke is if not the first party then surely the second party. It has won direct seats in the Marzahn-Hellersdorf area (and beyond) in all federal elections since 1990 and won 34% of the vote in East Berlin in the 2009 federal elections. Between 1991 and 2001, the CDU was the largest party in the state legislature and the government was formed by a Grand Coalition led by the CDU’s Eberhard Diepgen. In 2001, a CDU scandal led to the collapse of the coalition and snap elections which saw a massive collapse of the CDU benefiting all other parties especially the SPD (29.7%) and the Left (22.6%). A rather rare red-red coalition of the SPD and Left was formed under the leadership of mayor Klaus Wowereit of the SPD. The coalition was reelected in 2006, with the SPD gaining marginally while the CDU collapsed to another low (21%). The Greens did well (13%) but the Left lost many votes (13.4%). Wowereit, who is gay, is a key figure in the national SPD and is generally seen as being on the party’s left. He is a potential candidate for the chancellorship in the next federal election.
Given Berlin’s left-wing nature and the Green surge of 2011 in all of Germany, Berlin’s election was expected to be a close battle between the SPD’s Wowereit and the Greens’ Renate Künast. Berlin is the strongest state for the Greens, who won 17% in the last federal election (and 11% federally). The Greens also hold their only direct seat in the Bundestag in Berlin, in the constituency taking in the borough of Friedrichshain-Kreuzberg, a young, diverse and very hip district in downtown Berlin. Because the Greens polled up/are polling up to 18-20% in most polls, then it was normal to expect that they could be a very serious rival to Wowereit and be in good position to overtake the SPD for first place and form a green-red coalition (like that which won in Baden-Württemberg this spring). Polls between April and June showed the Greens either ahead, tied with or close behind the SPD in the race for first. However, Künast’s generally terrible campaign running to the right of the SPD did the Greens in and they gradually fell back from the highs of 27-31% to the low 20s and in the final days, down to 18-19%. In doing so, it collapsed into third place and generally at 2009 federal election levels – which is good, but considering that the Greens are not polling 11% federally but rather up to 20% is pretty poor for the Berlin Greens. Simply put, there is no excuse for the Greens to be placing third in Berlin when they’re on such an upswing everywhere. Final polling had the SPD comfortably ahead, with 30-32% while the CDU placed second with 21-22% and the Greens third with 18-20%. The Left polled poorly (11-12%) while the FDP, which won 7.6% in 2006, was barely registering – in line with the FDP’s total and utter pathetic collapse throughout Germany.
Turnout was 60%, marginally above 2006 levels (58%).
SPD 28.3% (-2.5%) winning 47 seats (-7)
CDU 23.4% (+2.1%) winning 39 seats (+2)
Greens 17.6% (+4.5%) winning 29 seats (+5)
Left 11.6% (-4.6%) winning 19 seats (-5)
Pirates 8.9% (+8.9%) winning 15 seats (+15)
NPD 2.1% (-0.4%) winning 0 seats (nc)
FDP 1.8% (-5.8%) winning 0 seats (-13)
Animals 1.5% (+0.6%) winning 0 seats (nc)
Others 4.7% (-5.6%) winning 0 seats (nc)
- West Berlin: CDU 29.5% (+1.8%), SPD 28% (-3.4%), Greens 20.4% (+5.6%), Pirates 8.1%, Left 4.3% (+0.1%), FDP 2.3% (-7%), NDP 1.6% (-0.1%)
- East Berlin: SPD 28.8% (-1%), Left 22.6% (-5.5%), CDU 14.2% (+2.8%), Greens 13.5% (+3%), Pirates 10.1%, NPD 2.9% (-1.1%), Animals 1.5% (+0.5%), PROD 1.4%, FDP 1.2% (-3.7%)
I am too lazy to make a map, but the offical site has some Java maps which freeze old computers, election.de has maps down to the precinct level, Der Spiegel has its usual cool maps and there is a basic map of direct seat winners here and a good map of list votes by party here.
Wowereit’s SPD won the elections but did quite a bit worst than originally expected. This is Wowereit’s poorest result at the helm of the SPD in Berlin, and he himself lost his direct seat, though admittedly his direct seat is a right-leaning place. The overall discourse in the days leading up to the vote was that Wowereit’s SPD was basically undefeatable and that it was almost certain that whatever happened, he would remain mayor and the new coalition would be a left-leaning coalition though with the Greens replacing the Left. Therefore, it is hardly surprising that the SPD ended up doing poorer than originally expected. There was little motivation for the SPD base to go out and vote given that the end result was basically a certainty. The SPD actually was defeated in West Berlin by the CDU, which scored minimal gains, which is nice for them but considering how low they were in 2006 and the FDP’s utter collapse is actually not all that impressive or surprising. In East Berlin, the SPD picked up six constituency seats from the Left, but otherwise they lost five to the Greens and six to the CDU.
The Greens did well when the result in set in a much broader perspective (it’s their best state election in Berlin ever, for example) but as aforementioned when you place their result in a narrower perspective and take in things such as the Green surge or the fantastic results won earlier this year in other state, their result is a bad result. They could have expected a much stronger result and at the very least second place. They did score five direct seat gains off of the SPD, the bulk of them in downtown West Berlin. They performed very well (30%) in their Friedrichshain-Kreuzberg stronghold (the CDU finished fifth there) and made gains across the board. But all things considered, it is a very disappointing result for them but one which they brought upon themselves with a poor campaign. They should, however, form a coalition with the SPD, a coalition which would have a tiny one-seat majority. It is unlikely that Wowereit will govern in a Grand Coalition and the incumbent red-red government has lost its majority.
The sensation here and the shot heard around the world was the shocking 9% for the Pirate Party. After the Pirate Party’s first shot in the 2009 EU elections in Sweden (7%), this is the second such Pirate victory in an election and the best result for a Pirate Party in any election. The Pirate’s strong showing was not entirely unexpected as some apparently think: the last polls had all shown strong support for them, with up to 9% depending on the poll. Their surge, however, was very late in the campaign. What caused the Pirates’ surge and who are “the Pirates” who voted for them?
If one thing about the Pirates in Berlin is certain, it is that they are very much left-leaning and emphasized the ‘left’ part of their left-libertarian platform more (stuff such as free public transit). Another thing which is certain is that they are a youth party: 16% support from 18-24s, 17% support from first-time voters. The Pirates, to put it simply, did well because the Greens and the Left did poorly. The Greens’ poor campaign, attacking the SPD from the right, drove its young more left-wing and radical voters into the arms of the Pirates who are very much a young party – the average year of birth for their MPs in 1977, over ten years after the average year for the others. The Left, which in Berlin is still very much a neo-SED party rather than a New Left-type socialist alternative (most Left-voters in Berlin are old East Germans), was in a state of disrepair in Berlin this year and the Pirates became an attractive protest option. A vote transfer analysis from Infratest dimap gives us a good guess of who the Pirate voters actually are. Most of them (23,000, or a quarter of all) did not vote last time and nearly as many (22,000) voted for other parties in 2006 – most likely the WASG (now merged in the Left) or the far-right. The 55% or so of Pirate voters who voted for one of the big parties last time did so for the left: 17,000 voted Green, 14,000 voted SPD and 13,000 voted Left. Only 10% or so of all Pirate voters came from the right: 6,000 from the FDP and 4,000 from the CDU. It might surprise some to see the little overlap between the FDP and the Pirates because of the libertarian leanings of both (although one is right-libertarian, the other is left-libertarian, both rather strongly emphasizing the first part these days). But in terms of voter base, there is little overlap: FDP voters are predominantly affluent suburbanites and not young radicals or young libertarians. Of the FDP voters in 2006, according to the same exit polling, most either voted CDU this year (30,000) or did not vote (14,000).
In terms of electoral geography, the Pirates do not necessarily have the electoral geography we might assume for such a left-libertarian party. Whereas we might think they would be entirely an inner-city party in the trendy, bohemian, young and artsy neighborhoods; they have a more diverse base of support beyond that base (the same thing can be seen in Sweden 2009, though the Pirate vote was remarkably homogeneous nationally between 5-8%). In fact, in Berlin, the Pirates performed best in the East than in the West (10 vs. 8%). In both cases, they performed better in the inner-city areas of east and west (12.6 vs. 11.1%) than in the suburbs (7.9% in all Berlin suburbs, east or west). Generally, their support is tightly correlated with Green support (performing best with 14.7% in the Green stronghold of Friedrichshain-Kreuzberg). In the eastern boroughs of Lichtenberg and Marzahn-Hellersdorf (edit: and Spandau, which is in the west), however, the Pirate vote has little correlation with the Green vote. While the Pirate voters can be stereotyped as young, left-wing, radical and artsy-bohemian types, some of their votes – especially in the East – are poorer unemployed youths who voted for the Pirates as a trendy, radical anti-system protest party. This type of protest voting from poorer, not too artsy youths is very similar to the broader European phenomenon of strong far-right support from younger voters. Exit polls show that 12% of the unemployed vote Pirate, as did 11% of those receiving many Hartz-IV social benefits (only 6.8% of those not receiving those benefits voted Pirate).
The Pirate phenomenon in Sweden proved to be a one-time fad (less than 1% in the 2010 elections), hardly surprising given that the 2009 EU elections took place right after the Pirate Bay website was shut down by the state. There is no such event this year, but it is hard to see the Pirates be able to become a parliamentary force outside Berlin. They might have a chance if the Greens weaken or lose some of their young, radical base by entering government federally; but for now it is hard to see them as anything else than a one-time fad or at best a protest party with a more stable base but not a true political force.
This election marks the end of a superwahljahr in Germany, which saw six state elections. The winner of these elections is the left, which is in good position to form a left-wing government excluding the CDU after the 2013 federal elections. The SPD governs five of the seven states which voted this year and is a member of the governing coalition in all seven state. Overall, in these seven elections, the SPD won 35.5% against 32.5% for the CDU. The SPD’s biggest success was the February 20 elections in Hamburg, where the SPD won an overall majority on its own and increased its vote share by 14% to win 48% in a left-wing stronghold that had been governed by the right since 2001. Results in both Baden-Württemberg and Rhineland-Palatinate weren’t as good: the party lost nearly 10% in the latter (that being said, it had performed abnormally well in 2006) and 2% in the former. Bremen and Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania saw good results for the SPD, especially the latter where the party’s vote increased by over 5%.
The big winner, though, was the Green Party. Overall they won 18.7% in the seven states. They entered the legislatures of Saxony-Anhalt, Rhineland-Palatinate and Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania. In all but Hamburg, they won their best results ever. In Bremen and Baden-Württemberg, they are now the second largest party ahead of either the CDU or SPD. In Hessian local elections also held this year, they became the largest party in Darmstadt. Baden-Württemberg was an historic election for the German Greens, Germany and the whole global green movement. With 24%, it was probably the best green result in any national or regional election anywhere in Europe/the world, and for the first time in Germany (and one of the first times in the world) the Greens took control of government. The performance of the historic green-red coalition in the state will be very important for the German Greens. Only Hamburg and Berlin are the disappointing results for the Greens this year.
The biggest loser was the FDP. Calling them “the losers” probably is an understatement. They took a massive thumping. They were dumped or kept out of the legislatures in all seven states but Hamburg and Baden-Württemberg. Only in Hamburg did they gain votes (+1.9%), enough to enter the legislature, but that was a byproduct of local circumstances and a CDU collapse (-20.7%). In all other states, they lost between 2.8% and 7% support. Federally, the FDP has been oscillating around the 5% threshold for representation in all polls for a year now. Their ability to win seats in a federal election if it was held soon is low at best after their thumpings. The FDP’s leadership is in perilous position. They won 5.04% in all seven states.
The Left won 7.45% overall. The results are mediocre. They held their ground (or lost or gained a tad) in Hamburg, Saxony-Anhalt, Baden-Württemberg, Rhineland-Palatinate and Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania. They lost more significantly in Bremen and Berlin. This isn’t all that bad when you consider the Left now polls 8% federally rather than 11.9% in the 2009 elections. It is still quite a break from the Left’s 2007-2009 winning streak when the ex-East German communists “invaded” the west by entering the legislatures of Bremen, Hamburg, Lower Saxony, Hesse, Schleswig-Holstein, Saarland and North Rhine-Westphalia (in 2010). They failed to enter any new western legislature this year.
If there are no snap federal elections in 2012 or any other early state elections, the only 2012 election in Germany will be a May state election in Schleswig-Holstein. Schleswig-Holstein voted on election day 2009, and thanks to CDU domination of constituency seats there was massive overhang (26 seats) in the CDU’s favour (despite it losing 8.6% support, it gained 4 seats). This overhang gave the CDU-FDP a tiny majority, 48/95, despite having lost the popular vote to the SPD/Greens/Left/SSW coalition. The Greens and SSW took the matter to court, which decided in favour of the plaintiffs and ordered new elections in 2012 with a new electoral law (cutting the direct seats from 40 to 35). The likely result seems to be SPD/Green/SSW majority with the Left hovering slightly below the threshold. The FDP, which won 15% in 2009, is polling at 4% and should probably receive another slap from voters. That should very well do in the CDU government.
It is a very, very dire time for the German right: current polls show that, in theory, left-wing coalitions including the SPD, Greens and Left would have enough support to form government in every state but Saxony and Bavaria if state elections were somehow held today. Even in Bavaria, the last poll shows that SPD/Green/FW could form a government!
A state election was held in the German state of Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania (Mecklenburg-Vorpommern in German) on September 4, 2011. The Landtag of Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania currently has 71 members (72 after the election), of which 36 are elected through first-past-the-post in single-member districts and the rest of which are elected through party-list proportional representation with a 5% threshold. The direct and list votes in the Rügen-I constituency was delayed for two weeks after the death of the CDU candidate before the election.
Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania is a large but very sparsely populated state on Germany’s Baltic seashore. This old East German region is composed of Mecklenburg, one of the few regions of northern Germany to never come under Prussian control; and Western Pomerania, the western region of the old Prussian Province of Pomerania most of which now lies in Poland. Mecklenburg and Pomerania were two predominantly rural and poor provinces. Following World War II, Western Pomerania was extensively re-settled by Germans who used to live in eastern Pomerania (which became Polish). Today, the region’s population is in decline and it is one of the poorest states in Germany. Politically, Mecklenburg and Pomerania are something of two distinct entities. Mecklenburg has a long left-wing history, being a strong SPD state since the Weimar era and maintaining that (more or less) since then, unlike Saxony for example. The shipbuilding city of Rostock has been a SPD stronghold since the Kaiserreich. Pomerania, in contrast, has long been a very conservative area. It was the land of the Prussian junkers, with little industry (except the navy in Stralsund). While Mecklenburg voted SPD during Weimar, Pomerania was a DNVP and later Nazi stronghold. To this day, western Pomerania remains a CDU stronghold at all levels, even though it is heavily Protestant. Angela Merkel has represented the Pomeranian constituency of Stralsund–Nordvorpommern–Rügen since 1990 even though she isn’t originally from the area. At the state level, the SPD has governed since 1998, first in a red-red coalition with the PDS until 2006 and since then in a Grand Coalition with the CDU. The Minister-President since 2008 is the SPD’s Erwin Sellering.
SPD 35.7% (+5.5%) winning 28 seats (+5)
CDU 23.1% (-5.7%) winning 18 seats (-4)
Linke 18.4% (+1.6%) winning 14 seats (+1)
Green 8.4% (+5%) winning 6 seats (+6)
NPD 6% (-1.3%) winning 5 seats (-1)
FDP 2.7% (-6.9%) winning 0 seats (-7)
Pirates 1.9% (+1.9%) winning 0 seats (nc)
Family 1.6% (+0.4%) winning 0 seats (nc)
Others 2.2% (±0%) winning 0 seats (nc)
The results proved an almost spotless success for the left. The SPD was reelected with an increased majority, and won its second best result in state elections since 1990. It is a pleasing success for the SPD, which after a very bad through in 2009 is starting to see its fortunes perk up slowly but surely despite the Green surge. A recent poll placed it at 30% federally, a level it has not seen since at least 2010 if not long before then. It finally seems to be able to profit from the federal government’s unpopularity. The Greens continued their string of success with their best result in any election in the state since 1990 and making their first entrance in the Landtag ever. The Greens are now represented in every Landtag. Even the Left, which is going through a bad stint right now with its share of internal divisions and the like, had a good night. In sharp contrast, the right was crushed. The CDU won by far its worst result in any state election, and lost nearly 6% of its vote share. More important and striking is the FDP’s utter and total collapse. The FDP had done very well in 2006 with over 9% in a state which is not particularly friendly to the FDP, so a setback was to be expected. But not only was the FDP thrown out of the Landtag, it collapsed to a mere 2.7% of the vote. The neo-Nazi NPD held all but one of its seats despite falling back slightly. Turnout fell to 51.4% from 59% in 2006.
The Spiegel has a nice interactive map of the result. The SPD won 23 direct seats against 12 for the CDU (in 2006, the CDU won 20, the SPD 15 and the Left 1). In the list vote, the CDU won only two constituencies. The bulk of the CDU’s direct seats are in western Pomerania.
The special election in Rügen-I is a funny situation now. The CDU’s candidate died, and its replacement candidate was dropped when it was revealed that he had been a member of the far-right DVU. He will remain on the ballot on the CDU line, but without the CDU’s support. In 2006, the CDU won the direct vote in Rügen-I with 31.6% to the SPD’s 25%. This year, the CDU held the Rügen-II seat with 29.8% against 27.6% for the SPD. It seems as if the most likely outcome is a SPD victory. The result will not change much: the Greens could gain a seat from the NPD if it won 18.5% of the vote.
Start reading my Guide to the 2011 Spanish Elections, all you’ve ever wanted to know and more about Spanish history, political issues, political parties, regions and more in one huge thing. Still under permanent construction.
A state election was held in Bremen on May 22, 2011. All 83 seats in the Bremische Bürgerschaft were up for re-election. The parliament’s 83 members are split between 68 members from Bremen and 15 members from the city of Bremerhaven, which is an exclave of the city-state of Bremen. A party must win over 5% of the vote in one of the two constituent cities of the city-state in order to win representation. This means that a party winning 6% in one but 4% in the other will still be represented. This year, voters have five votes which they cast as they wish in favour of candidates or a party list as a whole. Voters aged 16 and over are allowed to vote in Bremen.
Bremen, one of northern Germany’s most important industrial cities, has been a SPD stronghold for the vast majority of the last hundred years. The SPD has been the strongest party in Bremen since 1945, and was the strongest party for almost all the duration of the Weimar Republic. The SPD has governed in the city-state since 1945, governing alone between 1971 and 1991, but following an unsuccessful traffic-light (SPD-FDP-Green) coalition in 1991, a grand coalition was formed with the CDU in 1995, an election which saw major SPD loses and the CDU almost becoming the largest party. The CDU-SPD Grand Coalition continued in 1999 and 2003 despite the existence of a red-green majority, but following the 2007 election which saw the Greens win what was, until 2011, the best state election result for them (16.5%), a SPD-Green coalition was formed with Jens Böhrnsen as Mayor.
SPD 38.6% (+1.9%) winning 36 seats (+4)
Green 22.5% (+6%) winning 21 seats (+7)
CDU 20.3% (-5.3%) winning 20 seats (-3)
Linke 5.6% (-2.8%) winning 5 seats (-2)
BIW 3.7% (+2.9%) winning 1 seat (nc)
FDP 2.4% (-3.6%) winning 0 seats (-5)
Pirates 1.9% (+1.9%) winning 0 seats (nc)
NPD 1.6% (+1.6%) winning 0 seats (nc)
Others 3.4% (-2.6%) winning 0 seats (-1)
Given the left-wing nature of Bremen, nothing in all this should be too surprising. Furthermore, given the unpopularity of the federal CDU-FDP coalition, a third-place showing for the CDU and a rout for the FDP shouldn’t surprise much. But it’s still, as far as I know, the first third-place showing for the CDU in a West German state since the 1950s or so.
The far-right populist Bürger in Wut won 7% and one seat in Bremerhaven, where far-right outfits such as the BIW or prior that the DVU have always enjoyed relative success. There were interesting gaps between swings in both constituent cities, which saw broadly similar overall results. In Bremerhaven, the SPD vote dropped 0.6% while the Green vote skyrocketed by 9.8%; but in Bremen the SPD vote increased by 2.2% and the Green vote by a more modest 5.2%.
The state elections we were all waiting for in Germany were held on March 27 in Baden-Württemberg and Rhineland-Palatinate. Baden-Württemberg made history by electing the first Green head of government in Germany.
The southern German state of Baden-Württemberg is a traditional stronghold of the centre-right: the CDU has always been the strongest party, was held under 40% in only five elections, has held the top office in the state since 1953 and has governed in a traditional black-yellow coalition with the liberal FDP since 1996. The FDP has traditionally been quite strong in Baden-Württemberg, taking nearly 19% in the 2008 federal election and nearly 11% in the 2006 state election. It used to be much stronger at the state level in the 50s and 60s (when the party had a strong Protestant base). On the left, the SPD is generally weak but the Greenies have been quite strong in Baden-Württemberg, taking 14% in the 2008 federal election and 12% in the 2006 state election. The university and green city of Freiburg has been one of the Greens’ strongest spots anywhere in Germany.
Incumbent CDU Minister-President Stefan Mappus has been rather unpopular. The Stuttgart 21 project which aims to completely revamp Stuttgart’s central railway station through demolition of some old buildings has been very controversial and the Green’s opposition to it has helped them significantly. In late 2010, the Greens were polling extremely high (peaking at 36%) but their votes came down and risked falling back to third behind the SPD. But as the Greens were fading away and risked falling back into third, their second boost came from the Fukushima nuclear disaster in Japan. Nuclear power is very controversial in Germany and a major issue particularly in Baden-Württemberg which has a number of nuclear power plants. Exploiting the issue, the Greens shot back ahead of the SPD. The federal government’s attempt to open the nuclear debate was seen as an electoral ploy and FDP Economics Minister Rainer Brüderle was dumb enough to admit it in public. Green-SPD relations are very good in Baden-Württemberg, and the SPD had already agreed to an unprecedented Green-Red coalition if the Greenies pipped them for second (the CDU was taking first in all polls). And they did, and broke all records. Turnout was 66%, up from 53% in 2006.
CDU 39% (-5.2%) winning 60 seats (-9)
Greens 24.2% (+12.5%) winning 36 seats (+19)
SPD 23.1% (-2.1%) winning 35 seats (-3)
FDP 5.3% (-5.4%) winning 7 seats (-8)
Linke 2.8% (-0.3%) winning 0 seats (nc)
Pirates 2.1% (+2.1%) winning 0 seats (nc)
Others 3.5% (-1.6%) winning 0 seats (nc)
With 24.2%, the Greens won their best result in any German state election and probably one of their best if not their best in any regional or national election anywhere in the world (I believe the previous record was 22% or so for the Flemish Groen! in 1999). In doing so, they became the second largest party and because the left took 71 seats to the right’s 67, it will be able to form the first green-red coalition in Germany with Green leader Winfried Kretschmann as Minister-President. This isn’t the first Green head of regional government, the French Greens, for example, held that spot in Nord-Pas-de-Calais between 1992 and 1998; but it is probably the first Green head of government who has won that office by being the biggest party on the left or overall (the Green presidency in 1992 in NPDC was a compromise between left and right to solve a deadlocked legislature).
The Greens took nine direct seats. It won three seats in Stuttgart, two in Freiburg and one in Mannheim, Heidelberg, Konstanz and Tübingen. All of these places have universities of some kind. The SPD won one seat in Mannheim, seemingly in the most working-class part of the city.
A victory for the left is a major setback for both the local and national CDU and the black-yellow CDU-FDP federal coalition led by Angela Merkel. The FDP won its worst result ever (as did the SPD). The Left might have been a victim of the Green surge, as it failed to make any impact.
The vote in Rhineland-Palatinate wasn’t as much of a big deal. The SPD has been in office in 1991, and has governed alone since 2006 under Kurt Beck who has been holding the top spot since 1994. The state CDU seems particularly inept despite the state’s traditional conservatism. Kurt Beck is popular and is a potential contender for the federal Chancellorship in the next federal election.
SPD 35.7% (-9.9%) winning 42 seats (-11)
CDU 35.2% (+2.4%) winning 41 seats (+3)
Greens 15.4% (+10.8%) winning 18 seats (+18)
FDP 4.2% (-3.8%) winning 0 seats (-8)
Linke 3% (+0.4%) winning 0 seats (nc)
FW 2.3% (+0.7%) winning 0 seats (nc)
Others 4.1% (-0.7%) winning 0 seats (nc)
The Green surge even touched down big in Rhineland-Palatinate, where the Greens have always been weak. They broke through to win 15%, their best ever in the state (obviously) but also up there with the best Green performances anywhere in Germany. Aside from them being the clear winners, the CDU got a positive record out of this one but the SPD and especially the FDP are the clear loses. Kurt Beck, however, will still have a comfortable majority with a red-green coalition.
Religion seems to be an important divide on the map here. The Catholic areas went for the CDU, while the Protestant areas (and urban areas) went for the SPD.
Next stop is Bremen, the previous record holder for best Green state election performance in 2007. It votes on May 22.
A general election for the 105-seat Landtag of the east German state of Saxony-Anhalt was held on March 20. These elections were rather under the radar and not too suspenseful, because all eyes are set on Baden-Württemberg which votes next Sunday, March 27, in a very important state election.
Saxony-Anhalt is a rather artificial state with little historical tradition, being composed of parts of various traditional states, and people in the state feel little attachment to the actual state. All in all, the state shares the poverty and social problems of all other ex-GDR states, but is more diverse than we’d like to think. The north of the state is covered by very fertile land, whereas the southern Saal and Elbe valley with the old GDR chemical industry centered in Halle, Merseburg and Bitterfeld and mining areas is far more industrial. The CDU has been in power in the state since 2002, in power with the FDP until 2006 and since then as part of a Grand Coalition. A SPD minority administration tolerated by Die Linke, a setup styled the Magdeburg Model, governed between 1994 and 2002. Aside from 1998, the CDU has always been the strongest party in the state while Die Linke has placed second since 2002. The far-right DVU won a shocking 13% in 1998, but the far-right has lacked representation since 2002.
Turnout went up to 51.2%, which is roughly 6.7% over the historically low 44% turnout in 2006.
CDU 32.5% (-3.7%) winning 41 seats (+1)
Die Linke 23.7% (-0.4%) winning 29 seats (+3)
SPD 21.5% (+0.1%) winning 26 seats (+2)
Green 7.1% (+3.6%) winning 9 seats (+9)
NPD 4.6% (+4.6%) winning 0 seats (nc)
FDP 3.8% (-2.8%) winning 0 seats (-7)
The result will likely be a continuation of the old CDU-SPD coalition which seems to please both parties, even though there are the seats for a left-wing majority red-red-green, but again, the timeless issue of whether or not the Linke should be allowed to get their hands on the office of Minister-President.
The results are pretty mediocre for all three major parties, which have all either lost votes or stagnated. The results for the FDP are disastrous, and unlike in Hamburg they are in line with the FDP’s dire straits nationally. In reality, only the Greens can unambiguously be said to have come out of the election better than it entered it. Its 7% showing is its best showing ever in one of the party’s weakest states (poor, east German and industrial do not breed well for the Greens, normally). Given that the Greens polling well nationally is nothing new, it’s been visible since 2010, it is hard to say how much of this result is due to national circumstances and how much is due to the “Fukushima nuclear effect” in the wake of the potential nuclear disaster in Japan and the disastrous tsunami there. Certainly Fukushima has reignited the nuclear debate in Germany, where nuclear power is very unpopular, and where the Greens poll very well on the nuclear issue.
Baden-Württemberg (and Rhineland-Palatinate) votes next week in an election which is the highlight of German elections this year. The two questions in Baden-Württemberg are, first whether or not the CDU-FDP government will lose its majority and second which of the Greens or SPD will top the left-wing vote. If the right loses its majority in a traditionally conservative state and CDU stronghold (of sorts), it will be bad news for Merkel. Further, if the Greens top the left-wing vote (as polls indicate) and the right loses its majority, the Greens will have a shot at an historic Green-SPD coalition. In Rhineland-Palatinate, the SPD will lose its overall majority but a SPD-Green coalition is very likely to come out victorious.
Hamburg held a snap election for its 121-seat Parliament, the Bürgerschaft on February 20. The last election had been held in 2008, and resulted in the first ever black-green (CDU-Green) coalition at the state level. Relations between the CDU and the Greens progressively worsened and got really sour following the retirement of popular CDU mayor Ole von Beust in favour of Christoph Ahlhaus. The CDU-Green coalition was finally dissolved in November 2010, making for snap elections this year.
The industrial northern German Hanseatic city-state of Hamburg is a traditional stronghold of the left-wing SPD, governing the city uninterrupted between 1957 and 2001. The SPD won over 50% six times since 1946, peaking at 59% in 1966. In 2001, the CDU’s Ole von Beust managed to form a coalition with a right-wing protest party, the PRO of former judge Roland Schill. Schill’s populist outfit managed 19% and 25 seats in 2001, but collapsed spectacularly to a mere 3.1% in 2004. His party, in the meantime, had split and Schill had been booted from the coalition in 2003 though not before insinuating von Beust was gay in a revenge press conference. Schill has since fled to South America. The CDU won an absolute majority alone in 2004, but lost it in 2008 leading to the black-green coalition. Obviously, Ahlhaus never enjoyed von Beust’s personal popularity and he has further been hurt by the relative unpopularity of Angela Merkel’s federal CDU-FDP coalition. The SPD was led by former labour minister Olaf Scholz.
Hamburg elected a new electoral system in 2009 which is slightly confusing. The city is divided into 17 constituencies electing between 3 and 5 state MPs for a total of 71 constituency MPs and 50 city-wide MPs. Voters have ten votes, five to split between candidates or lists at the constituency level and the five others to split between candidates or lists at the city level. For example, at the constituency level, voters may award all five of their votes to one candidate, or all five to the entire party list or he/she may split it between different candidates of different parties. On election day, all votes are accumulated and seats are split between parties winning over 5% of the vote. Priority is given to candidates elected in constituencies and other most-voted candidates.
SPD 48.32% (+14.2%) winning 62 seats (+17)
CDU 21.94% (-20.7%) winning 28 seats (-28)
GAL 11.18% (+1.6%) winning 14 seats (+2)
Linke 6.65% (±0.0%) winning 8 seats (nc)
FDP 6.41% (+1.8%) winning 9 seats (+9)
Pirates 2.09% (+1.9%)
Turnout was 57%.
The map is a boring one, the election results are not exciting but they’re quite phenomenal. The SPD has won an unambiguous victory, an outright majority and the best result since 1982. The party’s vote has increased by nearly 15% since the 2008 state elections and by nearly 20% since the 2009 federal elections. This comes at the expense of the CDU, which has won a pitifully low result of 21.9%, its worse showing ever. It lost votes to the SPD, obviously, but also bled a good number of votes to the FDP, which won a surprisingly good result, even entering Parliament, which is good considering the dire straits the FDP is in federally. The Greens have certainly been hurt by their participation in black-green, which means that the Greens will now shriek away from such combinations. Considering how well it is apparently doing federally, a mere improvement of 1.6% over an election which was pretty poor for them (2008) is bad, very bad in fact, for the Greens. They probably bled some votes to the Left, which further cemented its position in Hamburg. The Greens also lost votes to the Pirates, who did well, and the smaller joke party Die PARTEI (The Party). Die PARTEI notably supports rebuilding the Berlin Wall and war against Liechtenstein. Both did well in areas where Greens do well. The SPD easily topped the poll by over 10% in every constituency, with its strongest results in the centre of the city (around the industrial areas in the harbour) while doing poorer in the wealthier suburbs at the extremities of the city which traditionally vote for the right but obviously abandoned the CDU in droves. For example, the gentrified Docklands-like HafenCity in the core of the city saw the CDU vote collapse by 34% (from 62% to 28%) with the SPD improving by 24.3% and the FDP improving its 2008 result by 6%. Such seems to be a good example of where the CDU vote went. The SPD’s top candidate and mayor-elect Olaf Scholz is a Schröderite on the party’s right, which might have helped the SPD considerably in picking up centrist swing voters.
The next elections in Germany are in Saxony-Anhalt on March 20 but the real fun comes on March 27 in Baden-Württemberg, where the Greens hope to form the first ever green-red coalition in a stronghold of the right currently governed by a traditional black-yellow coalition.
The German Federal Assembly, or Bundesversammlung, met yesterday June 30 to elect the new German President in a snap election caused by the sudden resignation of President Horst Köhler on May 31. Köhler unexpectedly resigned following controversial comments he had made, noting that Germany was involved in Afghanistan partly out of the need to secure trade and safe trade routes. Köhler had been re-elected by the first ballot in 2009. The Federal Assembly is made up of all members of the Bundestag and certain members of state legislatures chosen based on the composition of said legislatures. Each state has a varying amount of delegates based on population, and state delegates make up exactly half the Federal Assembly.
The composition of the Federal Assembly of 2010 was as follows, compared to the composition of the 2009 Assembly:
CDU-CSU 496 (-1)
SPD 333 (-85)
FDP 148 (+41)
Greens 129 (+34)
Left 124 (+34)
FW 10 (nc)
NPD 3 (nc)
SSW 1 (nc)
DVU 0 (-1)
Independents 0 (-2)
The CDU/CSU-FDP coalition, which holds a majority in both the Bundestag and Federal Assembly, nominated Lower Saxony Minister-President Christian Wulff for President. Federal cabinet minister Ursula von der Leyen, considered close to Chancellor Angela Merkel, was considered the front-runner but it seems that the CDU, for sake of party unity, turned to Wulff, a former rival of Merkel for the CDU’s leadership and major figure of the party’s conservative wing. Wulff holds conservative views on family and moral issues. The SPD and Greens nominated a well-known and well-liked independent, Joachim Gauck, a former political dissident in East Germany and head, between 1990 and 2000, of the Stasi archives. Gauck, a staunch anti-communist, is respected across party lines for his moral stature and past political actions against the East German communist regime. He also received the support of the 10 Bavarian delegates of the Free Voters (FW), a group which had boosted the CDU/CSU-FDP coalition to a majority in 2009 and provided for Köhler’s easy re-election on the first ballot. He also received the endorsement of certain state sections of the FDP, although FDP leader Guido Westerwelle said that the entire party supported Wulff. Guido often finds himself living in his own little world. The Left nominated Luc Jochimsen, a member of Parliament, who commented that the GDR was not a “state of injustice”. Despite them being common opposition partners, the Left protested the nomination of Gauck given how much the Left hates him. The NPD, neo-Nazis, nominated Frank Rennicke, who had also stood in 2009. He had garnered 4 votes in 2009, including one from the DVU, but the DVU lost its seat following its defeat in the 2009 Brandenburg state elections.
Polls showed that German voters would have elected Gauck by a considerable margin over Wulff, partly out of respect for Gauck and also a growing opposition to the Merkel government. The CDU/CSU-FDP coalition which the CDU had dreamed about in 2009 has turned out to be a nightmare, with bickering between the CDU and FDP and a general lack of leadership. The FDP has suffered badly for its incompetence in government, dwindling in polls from 14.6% in 2009 to a mere 4% (!) these days. The Greens have also seen their voting intentions rise dramatically to around 16-18%.
Here are the result(s):
Christian Wulff (CDU/CSU-FDP) 600 (48.3%)
Joachim Gauck (SPD-Greens-FW) 499 (40.2%)
Luc Jochimsen (Left) 126 (10.1%)
Frank Rennicke (NPD) 3 (0.2%)
Abstentions 13 (1%)
Jochimsen got 2 more votes than the Left’s 124 members. The coalition backing Gauck had 462 members, officially, while Wulff’s official coalition of the CDU and FDP had 644, 623 being a majority. Of course, Rennicke got only three votes given that any additional vote for him wouldn’t compute and would mean that a member of the major parties voted for the Nazi. That would raise some eyebrows.
Christian Wulff (CDU/CSU-FDP) 615 (+15) (49.7%)
Joachim Gauck (SPD-Greens-FW) 490 (-9) (39.6%)
Luc Jochimsen (Left) 123 (-3) (9.6%)
Frank Rennicke (NPD) 3 (nc) (0.2%)
Abstentions 7 (-6) (0.6%)
Jochimsen and Rennicke dropped out. Jochimsen urged her voters to abstain. 1239 votes were cast, while 1242 were cast in the first and third rounds. There are 1244 members of the Federal Assembly.
Christian Wulff (CDU/CSU-FDP) 625 (+10) (50.2%)
Joachim Gauck (SPD-Greens-FW) 494 (+4) (39.7%)
Abstentions 121 (+114) (9.7%)
Wulff’s election, which doesn’t mean anything, allows Merkel (and Guido) to breathe a sigh of relief. A Gauck victory on the back of defections from the CDU and FDP would have been very bad for Merkel’s image. David McAllister, of Scottish and German background, is the new Minister-President of Lower Saxony. He also holds British citizenship.
North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany’s industrial heartland, voted in a major regional electoral test for the federal government on Sunday, May 9. North Rhine-Westphalia is Germany’s most populous state, and is the heart of Germany’s old coal mining industry and other heavy industry, concentrated in the famous Ruhr region. While the state also includes some strongly Catholic or rural areas, the power of the Ruhr’s vote has made NRW a traditional stronghold of the SPD since the 1960s. The SPD held the office of Minister-President of the state between 1966 and 2005, and between 1980 and 1995, the SPD had enough votes to form a single-party majority government, and held power with the smaller Greens between 1995 and 2005. The SPD was unexpectedly defeated in the 2005 state election, due in part to the unpopularity of the Schröder government. In 2005, the SPD won 37.1% of the vote against a strong 44.8% for the CDU, with the Greens and FDP each taking 6.2% of the vote. The SPD’s defeat in NRW led to a snap federal election in 2005, which the SPD narrowly lost. Jürgen Rüttgers became Minister-President with a CDU-FDP coalition.
It should be noted, however, that prior to the 60s, the state, which is heavily Catholic overall (especially the former Rhine Province) used to be a CDU stronghold, remnants of the Zentrum’s strength in the region during the Weimar era. The KPD was also very strong in the region during the Weimar era, oftentimes stronger than the SPD, and the KPD polled 14% in 1947 (and Zentrum’s remnants polled 9.8% in 1947 as well). The decline of religious power, and the emergence of the NRW SPD as a strong party of social justice and of opposition to the CDU-FDP did the CDU in, especially during the 1980s, the peak of the SPD’s strength in NRW.
In the 2009 federal election, the CDU won 33.1% of the vote against 28.5% for the SPD, 14.9% for the FDP, 10.1% for the Greens and 8.4% for the Left.
2005 was a test for the SPD, 2010 was a test for the CDU-FDP coalition federally led by Angela Merkel; NRW is indeed always a major electoral test for the government in Berlin. This time, the CDU suffered some backlash from the unpopularity of the bailout to Greece, while the FDP has been struggling a lot in polls after their historic high in 2009 due to the perceived incompetence of their ministers. Here are the results (second vote, of course):
CDU 34.6% (-10.3%) winning 67 seats (-22)
SPD 34.5% (-2.6%) winning 67 seats (-7)
Greens 12.1% (+5.9%) winning 23 seats (+11)
FDP 6.7% (+0.6%) winning 13 seats (+1)
Left 5.6% (+4.7%) winning 11 seats (+11)
Pirates 1.5% (+1.5%) winning 0 seats (nc)
ProNRW 1.4% (+1.4%) winning 0 seats (nc)
Others 3.6% (-1.2%) winning 0 seats
Turnout 59.3% (-3.7%)
In 2005, the SPD had managed to hold on to but a few seats almost entirely in the Ruhr and a few seats in Cologne and eastern Westphalia. This year, the SPD gained considerable ground in terms of direct seats, clearly dominating in the quasi-entirety of the Ruhr and returning to its traditional positions in Aachen, Cologne and Westphalia although the CDU held on to all three seats in Dusseldorf, where a high Green vote likely explains a lot. The SPD has basically return to its traditional bases out in eastern Westphalia, around the Lippe and Herford, Protestant areas with strong smaller industries and an area of old Protestant votes, even rural, for the SPD. The CDU, even with a quick glance at the map of majorities, narrowly held on to a lot of seats, including two (or three, not sure) seats in Cologne largely thanks to a high Green vote there, Cologne being one of the NRW Greens’ stronghold. The CDU is very strong in the very rural Catholic areas around Paderborn, but also in the agricultural north. It is weaker though important in the southeast, which is more urbanized (and suburbanized in parts, leading to a high FDP vote there). For more results, the state’s mapping applet is lots of fun, but it only works, seemingly, on IE and not on Chrome :(.
The SPD’s victory kind of blurs the fact that they did indeed lose votes overall, making this electoral test for the SPD not entirely a success and a sign that they haven’t coalesced the opposition or the left-wing vote around them since their awful 2009 result. The last time the SPD was this low was in 1954. The SPD did gain votes in rural areas, but in urban areas, lost out to the Greens and Left. The real victors are the Greens, who have won their best result ever in the state, and goes well with the national trend of a slowly increasing Green vote in federal polls. The Left, which in NRW is actually formed largely by the old WASG – a group of left-wing dissidents from the SPD (Lafontaine was a member of the old WASG, of course), did rather poorly in NRW, which could be a fertile ground for them (and they did get 8% there in 2009). The Left did win around 17% of unemployed voters, but only 9% of ‘workers’; according to exit polls. The FDP, while technically slightly better than in 2005, is, with the CDU, the major loser of this vote, because the FDP’s vote is much under their 2009 level, which could be a better comparison than 2005 if the SPD didn’t traditionally perform better at the state level than federal or local level.
The SPD-Greens had hoped to win an overall majority, but it falls one vote short of the 91 majority. The most likely options are thus SPD-Green-Left, with 101 seats and SPD-Green-FDP with 103 seats. The unlikely grand coalition has a wide majority, 134 seats. The SPD-Green-Left outcome seems most likely, even though there is some bad blood between the SPD and the Left, which, as said above, is largely ex-SPD in NRW. A red-red-green outcome would be the first such in western Germany excluding the unsuccessful coalition in 2008 in Hesse. Obviously, an Hamburg-like CDU-Green coalition is impossible and the Greens refuse a CDU-Green-FDP coalition. In any case, this all means that Hannelore Kraft, the SPD’s leader, will be the new Minister-President of NRW. The CDU-FDP’s defeat in NRW also means the end of the CDU-FDP’s majority in the Bundesrat, or upper house, where the state has 6 seats. The votes in the Bundesrat are cast not by individuals but by state as blocks, and the delegates of the respective states are nominated by the coalition – meaning that a red-red-green coalition would obviously appoint Social Democrats, Greens or Lefties to the Bundesrat, removing the CDU-FDP’s narrow majority in the Bundesrat.