Europe 2009: Germany
Germany, which has the largest delegation to the European Parliament with 99 seats, will vote on June 7, along with a number of other countries. Unlike most other large countries, Germany’s delegation size will not be reduced, as it had 99 MEPs at the time of the 2004 election.
Germany uses a nationwide constituency with a 5% threshold for seats. However, there is a regional element in that parties may run purely regional list, multi-regional lists, or national lists.
At the time of the 2004 election, the Social Democrats (SPD) under Gerhard Schröder were the largest party in a Red-Green coalition. At the time, Schröder’s SPD was massively unpopular and trailed the opposition Christian Democratic Union (CDU) and its Bavarian sister, the Christian Social Union (CSU) by a wide margin. The SPD narrowed the gap with the CDU-CSU later and was only narrowly defeated by the CDU-CSU in the September 2005 federal elections. As a result, Angela Merkel (CDU) became Chancellor of a Grand Coalition government with the SPD. New elections are due in September 2009.
The 2004 results represented the SPD’s lowest point since 1945. These lost votes went mainly to the Greens, who won their best European result ever and also the Linke.PDS, the post-communist party based in East Germany. The votes for the CDU/CSU also fell from a highpoint in 1999, allowing the liberal FDP to win seats for the first time since 1989.
CDU 36.51% winning 40 seats (-3)
SPD 21.52% winning 23 seats (+10)
The Greens 11.94% winning 13 seats (+6)
CSU 8.00% winning 9 seats (-1)
PDS 6.12% winning 7 seats (+1)
FDP 6.07% winning 7 seats (+7)
The Republicans (Nazis-lite) 1.88%
Since I miss the Weimar parties, I’ll note that the Catholic Zentrum (which used to be one of Weimar’s main parties and a basis for most government) polled 0.1% of the votes.
The SPD can only improve on its disastrous 2004 result. However, the governing CDU-CSU is still far ahead of the weak SPD in national polling. Angela Merkel’s CDU has been the one benefiting from the government’s good decisions, even if they may have been made by SPD cabinet ministers.
The CDU-CSU, which won 44.5% in 2004 has obviously seen it’s share of the vote dip to roughly 37-39%, to the benefit of the SPD, which has rebounded to 25-28%, a relatively weak rebounce considering how poorly it did in 2004. It will be hard for the Greens to hold their nearly 12% of the vote, though polls indicated they should either dip slightly to 10-11% or hold steady at 12-13%. However, polls tend to overestimate the Greens, though they also overestimated the CDU-CSU and SPD in 2004. The FDP and Linke closely follow each other, though the liberal FDP, on an upswing these days, is at 9-10%. Polling 9 or 10% would the FDP’s best Euro result ever. Linke would also have it’s best result (though they’re only running in these elections since re-unification), with polling indicating around 7-8%.
In terms of top candidates, the CDU and SPD have unsurprisingly picked some big names: Hans-Gert Pöttering, the President of the European Parliament, for the CDU and Martin Schulz, the leader of the PES caucus for the SPD. The Greenies, FDP, and CSU have opted for MEPs, while the Linke top candidate is a Bundestag rep, Lothar Bisky. Bisky immigrated to East Germany at 18.
An interesting situation may be arising in Bavaria, regarding the 5% threshold. The threshold is a national threshold, so the CSU needs to break 5% in Germany as a whole rather than in Bavaria alone. Current polls all put the CSU at 6% and a poll just in Bavaria puts them at 44% there. While it is unlikely the CSU will drop below that, it is a possibility for the first time ever. Indeed, the Freie Wähler, the independent coalition which ate up a lot of CSU votes in 2008 is running, with its top candidate being the former CSU maverick Gabriele Pauli. Pauli notably supports the transformation of marriage into a seven-year renewable contract.
These elections are widely seen as a major test for the CDU-CSU in the run-up to the September federal elections. The CDU wants to end the Grand Coalition with the SPD and return to a traditional right-wing coalition between the Christian democrats and the FDP. The SPD optimally wants a new Red-Green coalition with the Greenies, though it is extremely unlikely the SPD and Greenies will win a majority together. The question is whether the CDU-CSU and FDP will have a majority or if another Grand Coalition will be necessary. Party analysts and media talking heads will obviously tally up the votes in this election in an attempt to answer that, even though Euros are different than federal elections.