Thursday, September 3, 2009

der Wahlraum

[ The voting room ]

Sunday was Election Day in Germany and around the city I saw different buildings with signs, wahlraum, that cued people indoors to cast their ballot for the regional Bundesland elections. At around noon, after coming back from Church and having a rather slow and relaxed morning myself, I was invited by the Webbers to go with them as they voted. I definitely wanted to see how everything went, and to put it one way, it went fast. I already thought it was very interesting that the election day took place on a Sunday. I know that Americans almost take pride in their opportunity to leave work [ or class ] and vote...

In the states, I have already utilized my ability to vote twice, and both times resulted in long waits, identification checks, some paperwork, and then more waiting before you finally were able to go behind a private station, and then wait more the scan your vote through a machine. I only assumed that the practice would have been the same in Germany.

I don’t think I am exaggerating, however, when I say that my entire host family who was eligible to vote was checked in and done voting in all of 45 seconds. They walked in, handed a table their green card from the mail that gave them their address to vote, they received a sheet with the names of the political parties, they chose one [ only had to go behind the lone private voting booth if they wanted to] and turned it in. Done.

I was very surprised with how quick it was [but I still like getting my “I voted today” sticker in America. They didn’t seem to do that here… no tootsie rolls either…]. With the voting done, I was becoming inquisitive about topics that involved voting in Germany. These are the main things that I learned from this past Sunday.

  • To be able to vote in a German election, you must be 18, hold German citizenship, have a permanent residence in Germany or live abroad as a German. Generally, anyone over the age of 18 is also eligible for election as well.
  • The Bundestag is elected by two types of votes. One vote is made for the Constituency candidate and the candidate with the most votes wins. The other vote is for the party preference. This vote delegates, in later percentages, how many seats each party receives of the 598 that make up the German Bundestag.
  • The 5% rule: This rule ensure that only members of parties that receive more than 5% of valid second votes [ 3 seats] can enter the bundestag. [noting the surprise, and scare for some, that the neo-Nazi NPD party of Germany cleared 9% in the 2004 election, thus claiming a few seats in the Bundestag, based off of this rule]

So what does this have to do with the current national election at the end of the month, and the state of Angela Merkel and the CDU party? On Sunday evening, results were broadcasted on news programs, and it became apparent that the CDU had lost a significant amount of support in three Bundesländer that it had majority votes over in 2004; Saxony, Thuringia, and my current Bundesland, Saarland. These states had drops in support for the CDU and had a general swing towards the left-thinking parties, including the SPD. Saarland was split almost equally, and I will address this unique situation separately.

What was confusing for me, however, was that even though the election results were broadcasted, the actual standing of the governments in the Bundesländer were not yet complete, since the coalitions hadn’t been completed. Over the week I read editorials and coverage reports about the standings, and many of them addressed the future for Merkel and the CDU party. Before the Bundesland elections, many assumed that Merkel would lead a majority, and then use that in late September to break ties with the SPD [ the Grand Coalition ] and collaborate with the small, but similar FDP party. After the results of Sunday’s election, which generally shows the forecast of the political mood in the country, the win for Merkel may not be so easy, and another term in a coalition with the SPD [Grand Coalition] may have to remain an option, since the votes have spoken that Germany may not be in favor of a center-right government with the CDU/FDP coalition option.

1 comment:

  1. Sounds worse than our electoral college!!!

    Maria K.