The German national elections, held every four years, were held yesterday, Sunday, September 27, 2009.
There were some changes, but in stable Germany, such changes are seldom earth-shaking, even if the currently ruling grand coalition of the left and the right was deposed.
As written by Geir Mouslon and Kirsten Grieshaber of the Associated Press (AP) in Merkel vows quick deal on German coalition:
“Chancellor Angela Merkel vowed Monday to have a new center-right German government in place by the time Germany marks 20 years since the fall of the Berlin Wall on Nov. 9. She said tax cuts were possible in 2011, but rejected spending cutbacks that might strangle an incipient economic recovery.
Voters on Sunday ended the conservative Merkel’s right-left “grand coalition” and gave her a comfortable center-right majority — thanks to a strong performance by her new government ally, the business-oriented Free Democrats.“
Prior to this election, a compromise-necessitated grand coalition (grosse Koalition) of the right-wing Christian Democrats (CDU and CSU) and the left-wing Social Democrats formed the German government with Angela Merkel of the CDU as the German Chancellor.
However, because the grand coalition joined up Germany’s two largest political parties in the national government – even though they sometimes had diametrically opposed policies, the grand coalition was a coalition of political expediency rather than a merger of ideas. That has changed somewhat since yesterday.
In Sunday’s elections, the Christian Democrats (CDU and CSU, the right-leaning party/parties) obtained 33.8% of the vote (down 1.4% from the year 2005), the Free Democrats (FDP, the centrist liberal party, business-friendly) garnered 14.6% of the votes (up 4.7% from the year 2005), the more left-leaning Social Democrats (SPD) obtained 23% of the vote (down 11.2% from the year 2005), the Left Party (die Linke) obtained 11.9% of the vote (up 3.2% from the 2005 vote) and the Green Party 10.7% of the vote (an increase of 2.6% over the 2005 elections). The voter turnout of 72% was the lowest since the establishment of the Federal Republic.
What Sunday’s vote means in practical terms is that the right-leaning Christian Democrats are able to abandon their grand coalition with the left-leaning Social Democrats and form a government with the more centrist Free Democrats (FDP).
Although their raw combined vote tally is less than 50%, Germany has a threshold level of 5% of the vote for any party to enter Parliament. When the total national vote is cleansed of parties who obtained less than the 5% barrier, then the Christian Democrats and Free Democrats in fact obtained enough votes to form a majority government, with a projected 332 to 290 seat advantage over the opposition parties.
See a video at Deutsche Welle – DW-WORLD.DE on how the German voting system works, explaining the impact of this voting system on the determination of the number of party representatives in the German Bundestag.
See also ACE – The Electoral Knowledge Network – where Michael Krennerich cogently explains the German mixed member proportional voting system: