1 October, 2009 — The Bullet
Conservative Chancellor Angela Merkel, who was leading a coalition government with the Social Democratic Party (SPD) since 2005, will also lead Germany’s next government; this time with support from the liberal Free Democratic Party (FDP). In an election that saw voter turn out at a record low of 70.8%, Merkel’s party, the Christian Democratic Union (CDU), won 33.8% of the vote. In relative terms, this is a decrease of just 1.4% but the absolute number of voters is down by two million. However, the CDU is, comparatively, by far the strongest party in the next parliament (Bundestag) and can rely on a clear majority due to the record high of its future coalition partner FDP who got 14.6% of the vote. Though social democrats expected that their party, the SPD, would continue the downward trend that began with the 2002 elections and continued in 2005, the loss of 11.2% of the vote came as a shock. The 23.0% they received in this year’s election is even lower than the 29.2% with which the SPD started their electoral performance in post-war (West) Germany.
The unequal decline of Germany’s big parties, CDU and SPD, was complemented by a surge of the small, liberal, green, and left, parties. Most significant in this group is the liberal FDP with 14.6%. This result marks not only an all-time high for the party but also shows a strong taste for neoliberalism among parts of the electorate. No other party in Germany is, even in times of crisis of the economy and neoliberal hegemony, as strongly opposed to taxes and regulations as the FDP. At the other end of the political spectrum, 11.9% for the Left Party (Die Linke) does not look too impressive numerically, but it does signify the establishment of the party as a constant factor in Germany’s political system. Considering that the party was only founded as a merger of East Germany’s Party of Democratic Socialism (PDS) and West-German SPD dissidents in 2007, this is a remarkable achievement that indicates the desire for a left voice in the parliamentary arena. Setting off gains and losses across the political spectrum, it looks as if Germany shifted slightly to the right.
|Share of total vote in %
|Gains and losses of the total vote in %
Parties’ percentage shares of the total vote don’t add up to 100% because a number of smaller parties were also running who didn’t pass the 5% threshold below which parties don’t gain seats. Percentage shares of the total vote do not fully match the relative shares of seats because of Germany’s voting system. Under mixed proportional representation a party can earn seats beyond their percentage share of the total vote if enough of their local candidates win seats that are assigned to represent ridings instead of party shares of the vote. (complete voting results)