Elections and Political Parties

On September 27, 2017 Germany held its regularly scheduled election to elect all 709 members of the Bundestag. As in all German elections, half of the members were elected from single member districts and the rest through proportional representation. The actual number of seats varies a bit from election to election because the number of seats allocated through the proportional vote is adjusted to make certain that the parties’ representation reflects its percentage of the vote.

The 2017 occurred during troubled times. On the one hand, most Germans were pleased with the Grand Coalition government headed by the CDU’s Angela Merkel because it had weathered the economic shocks of the first half of the decade as well as the immigration crisis of 2015 and 2016. On the other hand, a growing number of Germans were dissatisfied with how Merkel had handled both events which led pollsters to predict a drop in support for the CDU and its coalition partners, the SPD while the populist right wing party, the Alternative for Germany (AfD) was expected to do quite well.

For once, the polls got it right. As the table below shows, the outgoing coalition partners barely won half of the vote, a decline of more than 10 percent from their 2013 total. More ominously, the AfD won 12.7 percent of the vote and 80 seats, marking the first time since the 1950s that a far-right party had won enough votes to enter the Bundestag.

PartyPercent of the VoteSeats

The “parliamentary arithmetic” might suggest that the CDU and SPD coalition would continue since a) it controlled a majority of the seats and b) no party was willing to form a coalition with the AfD.

Nonetheless, the SPD announced that it would not participate in the next government. As a result, German politics was in limbo as these lines were written a month after the election. In all likelihood, Chancellor Merkel will remain in office and head a government that includes the Greens and the FDP that would command a slim majority but would also be beset by ideological differences.

Public Policy

Comparative Politics stresses Germany’s well-developed alternative energy policies which reached a new level on October 28, 2017.

London’s Independent reported that the country would reach a milestone that day. It would create enough electricity form windmills and other alternative, non-carbon based sources to meet its entire needs for the day. If the companies that run the national grid wanted to have people use “their” power that day, they would probably have to pay them to do so.

In short, for one day, at least, Germany will not need any electricity that was generated using carbon-based fuels.

The country’s energiewende or energy policy is effective enough that wind power can now be generated profitably and all subsidies for the manufacture and use of turbines have been eliminated.