German election: Seven things we learned

image source, fake images
ScreenshotGreens and FDP performed better among young voters

We know the headline of the German election banner: Center-left Social Democrats (SPD) will be the largest party, closely followed by center-right Christian Democrats (CDU / CSU). Both the Greens and the libertarian FDP increased their participation, while the far right and far left fell back.

But beyond that, there are a number of smaller stories. These are some of the side angles that we have noticed.

1. The generational division

The traditional center-left and center-right parties generally came out ahead, but if we look at the age data, an interesting trend emerges.

Voters under 30 preferred the Greens on the left (22%) and the libertarian FDP (20%) on the right by a wide margin, according to this exit poll by Forschungsgruppe Wahlen.

On the other hand, those over 60 years of age voted for the center left (35%) and the center right (34%). Only 9% went to the Greens and 8% to the FDP.

But because the majority of the electorate is older, the parties of the left and right came out ahead.

2. Tinker Tailor Soldier … cry?

A former intelligence chief turned controversial right wing failed to enter parliament. Hans-Georg Maassen ran as a candidate for the Christian Democrats, but on the extreme right of the party.

Until 2018 he headed the national intelligence agency, but was forced to resign when questioned the existence of far-right violence in the city of Chemnitz.

In these elections he was a candidate in Thuringia, one of the eastern German states where the far-right Alternativ für Deutschland (AfD) is particularly strong.

Maassen advocated for Christian Democrats to move to the right, away from the centrist policies of outgoing Chancellor Angela Merkel, especially on migration.

But voters weren’t convinced, putting him third in his constituency behind the Social Democrats and the AfD.

3. The Schleswig-Holstein question

Students of 19th century history may vaguely recall the Schleswig-Holstein question *. It became synonymous with a devilishly complicated diplomatic dilemma.

Now Schleswig, at least, is back at stake in the German elections. The party representing the Danish and Friesian minority in Germany has entered parliament for the first time in about 70 years.

The SSW (its German name means Southern Schleswig Voters Union) will occupy a single seat. He obtained 0.1% of the total votes, but is exempt from the normal 5% threshold for representation in the Bundestag because he represents a national minority.

* Lord Palmerston famously said: “Only three people understood it: the prince consort, who is dead; a German teacher, who has lost his mind; and I, who have completely forgotten.”

This is how you may feel after reading about the number of possible coalitions that could rule Germany.

5. Plagiarism and politics

The plagiarism accusations tarnished the chances of the Greens’ chancellor candidate Annalena Baerbock. But another woman politician who also faced plagiarism charges scored a surprise victory.

Franziska Giffey, of the center-left Social Democrats, had her doctorate withdrawn because it was discovered that she had plagiarized part of her doctoral thesis.

However, she is now the new mayor of Berlin, the first woman to rule the German capital. His party defeated the Greens, led by Bettina Jarasch, by 21.4% against 18.9%.

4. Enigma of expropriation

In addition to the federal elections, there was also a referendum in Berlin on expropriations to create more social housing.

About 56% voted in favor of taking the properties of the main owners (more than 3,000 housing units) into public ownership, while 39% opposed.

Rising rents have been a flash point in Berlin: An online real estate portal estimated that rents had risen 42% in the five years to 2020.

Mayor-elect Franziska Giffey has said that she opposes the expropriations, but that the referendum result must be respected.

6. Will there be enough seats, literally, in the Bundestag?

With 735 seats, this German parliament appears to be the largest in history. But due to the German electoral system, no one, not even the electoral authorities, knew how big it would be.

The main candidate from each constituency gets one seat: there are 299 of them. Another 299 seats are reserved for party lists in the 16 federal states or Bundesländer. Voters rank candidates in order of preference.

But that’s only 598, so where did the extra 137 seats come from?

This is where second-preference votes come into play, based on the population of each state and how many votes go to the second-place party in each.

Confused Yet? You should be.

Parties must liquidate the minimum percentage of votes of 5%, or win three seats in electoral districts, in order to enter parliament.

This is how the far-left party, Die Linke, only managed to enter by a narrow margin. Their participation in the votes has almost halved since the last elections, in 2017, from 9.2% to 4.9%.

However, the three electoral districts he won, in Berlin and Leipzig, saved him from political oblivion at the federal level.

7. Red tide in the east and Laschet loses at home

As a sign of how well the Social Democrats have done, they have even taken over Angela Merkel’s old constituency. He held the seat in Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania since 1990, the first federal election after German reunification.

And there was a symbolic defeat for his successor as the center-right candidate for chancellor, Armin Laschet. After an election campaign full of mistakes, he failed to win a seat in his home state of North Rhine-Westphalia.

That does not mean that he is out of parliament, he will enter the Bundestag in a list seat, but it shows the depths of voters’ doubts about him.

8. Why were the elections held on the same day as the Berlin Marathon?

The same thing happened in 2017.

Sorry, we can’t answer that. Answers in a Postkarte, bitte.

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