Sunday, September 18, 2005

Democracy in Deutschland (addendum eins)

From Reuters:

Voters appeared to have forced Germany's main political rivals into coalition with each other on Sunday, as exit polls showed conservative challenger Angela Merkel the winner but unable to form a centre-right alliance.

Projections by leading institutes broadcast on German television gave Merkel's conservatives -- the Christian Democrats (CDU) and Christian Social Union (CSU) -- the biggest share of the vote at about 35.8 percent and their preferred partners, the liberal Free Democrats (FDP), 10.3 percent.

Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder's SPD stood at roughly 33.7 percent, its partners the Greens at 8.2 percent and the new Left Party at 8.0 percent.

The result, if it stands, is a huge blow to the CDU, which was way ahead in the polls before Merkel's flat-tax fiasco (she's for it; Germans aren't) and Schroeder's impressive debate performances. Indeed, there was even arrogant talk of Merkel as Germany's Margaret Thatcher (she's not and won't ever be).

What this means is that a CDU/SPD "grand coalition" is possible (though such a coalition, the first since the late-'60s, wouldn't last long; another election would soon have to be called). Or perhaps the SPD could try to forge a coalition with the Greens and the Lefts (and perhaps also with the liberal FDP) -- an everyone-but-the-CDU/CSU coalition. Regardless, it looks like Schroeder has at least managed to hold off a majority CDU government, and he may end up staying on as chancellor (even if Merkel becomes chancellor now, Schroeder could return to power after the next election, assuming the SPD doesn't blame him for losing this one).

Of course, we'll have to see how the popular vote translates into seats in the Bundestag. Germany uses a Mixed Member Proportional (MMP) voting system (a form of proportional representation based on the popular vote in each Land (federal state). Ultimately, the allocation of seats will determine what governing coalitions are possible.

More to follow.

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