The Federal Republic of Germany possesses complex political checks and balances of power. Germans have long become avid democrats where state elections have always revealed a turnout of 70% and way beyond. But votes are just the beginning.
Most people believe democracy reflects majority rule. The truth is, Germany is a classic example that it does not. Indeed, the British mother of them all resisted universal suffrage for centuries. Even Sir Winston Churchill is famously quoted to consider democracy to be the worst system yet better that all the others.
In Germany too, minorities can hold enormous power even if the constitution presents barriers to political initiatives. Most importantly, a 5% hurdle prevents some entering parliament.
Political Parties in Germany
Two major parties offer slightly different versions of socially leaning leadership. The CDU or Cristian Democratic Union stands to the right of the SPD or Social Democratic Party. The choice is between their leaders, Angela Merkel and Martin Schulz respectively. One is skilled as the incumbent but frustrates with procrastination, the other less known but highly respected for his policy positioning as President of the European Parliament.
Simplicity ends with the Bavarian political movement CSU or Christian Social Union. The perpetual partner of the CDU farther to the right in the political spectrum.
The liberal FDP or Free Democratic Party is small yet played kingpin to share power in central government over several periods of legislation. It has lost direction and appeal to the populace more recently. The Green party is a creation of alliances over recent decades. It has also been a minor partner in coalition with the SPD to enjoy power in Berlin across the millennium.
The Left party has been around since reunification, achieving a fairly small but constant representation. The latest addition is the opportunistic AfD or Alternative for Germany. Formed only a few years ago, this party is on the far right, anti Euro, EU-sceptic, against immigration and Islamophobic. Several more small, sometimes radical, left and right leaning parties exist.
Insights to the election
Germans struggle with the ever-increasing power their country has attained along with global expectations and demands placed upon their leadership in the world. Most observers consider major topics in this election to be the continuity of social democracy, immigration, the Euro and the European Central Bank’s quantitive easing as well as trust in a strong leadership.
Direct nomination is balanced with party lists and proportional representation. When pollstations close, calculating the ensuing number of seats and possible coalitions in the lower house can be lengthy. The balance of power in the upper house reflects all parties in power in the sixteen German states.
EU legislation allows its citizens to vote in local and European elections held in the country where they are registered. In general elections expats are merely bystanders, even though they pay taxes and bring their skills to society.
Observers and polls forecast the AfD to enter parliament for the first time along with all the other aforementioned parties. They also expect Merkel to win, albeit with a weakened position. Expect consequences for Germany, the relationship with France and Britain, the EU, the Euro and major global policies.
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