KUALA LUMPUR: It was election season in Germany and German voters went to the polls. For those of us in Malaysia who are more used to the supposedly simpler, constituency-based UK electoral system, the German electoral system is simply spooky in its complexity.
But maybe, it’s not that complicated in the eyes of Filipino voters. While undertaking some cursory research on the Filipino and German electoral systems, I discovered many similarities but also many disparate characteristics, each with its own peculiarities.
As I understand it, for election to the Philippine House of Representatives, each voter is entitled to two votes. One vote is used to elect candidates from geographic constituencies by majority or one-round majority voting (the winning candidate in a given constituency being the one who obtained the most votes in that constituency, than the number of votes obtained by the candidate either exceeded or not the total number of votes cast). These constituency winning candidates would represent 80 percent of the total number of representatives.
Another vote is cast for a party list group of the voter’s choice, and party lists obtaining more than 2 percent of those party list votes are allowed to send up to three representatives to Congress. Party lists obtaining less than 2 percent of the vote may also be allocated seats, if the reserved sector or party list seats, which represent 20 percent of the total number of deputies, are not exhausted among the lists. party winning more than two percent of the sectoral vote. And an ordinary party cannot run simultaneously in district constituencies and on the party list. This kind of mixed electoral system is indeed quite confusing for those of us, for example in Malaysia and Canada, who have only one voice.
But the Germans, renowned for their meticulous and methodical spirit, go even further. German voters are also entitled to two votes. The first vote, just like for Filipinos, concerns candidates running in individual constituencies, which represent half of the total nominal number (to be explained below) of seats in the Bundestag (lower house of parliament). And constituency candidates also win by majority vote, but parties can run for both votes.
Perhaps the second vote in the Bundestag election is much more important, and it is also a vote for the parties chosen by the voters. Because it is supposed to be the main determinant of the distribution of seats in the Bundestag between the different parties. Parties which obtain at least five per cent of the total of second votes or win at least three constituency seats are entitled to seats in the Bundestag in proportion to their second percentage of votes.
But this is where it gets interesting in the German electoral system. First, the number of seats in the Bundestag to which a party is entitled based on its second (list) votes includes those it wins by the first (constituency) votes. In addition, if in a given state a party wins proportionately fewer constituency seats than its proportion of second votes, it is entitled to “catch-up” seats so that the two proportions are more or less equal. Conversely, again, if in a particular state a party wins proportionally more constituency seats than its proportion of second votes, then the other parties are entitled to additional “surplus” seats so that the proportion number of seats reflects that of the second votes obtained by the different parties.
The net result of all these “caught up” and “redundant” seats is such that the eventual member of the Bundestag formed after a general election is usually a different (and unpredictable) size from his predecessor, and almost certainly more than the nominal total. of 598. The new Bundestag, for example, has up to 735 members, about 25% above the nominal total!
Then there is the complicated task of attempting to form the next German government, which must enjoy the confidence of a majority of Bundestag members – a characteristic supposedly more understandable to those of us familiar with the workings of a parliamentary democracy.
But then again, the Germans may be too serious in their government formation negotiations. As was typical of the results of the Bundestag elections, this time around no party obtained an absolute majority in the Bundestag and therefore the mandate to form the government on its own. Instead, a ruling coalition should be formed that would command a parliamentary majority. The center-left Social Democratic Party (SPD, traditionally shown in red) won the most seats, followed closely by the center-right Christian Democratic Union (CDU, shown in black). These two parties have run coalition governments in the past, sometimes with each other, as in the current government (the new government not yet formed). But more often they formed ruling coalitions with the centrist Free Democrats (FDP, shown in yellow). The Green Party (noted, unsurprisingly, Green), which also won a substantial number of seats, also joined the ruling coalitions.
In any case, the negotiations on the formation of the next German government are very intense because the parties negotiate on the political priorities as conditions to enter the coalitions in power. These negotiations are expected to be carried out over the next two months, and it has been reported that if a new government can be formed by Christmas it would be a surprise seasonal giveaway for Germany!
By using the representative party colors as codes, a number of colorful ruling coalition possibilities are launched. The left-wing parties could form a “traffic lights” (red-yellow-green) coalition of the SPD-FDP-Green. Of course, the SPD and CDU could again enter into a red-black “grand coalition”. Or they could form a red-black-green “Kenya” coalition (referring to the country’s flag color scheme) that also brings together the Greens. Alternatively, the CDU could rally the FDP and the Greens in a black-yellow-green “Jamaica” coalition.
There are of course many more creative color combinations, but some of them may not be grounded in political reality, as the ideological divide between some parties, such as those on the far left and the right, may be. -be too huge to be filled. Yet Germans enthusiastically discuss these political color schemes around beer during their Oktoberfest.