Germany gears up for election

national September 21, 2013 00:00


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GERMANS are going to the polls this Sunday to decide the future of their country.

Banners and posters of chancellor candidates as well as member of parliament candidates are not seen much in Berlin. Unlike Thailand election, where posters and banners of candidates are seen on almost every electricity pole. German campaign poster is quite tidy. No big banner to ruin landscape.

As it will be one of the most important elections in German history, almost 30 international journalists were invited by the Federal Foreign Office of the Federal Republic of Germany to attend the German political competition

German election system is quite similar to Thailand. Here are some interesting facts and figures in this election. In the election on Sunday, Germany voters will exercise two ballots for the 598 seats of the 18th Bundestag, the main federal legislative house of Germany.

Voters can make two checks on their ballots in the national election, one for a constituency candidate and one for a party, allowing the option of splitting their support.

A chancellor is elected by parliament to serve a four-year term.

According to an estimate of the Federal Statistical Office, about 61.8 million Germans living in the territory of the Federal Republic of Germany will be entitled to vote. A total of 31.8 million of the persons entitled to vote are women and 30 million are men. The Federal Returning Officer also reported that the number of persons entitled to vote is slightly smaller than during the 2009 Bundestag elections when it amounted to about 62.2 million.

There are about 3 million first-time voters who will have become legally an adult since the previous Bundestag elections.

There are 34 of the 39 parties to run in the election and 30 parties will participate with Land lists (party-list).

A total of 4,451 candidates, including 1,149 women, have listed for the Bundestag election, reported by the Federal Returning Officer. In the last election in September 2009, there were just 3,556 candidates.

In the upcoming election, 1,005 people stand as candidates only in a constituency and 1,746 have listed only on a Land list, while 1,700 have listed as candidates both in a constituency and on a Land list.

Polling booths will open from 8am to 6pm. The first official results from the 299 constituencies are expected to come in from 8pm on election day. The official provisional result will presumably be announced early on Monday morning.

All eyes will be on the election result because it could have a major impact on the future make-up and orientation of the European Union. But for some observers think this election is quite boring as there would be no surprise at all.

Incumbent Chancellor Angela Merkel, leader of Christian Democratic Union (CDU), will easily win for the third time. All polls showed voters support Merkel over her challenger Peer Steinbrueck from Social Democratic Party (SPD).

But, a big question is the likely coalition make-up. Can Merkel form a majority government with her current junior coalition partner the Free Democrats (FDP) after the federal election?

The answer is yes but on the condition that the FDP wins over 5 per cent, the threshold in order to be represented in the Bundestag. A government needs around 46 per cent of the vote to rule the country.

Polls in the last few weeks showed the CDU and its sister party Christian Social Union (CSU) get between 39 and 40 per cent of the vote. The FDP has support at 5 per cent. If the FDP wins less than that the coalition format will be changed.

Another possibility is that the SPD joins hands with the Greens but their votes would not be enough. The opposition SPD now holds 25-26 per cent while the Greens holds 9-10 per cent. This coalition needs the far-left Die Linke party, which counts former Communists among its supporters and is polling at 9 per cent. But this link-up is most unlikely because there is a rift between the SPD and the far left.

Because of this uncertainty there is some interest in this election.

Observers are divided on whether Merkel can maintain her centre-right government or will have to form a grand coalition with the rival Social Democrats to keep her chancellorship or possibly another alliance will emerge.

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