The German election shows that since the arrival of over 1.2 million refugees (mostly from Syria) in 2015 and 2016, Germany is indeed changing - but I would not say in a radical way. The CDU/CSU centrist coalition with the SPD went from a very high total of 502 seats or 79% of the 630 Parliamentary seats - BEFORE the elections Sunday - to a new lower total of 399 seats or 56% of the 709 Parliamentary seats. Since the SPD has decided not join the CDU/CSU in a new coalition government, Merkel’s party must find a way to join the left of center Green party and right of center FPD party to form a coalition government. Although the new AfD rather conservative nationalist party has won 12.6% of the total party vote - making it the 3rd largest party in Germany followed closely FDP party with 10.7% of the total party vote - Merkel will not be forming a coalition government with this new far right party.
Forming a governing coalition won’t be easy, but Merkel will respect the clear voter message of gettting control and cutting back drastically on her open-door immigration policy. The extraordinary extent and speed at which the flood of refugees has entered Germany under Merkel’s leadership is creating massive societal strains and problems of assimilation, as well as fears of expanding criminality and eventual watering down of the German culture. Very understandable and natural concerns, in my view.
But I don’t think Germany is headed into a radical ultra right transition under their mulit-party system. There are many more structural “checks and balances” in European “multi-party coalition” and “proportional representation” systems than the two-party endemically money bought and corrupted political system we are trapped in where “social polarization” is on a scale and depth many, many times that of most EU countries.
Before the German election, the Parliament consisted of 630 seats. After Sunday’s election, it now consists of 709 seats. The German Parliament in principle has 598 seats. Each voter makes TWO votes in the ballot booth: the “first vote” is for a directly elected district candidate. A candidate who wins a "plurality of the votes automatically gets a seat in the Parliament. This is similar to our "winner-takes-all "election system. The “second vote” is for a "party. After tallying the party votes, party officials select candidates from lists. The number of candidates selected is based on the percentage of total second votes won by each party.
This process forms the basis of Germany’s excellent Parliamentary “proportional representation” system. That is why Parliament seats increased from 630 seats to 709 seats after Sunday’s elections. If all voters vote the same party with both their first vote and second vote, this would of course lead to no change in the basic 598 Parliamentary seats. It’s a consummately inclusive, democratic process. The Netherlands also has its own version of a muliti-party proportional representation system. After elections sixmonths ago, the country is finally near agreement in forming a new coalition government with four parties. This compares to Merkel’s challenge now to form a coalition government comprising three parties.
German voters often “split” their first vote and second vote, i.e., their two votes are not for the same party. So, sometimes a party via the directly chosen district candidates in the first vote wins more Parliament seats than they would be entitled to based on the actual total second vote percentage split among the parties. If this occurs, the Parliament is expanded with extra seats so that the actual total second vote percentage split among parties is retained.
This proportional representation system comprises following parties: Merkel’s CDU/CSU centrist party (33% of vote), SPD socialist party (20.5% of vote), AfD far right party (12.6% of vote), FDP right of center party (10.7% of vote), Die Linke centrist party (9.2% of vote), the Green left of center party (8.9% of vote), all other 5.1% vote. So, the FDP right-of-center party and AfD far right of center new party have 23.3% of the total votes; the two centrist parties CDU/CSU and Die Linke have 42.2% of total votes, and the two left of center parties SPD socialist party and Green party have 29.4% of total votes.
While this shows a bigger movement to the right, it’s not the radical or dramatic frightening change that’s now being hyped. Under Germany’s “proportional representation” system, there are still an adequate number of cool-headed centrist parties and left of center parties to counterbalance any radical or destabilizing moves by the new AfD conservative nationalist party.