Berlin. The election is today and we only vote from 8 to 18 and yet there should be no queues at the polling stations. Because as explained Nico Siegel, director of the polling institute Infratest-Dimap, “it is estimated that about 55 per cent of Germans have already voted by correspondence in recent weeks”.
Votes delivered by 6pm today are admitted to the count. Chancellor Angela Merkel also chose the postal vote, her spokesperson Steffen Seibert said, reiterating that it is “a safe method of voting”. The arrest four days ago in northern Schleswig-Holstein of a postman who kept a few piles of mail at home, including 700 ballot papers to be delivered, also contributed to making it safer.
The official numbers of this election help us to better read German society. To begin with, there are 60.4 million eligible voters compared to 61.7 million in 2017. A net reduction of 1.3 million voters that well illustrates the phenomenon of the demographic decline: in the last four years the number of eligible voters passed to best life clearly exceeds that of those who have reached the age of majority by acquiring the right to vote. There will therefore be fewer “under 30” voters compared to 2017 and more voters in the 60-69 range. There will be 2.8 million freshmen, or 4.6 percent of the electorate.
In recent weeks there has been much talk of the competition between the CDU of Armin Laschet, the less charismatic dolphin of the chancellor to whom many would have preferred the Bavarian governor Markus Söder who leads the CSU, of the comeback of the SPD with Olaf Scholz, of the Greens, of the Liberals and of the two parties, AfD and Linke, which run to extremes. But the political groups admitted to the race for a seat in the Bundestag are 47, including the best known Piraten, the Free Electors, Volt and the party called “the Party” (die Partei). But two communist formations are also competing, the Gartenpartei, the V-Partei3 vegetarian, vegan and for change (a word that begins with a v in German) and two neo-Nazi parties (the Npd and Dritte Weg). Days ago, the TAR of Saxony ordered the removal of the electoral posters of Dritte Weg (“the Third Way”) in which it was asked without compliments to “Hang up the Greens!”.
Barring electoral upheavals, only six or seven parties will probably enter the Bundestag by virtue of the federal threshold set at 5 per cent: those who do not exceed it remain outside. Each voter is given a ballot divided in two: on the one hand, the candidate who likes the most from among those present in their constituency will be chosen – and whoever takes even one vote more than the others will pass (single-member constituency); on the other hand, preference is given to a party that brings the candidates to Parliament in order of list (proportional method).
Each of the two parties represented on the ballot contributes to the election of 299 deputies: the sum should make 598 but in 2017 the Bundestag “swelled” to 709 members, becoming more expensive and less efficient. A phenomenon due to the so-called “surplus mandates” distributed among the parties for a complicated principle of compensation between majority and proportional. The political forces have tried to patch it up but an agreement on the reduction of parliamentarians to 598 on the basis of the 299 electoral districts in which Germany is divided has not yet been found. We’ll talk about it again in the next legislature.