Pirates in Berlin!

In the Berlin legislative elections yesterday, the Pirate Party won seats for the first time. Its planks include copyright reform and free public transport and wifi. It won 8.9% of the vote. Very timely, given that today is International Talk Like a Pirate Day. As the Pirates take up their seats in the city-state parliament, will they heed the advice “All hope abandon, ye who enter here”?

The run of terrible election results for the Free Democrats (FDP)–the junior partner in the federal coalition–has continued. It won 1.8% of the vote, meaning it will have no seats. In the last Berlin election it had 7.8%. Earlier this month, the FDP also fell below the threshold in Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania. And in other state elections in March, it suffered the same fate in Rhineland-Pomerania and narrowly remained above the threshold in Baden-Wurttemberg.

The outgoing government of Berlin was a coalition of the Social Democrats (SPD) and the Left Party. The SPD won 28.3% in this election and remains the largest party. However, the Left Party, with 11.7%, lost sufficient support as to leave the combine below 50%. The Greens, on the other hand, gained considerably, winning 17.6% (up from 13.1%). A new SPD-Green government would thus seem the most likely result. Arr!

5 thoughts on “Pirates in Berlin!

  1. The FDP really is having a run of bad luck. It seems that centrist politics itself is collapsing across the West. In the US, moderate Republicans and blue dogs seem to have been wiped out. In Europe, hard right parties like the x Democrats and Germany’s neo-Nazi NPD are on the rise. Berlin seems to have escaped the rise of the hard-right, though. It looks like votes went from the SPD and Left to the Greens (and possibly Pirates) and from the FDP to the CDU (and maybe Pirates?). I wonder if the Pirates will replace the FDP? They seem sort of compatible.

  2. I don’t know I would generally read too much into the FDP’s. Small parties can lose literally half their support while suffering a decline in percentage of the vote of about 5%, something big parties would shrug off. And doesn’t the FDP usually lose support during periods in the federal government?

    I’m surprised so far the economic crisis hasn’t shaken up electoral politics more.

  3. It seems like a small junior partner looses support vis a vi the larger coalition partner. Look at Denmark’s recent election to see Venstre wins 1 more seat, but it coalition partner, the Conservatives lose half their seats.

    It seems that 10% were for parties that were below the threshold and were wasted. This SPD-Green government is actually a minority government. This MMP system is much more proportionate than a FPTP system would be.

    I am surprised in the German state elections that their isn’t a back door route to gain representation. In the German states, is it possible to win 1 or more direct mandates to by pass the 5% threshold similar to the 3 seat rule at the Federal level?

    On the Federal Level, Is there the possibility that the CDU will allow the FDP party to win 3 direct mandates to gain representation to overcome the threshold if they can’t get above it through the party list vote?

    A CDU-Green lead government with Pirates party support would have an 8 seat majority over a SPD-Green government with a 1 seat majority. I guess this alternative coalition is unlikely.

    Will there ever be a CDU-Green government in the future? I know that there was one in Hamburg. It seems like the Greens are now the Centrist party.

    The Greens should not want to become the appendage to the SPD as they would end up becoming like the FDP as an appendage to the Conservatives. A small party attached to the hip bone to the larger party needs a fairly distinctive identity so that they don’t suffer chronic meltdowns. It looks like Germany is reaching the end of two party coalition governments, and someday in the future, three party governments may become the norm.

    • According to Massicotte (2003), a party in Berlin can gain seats proportionate to its list vote by winning one nominal-tier seat. Same in Brandernburg and Schleswig-Holstein. It takes two seats in Saxony. In all cases, the party-list threshold, for parties that do not win the stipulated number of nominal-tier seats, is 5%.

      If anyone knows whether any of these provisions has changed recently, please let us know.

      Louis Massicotte, 2003, “To create or to copy? Electoral systems in the German Lander”, German Politics 12, 1 (April).

  4. Berlin maintains its reputation as the nursery of electoral reform in Germany by way of its 12 borough councils (“Bezirksverordnetenversammlung”), which have no thresholds. Even the NPD has a couple of seats in each of three of them. And in conservative west-end Spandau’s 55 borough council seats we find one lonely member of Die Linke.

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