First Bundestag member of African origin?

The New York Times profiles Karamba Diaby a candidate who might become Germany’s first member of the Bundestag to have African origins.

Diaby won the Social Democratic Party’s internal vote to earn the third place on the party’s list in the state of Sachsen-Anhalt. The NYT states that he will be elected if “the Social Democrats can defend the three seats they won here four years ago”.

Not so fast. Here is where it is helpful to know something about Germany’s electoral system. 2009 was a very bad year for the SPD. It won no single-seat districts, but due to the compensatory PR, it won three seats, all from the party list. We are not told whether Daiby also has a district nomination (but I checked–see below). But without a district nomination, if the party performed better than in 2009, the SPD might win only or mostly district seats.

Between 2005 and 2009, the SPD in the state fell from around 32% of the party vote to 17%. In 2005 it managed 10 seats, but none of them from the party list.

Thus if the SPD recovers, being ranked in the top 3 on the list is not a guarantee.

However, from Diaby’s own website, it is evident that he has a district nomination–in constituency 72. A quick check of the data (in my files) shows that his party won that district narrowly in 2005, but lost it overwhelmingly in 2009. So he is on the bubble, it would seem. This will be a fun case study to watch!

12 thoughts on “First Bundestag member of African origin?

  1. I’m curious empirically how the character of a party varies over time under MMP depending on whether the bulk of its caucus are district MPs, list MPs, or rough parity. I suppose for the Greens or FDP the fraktion is almost always list MPs only, but for the larger parties it would vary. Eg, under MMP the Australian Labor Party in 1975, 1996 and 2013 would have had nearly a majority of its MHRs alone chosen from lists. (In this reality, Senators perform a very roughly analogous function).

    I don’t want to sound like I’m kicking MMP – you’ve no idea how much it warms my heart to recall that it gave Alec Salmon a majority of seats at Holyrood at the same time as FPTP gave David Cameron won a minority of seats at Westminster – but there is something a bit counter-intuitive about a system where an individual candidate has an incentive to hope that the party won’t perform well electorally, otherwise he/she won’t win a seat.

  2. Also, re the discussion in this thread here , I note the NYT (again) uses “primary” to refer to the SPD’s preselection ballot, even though (correct me if this is wrong) only paid-up SPD members whose membership applications have been approved by the party machine, get to vote, and we are probably talking hundreds or at most thousands of voters rather than six or even seven figures?

  3. I don’t know, people, I’m very used to that sort of contest being called a (closed) primary. It’s a convenient term which has often been used in this context. I don’t see why the US (or the US type of ‘primary’) should have exclusive rights to the term. By that logic, all sorts of terms may only be used by one side of the Atlantic because of significant differences in meaning.

    • In conceptualizing variations on internal selection methods, I like to think of degrees of “primariness”. At a minimum, it should not, in my view, be called a primary if it is not open to any registered voter who chooses to self-identify with the party. Even the most “closed” primaries in US states meet this criterion. Maximal primariness also would require that the same authority that runs the general election runs the primary, as well. By my minimal standard, there are many cases in countries or individual parties around the world that count as “primary”, but by the maximal standard there are only a few (and, I think, even in the US there are cases that might not apply). As far as I know, most so-called primaries in Europe (and, I believe, specifically Germany) do not meet even the minimal standard; there are various forms of internal membership ballots with wider or narrower definition of what constitutes membership, but few cases where participation barriers are as low as simply registering (or otherwise being eligible) to vote.

  4. JD, good point. One could say that calling the US Senate an “upper house” implies an equivalence with the UK Lords that is actually quite misleading. Just as “Provinces” are very different beasts in Canada from Italy or Spain, or “Cantons” in Switzerland from France.

    However, my understanding (CMIIW) of even closed US primaries is that, to get to vote in them, you don’t have to pay membership fees and the party can’t exclude you based on its assessment of your ideological incompatibility.

    Hell, the GOP couldn’t even block David Duke from running in (and winning) its primary, just as the Dems couldn’t keep out various LaRoucheans.

    Having said that, journalists are not political scientists and are trying to get a basic idea across to lay readers, rather than to delineate precise distinctions. Hence the German States have “governors” in US news reports, not “premiers,” because only commie people’s republics have “premiers”.

    (Apparently the Chinese President’s title is the same today in Mandarin as it was in Mao’s day, but since 1976 the Chinese government has strongly encouraged it t be translated into English as “PResident” rather than “Chairman”.)

    (I gave up dying in a ditch over stipulative usage some years ago, at least in popular media. Eg, a week ago HAzel HAwke, ex-wife of ex-PM Bob, died. Dozens of journalists described her as Australia’s former “first lady”. During my brief stint as a journalist, the style guide was adamant that this particular Americanism was not applicable to the PrM’s wife but, if anything, to the Governor-General’s. I doubt if one Australian in a hundred would follow that prescription).

  5. The ALP calls internal membership ballots to pre-select candidates ‘plebiscites’ but that is even more confusing, and plebiscites are now about as common as the Tasmanian tiger.

  6. Elections for party leader are also sometimes somewhat strangely known as ‘lijsttrekker referendum’ in the Netherlands…

  7. And Karamba Diaby indeed won a list seat. The Bundestag website says he is one of the three MPs representing constituency 072 Halle: the CDU man directly elected, and two elected on the list: the SPD’s Karamba Diaby and The Left’s Petra Sitte. In Saxony-Anhalt The Left won five seats, the SPD four (Diaby as #3), and the Greens one. A gain of one by the SPD, and a loss of one by The Left, which in 2009 had won five local seats and one list seat, while in 2013 the CDU swept the nine local seats, up from four local seats and one list seat in 2009, while the FDP lost their two list seats. Note that the CDU local sweep pushed the Saxony-Anhalt’s list seats up from eight to ten.

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