Bavaria 2018

As most readers of this blog probably already know, the German state of Bavaria held its state assembly election on 14 October. The result was a huge rebuke to the long-governing Christian Social Union, which is the regional alliance partner of federal Chancellor Angle Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union.

The CSU normally wins a majority of seats on its own, but will be far short this time. (I read somewhere that this is only the third time the party has been below 50% of seats in the postwar period, but I did not confirm whether that is correct.)

The CSU has won 37.2% of the votes, a loss of over ten percentage points compared to the previous state election. The biggest gain was for the Greens, who will now be the second largest party in the state assembly, having won 17.5% of the votes. The Free Voters are next, with 11.6%. Then comes the SPD; their 9.7% is a loss of over half their vote percentage since last election. The FDP barely cleared the 5% threshold (5.1%), and the extreme-right AfD easily entered the assembly for the firs time, with 10.2%. The Left Party was below the threshold (3.2%).

So, what will the next government of Bavaria be? The CSU has, of course, ruled out working with the AfD. They would have a majority if they joined with the Greens, but that seems unlikely. The CSU+FDP would probably not be a majority (although given below-threshold votes, which total around 8.6%, maybe it will be when the seat allocations are complete). That leaves the Free Voters as the most likely option. They are a center-right party; at least I think that is a fair characterization. Actually, characterizing them as a “party” might be controversial. They claim to be a collection of independents, and they do not require their members of the assembly to vote as a bloc. That may have to change, soon.

25 thoughts on “Bavaria 2018

  1. According to the electoral history I see on Wikpedia it was the 5th time. Bavaria’s brand of MMP is for me the most intriguing one

  2. Could a non-CSU government be formed? Is Bavaria’s MMP system very proportionate? The use of MMP with an open party regional lists is a very fascinating combination of MMP.

    • In theory, a non-CSU government could be formed. In practice, given that such a government would have to have the support of the Greens *and* the Alternative for Germany, that seems unlikely, to say the least.

    • One of their more unusual new MPs is Paul Knoblach, a 12th-generation Bavarian farmer. Knoblach was among the CSU’s longtime supporters and had volunteered for its campaigns. But on Sunday, at age 64, he ran for the state parliament for the first time. And he did it as a Green. He was number 12 on the Green regional list for Lower Franconia, but he got enough attention that the voters moved him up to 3rd place and into the legislature, an example of Bavarian’s open-list MMP system.

      • How well does Bavaria’s open-list MMP system work? They just elected 205 MLAs: 91 directly elected, 114 regional top-ups elected from open regional lists. Of the 114 list seats, 31 were elected thanks to voters moving them up the list, while 83 would have been elected with closed lists.

        Did the first on the list always get elected? Almost. In the region of Lower Bavaria, the liberal FDP elected only 1 MLA, and he had been second on their regional list.

        Did the open lists hurt women? I did not check most results, but the SPD zippers their lists, and I noticed in Upper Palatinate the SPD elected 2 MLAs, list numbers 1 and 3 (two women). Conversely, in Middle Franconia the SPD elected 4 MLAs: 1, 2, 3, and 5 (three men).

      • So the Bavarian lists are “open” but also ranked? Do these ranks have any bearing on the outcome? Or are candidates elected off the list solely in order of preference votes? If the ranks serve as a default somehow (i.e., in case there are not enough candidates with some quota of preference votes to fill the party’s list seats) then it is what I would call a flexible (semi-open) list. But maybe by referring to list ranks, Wilf only means what I would call ballot position. These can be sort of a “suggestion” to voters, but have no bearing on order of election if voters don’t follow along, assuming the list is really open.

        By the way, not to parse terminology too much, but I never have liked the term “direct” to refer only to those elected in districts. They are all directly elected, even if it were a closed list, just by different mechanisms. I know this is the term used in German, but it is unfortunate.

      • The Bavarian lists are fully “open,” and the ballot position has no bearing on the outcome, except to the extent the voters are guided by it, especially seen in voting for the number 1 candidate.

        Little known fact: a substantial number of voters in Bavaria, being used to voting in federal elections where their second vote is just for a party, blink at the Bavarian ballot, look for the usual space to vote beside the party name, it’s not there, so they put an X beside the party name anyway. A spoiled ballot? No, they count it as a vote for the party. Not a vote for the list as ranked, it does not count for the ranking or for any candidate, but it does count in the party count. Just like Brazil, where a vote for the party is not a vote for the list ranking, except Bavaria does not publicize the option of voting for the party.

        Yes, you can say the deputies “elected directly” (to use the German term) are “elected locally.” But since the deputies “elected from the list” invariably ran locally as well, and then act as shadow local deputies for the next four years to such an extent that voters do not generally distinguish between the so-called “two classes” of deputies, most Germans would say the deputies “elected from the list” were elected almost as locally. So I find the German term worth adopting when speaking of German elections.

      • Very interesting regarding the lists and voting behavior on that part of the ballot. Thank you, Wilf (referring here to comment at 22/10/2018 at 1:02 pm).

        On “direct”, don’t Germans use this to refer to members elected with district pluralities only? If so, then as you say, the local ties typical of list winners as well might imply that the term, direct, is even less appropriate to distinguish paths into parliament. I prefer “nominal” and “list”; I also find either “local” or “district” to work fine for those elected from the nominal tier (i.e., the plurality-decided local districts).

        My object to “direct” is it implies being elected from a list is INdirect, but the latter should apply only to something with intermediaries, like electors for president or such.

        I agree that there’s little basis for the “two classes” claims about members elected under MMP.

      • On the subject of terminology like “direct mandate,” I have read even more outrageous wording on I think Wikipedia, that says the compensatory members elected from party list “are not elected, but ‘party appointees.'” (emphasis mine)

    • Bavaria’s system delivered a reasonably proportionate outcome: the differences between share of seats and percentage of votes cast for above-threshold parties were in no case greater than 0.7%. Incidentally, FDP secured legislative representation by virtue a peculiarity of the Bavarian system, namely that the five percent threshold is determined on the basis of the sum of single-member district and party list votes. The party won only 4.96% of the second (party list) vote, but as it had secured 5.19% of the first (single-member district) vote, it polled 5.08% of the sum of both types of votes.

      • I always wondered if that provision (determining proportionality on the basis of both list and nominal votes) actually mattered. Well, now we know.

      • I wonder why a small party like the FDP would get a greater percentage of the votes in district contests than on the list. That is quite strange.

  3. I’d say by now the omission of mentioning the possibility of a Union-SPD coalition after an election anywhere in Germany should by all accounts be considered a serious oversight, if not an outright dereliction of duty.

    • (Tongue in cheek of course, with the intention of mocking the SPD which is becoming, or has become a second fiddle to the Union parties.)

      • Northwest of Bavaria, Hesse will also have a state election next October 28, and a ZDF poll taken after Sunday’s Landtag election in Bavaria has the Greens running second, two points ahead of SPD and four points behind CDU; previous polls in Hesse placed the Greens in a strong third place.

        To be certain, it’s just one poll, but as I commented on Twitter my impression is that the vote in Bavaria may have set in motion a snowball effect, by confirming earlier poll findings about the Green surge (or Green wave if you will). Moreover, a third place finish for SPD in a highly competitive state like Hesse would be catastrophic for the party, and may even cast doubts about the short-term survival of the not-so-grand coalition government with CDU/CSU at the federal level.

        But back to Bavaria, one aspect of the Landtag election outcome that greatly impressed me was the triumph of the Greens in Munich, where the party won a plurality of the vote as well as five of nine direct mandates elected by the city. I had expected the Greens to poll strongly in Munich, but I would have never imagined they’d emerge as the largest party there in terms of both votes and seats.

  4. Why is Germany into Grand Coalitions that are becoming less than Grand? How common are minority governments are at the state level in Germany? When was the last time Bavaria had a non CSU lead government?

  5. Are the Free Voters a center-right party? Although they claim to be a collection of independents?

    Among the more interesting new Free Voter MLAs:

    Anna Stolz, lawyer, Mayor of the City of Arnstein; she had been elected Mayor in 2014 as the joint candidate of the Greens, SPD, and Free Voters; the local Greens said they were very proud of her as Mayor. The Free Voter delegates meeting made her number 5 on the state list, but the voters moved her up to second place as one of the two Free Voter MLAs from Lower Franconia.

    From Upper Bavaria, the capital region, list #12 was Hans Friedl, with his own platform: “a socially ecologically liberal voice, an immigration law based on the Canadian model, no privatization of the drinking water supply, a clear rejection of the privatization of motorways”). The voters moved him up to #8, making him the last of 8 Free Voters elected in that region.

      • The biggest thing open-list MMP does for Bavaria, the only place using it, is make all candidates and MLAs more independent.

        Germany’s “Free Voters” Party has taken off in Bavaria, but got no traction outside Bavaria where regional list candidates cannot promote their personal platform, which is at the core of the “Free Voters” movement. As you can see from the examples above of Anna Stolz and Hans Friedl.

        But the same point applies to other parties, as the example above of Paul Knoblach shows.

  6. With regard to the host’s comment from 22/10/2018 at 4:14 pm – I believe the Germans make a distinction between ‘Direktmandate’ (FPTP seats) and ‘unmittelbare Wahlen’ (direct elections). It is unfortunate that we use the same term, i.e. “direct”, for both concepts in English.

  7. A spoiled ballot? No, they count it as a vote for the party.

    NZ electoral law was modified (rather than re-written from scratch) for MMP. An unforeseen result of this was that when people voted in the wrong electorate (due to casting a special vote at a booth in electorate A for electorate B when they actually lived in electorate C) both of their votes were disqualified. The law was modified before the next election to enable their (national) List vote to stand.

  8. Pingback: Open lists in MMP: An option for BC and the experience in Bavaria | Fruits and Votes

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