German coalition possibilities

Now that we know the outcome ((Preliminary, but probably unlikely to change.)) of the election in Germany, and that the CDU/CSU is just five seats short of a majority, can anyone make a credible case for a coalition other than one consisting of the CDU/CSU with the SPD as a junior partner?

For various reasons, the Greens are unlikely to govern with the Christian Democrats. A broad left coalition seems far less likely. That would seem to leave only two other options: a CDU/CSU minority government, or a second election. And neither of those outcomes seems likely, either.

I guess it is a non-grand coalition of the two biggest blocs, more or less by default.

German election, 2013

As I type this, it is about 90 minutes from poll closing in Germany. BBC reports that German exit polls are “notoriously accurate” and that we should know the outcome of the election within two minutes of closing.

This is an open planting hole about the election.

The changed German MMP

With Germany’s federal election coming up within a week, Manuel has a very interesting post at Electoral Panorama about how the recently enacted changes to the electoral system work, and a simulation of their effect if they had been in place for the 2009 election.

I will not try to summarize it, but rather urge my readers to go over there, and then come back and discuss.

Thanks, Manuel, for the post.

Bavarian election, 2013

Bavaria, the second largest of Germany’s states, held a general election on Sunday, 15 September. This election was exactly one week before Bavarians will be called back to the polls in a federal election. (How common, in Germany or anywhere else, is it for national and sub-national elections to be a week apart? Not very, I suppose.)

The Christian Social Union (CSU), the Bavarian counterpart to the federal Christian Democrats of Chancellor Angela Merkel (CDU elsewhere), won an absolute majority of seats. This is actually not unusual; it has happened many times before, because Bavaria is strongly conservative in its politics.

This year’s majority was manufactured by the electoral system. This is presumably a bit more unusual in any German state, given the use of proportional systems (MMP is used in Bavaria, broadly similar to the federal system, while a couple of small states use pure PR). The CSU won 56.1% of seats on 47.7% of the votes. Other than 2008, this is a pretty bad outcome for them. As recently as 2003, the party had a three-fifths majority of the vote. I am not sure how frequently it had failed to win a majority of the vote previously, but I think CSU majorities were the norm before 2008. So this election represents a modest recovery, but is still a rather poor result for the party historically.

The Free Democratic Party (FDP), federal governing partners to the Christian Democrats, did not clear the threshold, winning only 3% of the vote–their wasted votes thereby contributing to the CSU’s manufactured majority. ((14.1% of the vote was cast for parties failing to clear the threshold, which I suppose is quite high for any German election. Four parties had at least 2%, including the Linke, the Pirates, and a separatist party.)) This may seem like a big deal, and it certainly is for the FDP. But, unlike at the federal level, the FDP is not a party that has been securely over the threshold in any case. It did not clear it in 2003, for example, when it won only 2.6%. And it won only 1.7% in 1998. Apparently the 2008 election, in which it won 8%, was the outlier for the FDP in Bavarian state politics. ((It tends to do better within the state in elections to the federal legislature. For instance, it won 14.7% of the list vote in the state in 2009 (almost identical to its 14.6% nationwide) and 9.5% in 2005 (9.8% nationwide).))

Given the close proximity of this election to the federal election, it is predictable that it is being hailed as an “election tailwind” for Merkel. But one should be cautious. Bavaria is, as I already alluded to, rather different politically from Germany as a whole. One key difference is the presence of a regional party. No, not the CSU, which has the CDU counterpart elsewhere. The “Free Voters” (FW) have no counterpart elsewhere. They won 9% of the vote in this election, slightly down from 10.2% in 2008, which was itself a dramatic surge from their below-threshold 4% of 2003.

Meanwhile, much has been made in various news reports of the struggles of the Greens. Yet they won 8.6% in this election, compared to 9.4% in 2008, and 7.7% in 2003. Those seem like fairly minor fluctuations. ((In the last three federal elections, the Greens had list-vote levels in Bavaria that were almost identical to the party’s nationwide share, and also not too different from the most proximal state election.))

The Social Democrats (SPD) actually increased their support from 2008: to 20.6% from 18.6%.

Consider that the combined CSU+FDP vote (i.e. the equivalent of Merkel’s coalition) won 51.4% of the vote in 2008, and 51.0% in 2013, while the main potential alternative federal coalition of SPD+Green won 29.2% in 2008 and 28% in 2013, and it seems like less than a “tailwind” for Merkel. Maybe we will yet see a bigger shift in the federal election. Bavaria itself can only shift so far, given it already leans so far right. But I’d be more cautious.

It is, of course, entirely possible that the federal result will be bad for the FDP, too, and that the CDU/CSU will end up governing with the SPD, rather than the FDP. As we have already discussed, we should stop calling this a “grand coalition”. It may just be one of the regularly occurring governing formulas in Germany as its party system has evolved. Who knows, the Christian Democrats governing with the Social Democrats as a junior partner could even be in Bavaria’s future, ((I am assuming this would be the CSU’s preference over taking on the FW as a partner, if the FDP did not return to an above-threshold vote.)) if the CSU continues to struggle to get over 50%.

Why we should stop calling the possible next government of Germany a “grand coalition”

A likely outcome of this month’s German election is a coalition of the Christian Democrats (CDU/CSU) and Social Democrats (SPD). This is a formulation that has occurred twice before, most recently 2005-09, and is known as a “grand coalition”.

What is a grand coalition, and why should a CDU/CSU+SPD government this time not be called one?

As I understand the term, a grand coalition should be close to a coalition of the whole. Literally, it should mean parties representing all sectors of the society sharing power. A more relaxed definition that seems to fit the way it is typically used is: a coalition consisting of the two leading parties in a country that normally oppose one another. (This is how I tend to use it.)

When West Germany’s first grand coalition formed in 1966, there were only three political forces represented in the Bundestag, the German first chamber of parliament. ((I will consider the CDU and CSU one “political force” even though they are actually distinct parties. They do not compete against one another–the CSU represents Christian Democracy in the state of Bavaria, and the CDU in the rest of the country.)) Following the 1965 election, CDU/CSU had 245 seats out of 496, and initially formed a coalition with the Free Democrats (FDP), which had 49, for a total of 59.2% of the seats. That was a classic “minimum winning” coalition of the largest bloc with the third largest. A coalition of the SPD (202) with the FDP also would have been a minimal winning coalition, although barely over 50% of the seats. After policy disagreements, the Free Democrats left the government and the Christian Democrats brought in the Social Democrats to replace them until the 1969 election. ((This election brought to power the aforementioned alternative coalition of SPD and FDP for the first time.))

The 1966 coalition of the CDU/CSU and SPD had 90.1% of the seats in the Bundestag. It was thereby almost “grand” in the first sense (coalition of the whole). Moreover, because these two political forces had not previously governed jointly, because a coalition of the two had not been seen as likely before the most recent election, and because either of them had the theoretical possibility of leading a coalition without the other, it was certainly grand in the second sense (two parties that normally lead alternative government formations instead governing together).

When the second German grand coalition formed in 2005, it was again not a generally expected result. There were, by this point, more parties in parliament than the simple three-forces set-up of the 1960s. The SPD, although it had governed with the FDP in the past, was now most likely to govern in coalition with the Green Party. In fact, this was the incumbent government at the time of the 2005 election, and had been since 1998. The main alternative was, of course, CDU/CSU+FDP. That the formation of the coalition was not expected is revealed by a remark from the SPD leader to the media at the time:

None of us was prepared for a grand coalition — none of you either. We learned to make compromises.

The reason that such a compromise proved necessary was that neither of the expected alternative governments had a won majority. The CDU/CSU (226 sets) and FDP (61) together had 287 seats. The SPD (222) and Greens (51) had 273. A majority in the much larger post-unification Bundestag was 307. Thus either one of the two blocs needed a third partner–such as CDU/CSU+FDP adding the Greens, or the SPD+Greens adding either the FDP or the Left Party (Linke)–or the two big forces needed to join up. They chose the latter course.

The 2005 grand coalition was much less grand than the 1966 one in the first sense. With 448 of 614 seats, it held 73% of the Bundestag. While that is much father short of being a coalition of the whole than the 90% of the 1966 occasion, we could still perhaps define having more than two thirds of the seats as “grand” enough. Further, as already noted, neither big party had other good options, as the preferred government formula of each main party was simply not possible. The idea of bringing in a smaller party from the opposite bloc, or the SPD governing with the far left, was not attractive. Does the 2005 bargain still meet the second criterion? Technically, yes: the heads of the alternative blocs governing together instead of one in and the other out. But the absence of a real alternative for either to govern without the other would make it a bit less grand in this sense as well. That is, it was not done as an alternative to feasible options, but because there were no feasible options.

Now, let’s consider the 2013 likely outcome. First, it is worth noting that the 2005-09 “grand” coalition was seen as temporary, even by its members. The two partners in government campaigned against each other in 2009, each clearly signaling a preference for leading a government without the other. The wish was granted, with the election producing a clear majority for the CDU/CSU+FDP combination. This is the incumbent government now, as Germany prepares for its vote.

Going by polling trends, the CDU/CSU may have only around 40% of the votes. The FDP is barely over the 5% threshold. ((An irritation of the graph at the linked item is that it shows lines marking every 10% of the vote, but not one at 5%, despite this being critical to whether a party wins any representation or not. One should not have to mentally scale the gap between 0 and 10 to decide whether a party is really over the threshold or not. But to my eyes, the FDP has flatlined at 6-7% in recent months. It looks safe unless there is a surprise.)) These two quite likely will be short of 50% of the party vote, although if there are a lot of wasted below-threshold votes (Pirates, etc.), it could be possible for a majority of seats to be won on not much more than 45% of votes. ((As long as the wasted votes below the threshold do not include those for the FDP!)) In 2009, disproportionality was higher than usual for Germany, partly due to below-threshold wasted votes and partly due “overhangs”; the latter should not be a factor this time, however, due to electoral-system changes. Thus it should be a close call whether the incumbent CDU-CSU+FDP coalition can be retained.

Given polling trends, there is simply no chance for any alternative majority government without the CDU/CSU. The SPD is looking at less than 25%. The Greens are in 12-15% range. That does not add up to a majority and may not be more than the CDU/CSU itself. Nor would these two parties plus the FDP appear to combine for more than the CDU/CSU+FDP combine, even in the unlikely event that the FDP would consider ditching its current partner and hooking up with the SPD and Greens. ((And the perhaps equally unlikely possibility that the Greens or SPD would welcome governing with the FDP.)). A coalition of the SPD, Greens, and Left still remains very unlikely–and even it may not make 50% of the combined vote, though it might manage a combined majority of seats. (Such a coalition would remain very unlikely even if the SPD shocked us all and won more votes than the CDU/CSU.)

Now, add to these factors the observation that it is very, very rare in parliamentary systems for a party with around 40% of the votes, when the largest opposition party is around fifteen or more percentage points behind it, not to lead the government. Only if there has been a joint campaign by other parties to present themselves as an alternative is there a conceivable chance of supplanting such a dominant party. There has been no such effort at a joint campaign of the various leftist parties. Moreover, it is worth noting that 40% would be a substantial improvement over what the CDU/CSU obtained in 2009.

Thus the only question heading into this election really is which smaller party Chancellor Merkel will take into government as a partner to her CDU/CSU. She may not have any choice but to take the SPD, which would be quite unlikely to refuse. This would be a coalition consisting probably of under two-thirds of the seats–a large majority, but a less than grand one. There would have been no chance whatsoever of the junior partner, the SPD, leading an alternative government. ((Again, assuming the FDP barely gets above 5%, and the combination with the CDU/CSU does not win a majority of seats. Of course, that could still happen, in which case the rest is moot!)) And make no mistake about it, the SPD would be the junior partner this time. It would have only around five eighths the seats of the larger partner. ((In 2005 and 1966, the SPD was actually larger than the CDU, though not larger than the CDU/CSU combined. However, in 2005, even the CDU/CSU together had only four more seats than the SPD had.))

Given the emerging shape of the German party system, it is time to retire the notion of “grand coalition”. This seriously overplays the role of the SPD, as well as the size of the majority the two leading forces can command jointly.

To summarize…

1966

    • Nearly a coalition of the whole? YES (over 90%).

 

    • Coalitions led by either CDU/CSU or SPD without the other possible? YES

 

    • Two big forces about evenly matched? YES (196 vs. 245)

2005
Nearly a coalition of the whole? SORT OF (over 70%).
Coalitions led by either CDU/CSU or SPD without the other possible? NO (without a cross-bloc or extreme partner).
Two big forces about evenly matched? YES (222 vs. 226).

2013
Nearly a coalition of the whole? NO (likely under two thirds).
Coalitions led by either CDU/CSU or SPD without the other possible? NO (based on polling).
Two big forces about evenly matched? NO (SPD probably about five eighths the size of CDU/CSU).

It is time to stop thinking of CDU/CSU and SPD as partners in “grand” coalitions, and recognize that what Germany now has is a dominant center-right party, with one or two potential centrist partners. This puts a leader like Chancellor Merkel in a very strong position, with no risk of being denied by an alternative bloc (and certainly not by an “unpredictable” electoral system). She is as certain as can be of leading her country in a third term of office.

Could proportional representation stop the popular Merkel?

One might think that the BBC would know the difference between the institutions of proportional representation (PR) and a parliamentary executive format. But one might be wrong.

On the Business Daily show on BBC World Service today, the host framed a program segment about Germany’s upcoming election around the following claim: Chancellor Angela Merkel (Christian Democrat) is vastly more popular than her main challenger, Peer Steinbrück of the Social Democrats. However, because of the electoral system she might not return as Chancellor.

For the record, if the most popular politician in the election does not emerge as head of the government after the election, it is because of the parliamentary system: Germany does not elect its leader directly. Its leader must have the consent of parliament (first chamber) to enter and remain in office. Just like Britain, one might note.

Later in the program, during an interview with two German election analysts, the host repeated a variant of this great threat to the popular Merkel emanating from the country’s electoral system, calling the system “unpredictable”.

If we redefined “electoral system” to mean “voters’ choices”, the host’s remark might have made some sense. He noted that many voters see less and less difference between the two big parties and are increasingly likely to vote for small parties, like the Greens. Indeed, even the popular Merkel is not going to lead her party to much more than 40% of the vote, assuming polls (which have been quite stable throughout the year) are accurate.

With only around 40% of the vote, the PR system will mean the Christian Democrats are short of a majority of seats–well short. The parliamentary system will mean she needs at least one partner. (One might point out to the BBC host: just like Britain; a minority government would also be possible but much less likely in Germany.) However, we can be fairly certain that the coalition will reflect how people actually voted. This is the value of PR. In fact, the highly predictable aspect of it. If 40% of voters have voted for Merkel’s party, and there is no conceivable alternative block of parties that has obtained a collective majority of votes, the government will be led by Merkel, in coalition with one of various smaller parties.

Despite the host’s best efforts to signal a looming crisis due to the German electoral system, both German guests calmly pointed out that Merkel was sure to return as Chancellor, most likely in the same coalition she has now–with the Free Democrats–or perhaps in coalition with Steinbrück’s Social Democrats. One of the guests said that the chance of the latter was increasing.

There actually is a good chance that the Christian and Free Democrats will be short of 50%. But that will be even less a crisis than when the same happened in 2005 (and that was not a crisis). In fact, given the new shape of German politics, with one party clearly dominant, it is time to stop calling the possible coalition of Christian and Social Democrats a “grand coalition”. But that is a theme for another planting.

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!

Lower Saxony election (and a discussion of the impact and advisability of thresholds)

Today’s election for the state assembly of Lower Saxony, Germany, was considered too close to call as polls closed. It is regarded as one of Germany’s most important bellwethers, given the state’s large size and that its election is occurring several months before a federal election.

The state’s incumbent government mirrors the federal: a coalition of the Christian Democrats and Free Democrats. The latter party has had a string of bad results in state elections, and many pre-election polls suggested it might not pass the 5% threshold in today’s election. If it did not, the Christian Democrats (CDU) would not be able to govern except in a grand coalition with the Social Democrats (SPD).

However, exit polls suggest the FDP has reached 9%:

Its gain was attributed to the CDU governor of the state, half-Scot David McAllister, who tacitly encouraged his supporters to split their ballot to make sure the FDP would clear the 5-percent hurdle needed to remain in parliament — a precondition for him remaining in office.

Pre-election polls had put the CDU at 42% or higher, but all those threshold-surpassing list votes for the FDP had to come from somewhere. As a result, the CDU is down to 36%, according to the exit polls.

As for the SPD, its former federal chancellor (PM), Gerhard Schröder was shown on DW-TV campaigning directly on the promise of an SPD-Green coalition. He said (paraphrasing from the translation on DW English): voters know the SPD and Greens served them well when we governed before, because the SPD took care of jobs, while the Greens took care of the environment”.

Thus Schröder offered an explicit indication of inter-party cooperation with the Greens, just as McAllister engaged in “tacit” electoral cooperation with the FDP. Note the contrast with the relations between two Israeli parties in the run-up to that country’s general election later this week.

The SPD is on 32% and the Greens on 13.5%. Thus the two opposing combines have almost the same combined vote totals. Both the Left and Pirates are below 5%. ((I had seen some polling that had the Left well above the threshold; maybe there was some tactical voting there, too, by soft Left voters who feared voting for the Left would only increase the odds of a grand coalition, given that SPD-Green-Left post-electoral cooperation would have been unlikely.))

The campaign signs, photographed from the DW Journal (aired in the USA by Link TV), are interesting. Note how the CDU and SPD both emphasize their leaders, while the FDP and Greens explicitly call for list votes (Zweitstimme, or “second votes”) in the state’s two-vote mixed-member proportional system.

CDU

Green

FDP

Germany: A change to overhang provision in MMP?

Is Germany about to revoke or modify its provision on “overhang” seats? Evidently there has been a Constitutional Court finding today against the current practice, ((I vaguely recall someone might have mentioned this case in another thread here.)) and there is now a debate about how to respond.

All I know at this point is a not-very-detailed story from The Montreal Gazette that Rob Richie of The Center for Voting and Democracy sent me. (Thanks, Rob!) Here are some excerpts, with the usual journalese about “complex” electoral systems.

Germany’s highest court declared the country’s complex electoral law unconstitutional Wednesday and ordered for it to be overhauled before the next general election…

The current voting system was passed only last year by Chancellor Angela Merkel’s governing coalition in an attempt to satisfy previous criticism by the Federal constitutional Court.

…the constitutional court again criticized that parties which win more seats than they would take under a purely proportional system can keep those seats — potentially skewing election results.

Merkel’s Christian Democrats and its Bavarian sister party gained an additional 24 seats this way in the 2009 general elections.

The provision is actually–dare I say it?–more complex than that. It is pretty much impossible under MMP not to allow a party that wins more than its proportional share to keep some if its resulting advantage. The only sure way would be to revoke a seat it had actually won in a single-seat district.

The German MMP (as also in New Zealand) adds further seats to the legislative chamber to “balance” these overhangs. These partially compensate other parties for the fact that some party is over-represented from its winning more single-seat districts than its proportional entitlement would be (based on its list vote, at the state level in Germany). It is not clear from the news story exactly which part of this process has been declared constitutionally invalid.

It certainly is the case that, even with the balance seats, the presence of overhangs means a “skewing” of results away from strict proportionality. Indeed, if one does not want this, one should use pure PR and not MMP. The potential over-representation for a party that performs especially well in single-seat districts is one of the ways in which MMP is a “mixed” or hybrid system, and not simply a proportional system.

NRW election: more bad news for CDU, more Pirates

Polls have closed in North Rhine-Westphalia, the largest state in Germany.

As expected, it looks like another bad outcome for federal Chancellor (PM) Angela Merkel and her Christian Democratic Union (CDU).

Initial projections put the Social Democrats (SPD) on 38.8% of the vote, compared to the CDU’s 25.8%. That is a record low for the latter party, whose leader in the state immediately resigned.

It is still not clear if the vote of the Green Party will be enough to give a bare majority to coalition of the SPD and Greens. It was the minority government of these two parties that resigned after losing a budget vote, triggering this election.

The Pirate Party continues its run of success, with 6%. The Left, which was in the previous parliament, collapsed to 2.6% and thus will not have seats in the new parliament.

More Pirates

For the third consecutive state election in Germany, the Pirate Party has won seats, France24 reports. This time, in Schleswig-Holstein, where first estimates from today’s election show the party on 8.2%. This puts them just behind the Free Democrats, who are on 8.3%. This result for the FDP is a lot better than they have done in other recent state elections, or were expected to do in this contest.

The combined vote for the ruling coalition of the FDP and Christian Democrats is well below 50%, with the latter on only 30.6%. However, the alternate coalition, while bigger, also lacks a majority: Social Democrats 29.9% and Greens 13.6%.

Presumably this result will mean a grand coalition of the two big parties will now rule the state.

North Rhine-Westphalia election, 2012

Germany’s largest state, North Rhine-Westphalia, will go to the polls in May, following the parliamentary defeat earlier this month of its minority coalition government.

The coalition consists of the Social Democrats (SPD) and Greens, but these two parties emerged from the July, 2010, election two seats short of a majority.

Minority governments are essentially unheard of in Germany. I do not know how this one survived initially, whether with tacit outside support from the Left Party or with tactical abstentions from the Christian Democrats (CDU) and/or Free Democrats (FDP). However, at this point, polls have been showing that the SPD and Greens would win a clear majority in new elections. So I assume this defeat was strategically planned by the government–sending up a budget the combined opposition would “have to” defeat.

As in many federal systems with staggered national and regional elections, in Germany state elections are often seen as bellwethers for the next national election. If that is the case, then not only the expected NRW result, but also recent elections in Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, Baden-Wurttemberg, and Rhineland-Palatinate, give the CDU and FDP reason to be very, very worried.

___________
Some scenes of Dusseldorf, NRW, from my travel collection (June, 2010) follow. Dusseldorf, the city of Altbier!

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IMG_0572.JPG
IMG_0578.JPG

German president twisting in the wind

The presidency of Christian Wulff appears to be coming to an end. I found some of the language a little more elevated than one would expect from say discussion of the governor-gneral of Australia:

It is very difficult now to imagine how Wulff will exude the luminosity that I had hoped of him.

It does raise the question of how best to appoint and remove a ceremonial president. On the face of it comparing cases like Ireland where the president is popularly elected and Germany and Australia where the president is indirectly elected, indirect election does not always seem to work well. Since 1972 two governors-general of Australia (and 2 state governors) have been forced to leave early by public opinion. I am not aware of that happening with any Irish presidents.

The ambitions of a Pirate

DW has an interview with Pirate Party leader Sebastian Nerz about his expectations for the party now that it has broken through in the Berlin legislature.

Key quote:

we’re not merely trying to push political issues, we want to change the way politics are shaped in Germany

That’s a good summary of what Veronica Hoyo ((UCSD Ph.D. 2010; I was a co-chair of her dissertation committee.)) means by a radical party, as opposed to other types of outsiders.

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!