Here is a great link to information about the German electoral and political party system. You can find all sorts of information and links (to youtube videos even!) related to German political parties and the electoral system. Here are a couple of images from the link above:
The first is a one-dimensional left-right placement of political parties. Remember that given our relatively small class size, you will be a representative of only one of four parties–CDU/CSU, FDP, SPD, Green Party. [Update: I notice that they have the CDU and CSU listed as separate parties, which they technically are. As I noted in the assignment instructions, the CSU is essentially the CDU, but in Bavaria. They always forms coalitions in the Bundestag when deciding on government formation.]
The second image is the unique two-vote electoral ballot; remember that Germans get to vote twice–once for a candidate to fill one of the 299 single-member districts, and once for a party list in a multi-member district. You’ll notice the left side of the ballot has the individual candidate’s name prominently displayed, whereas the party-list side (the right-side of the ballot) has the party name prominently displayed.
Here’s a nice breakdown of the characteristics of demographic support for each of the parties during the 2005 Bundestag elections, the result of which was a “grand coalition” between Angela Merkel’s CDU/CSU (Merkel was voted in by parliament as the Chancellor) and Gerhard Schroeder’s SPD.
In a few weeks, we will conduct an in-class exercise that simulates a German national election. This will give you a good idea of the specifics of the German political party and electoral systems, which you will then be able to compare to other systems around the world. The German system is fairly complicated in that each citizen casts two votes, one for a member running in a single-member district, while the other is cast for a party via a proportional system.
Elections are, of course, the conditio sine qua non–and the minimal institutional requirement–of democratic political systems. A great web site dedicated to keeping track of elections around the world is electionguide.org They do not as of yet have the results from the most recent national elections in Spain, (they will shortly) but they do have election results for countries around the world going back decades for some countries. You should check them out.
The Christian Science Monitor on the incumbent Spanish government’s re-election this past week:
Madrid – Aided by a near-record turnout, José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero and the Socialist Party won the Spanish national elections – suggesting further changes toward diversity in a young democracy whose older generations cut their teeth on the Franco dictatorship and the moral authority of the Roman Catholic church.
The Socialist victory suggests Mr. Zapatero’s party has broken out of the longtime secondary status it has labored under, despite winning the last election in 2004.
Now, say analysts, the Socialists’ more liberal appeal to young people, women, and immigrants – along with its contemporary style of campaigning – must be taken seriously by the conservative Popular Party (PP), which ran on an older message of Spanish traditionalism and antipathy toward the feisty Basque and Catalonia regions.
Do the cited paragraphs remind you of any other electorate?