The results are in on Sunday’s elections in Germany, and the big news is that it is a big win for the center-right. In the vote for proportional representation (Zweitstimme), Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democrats (the Christian Democratic Union and the Bavarian Christian Social Union, CDU/CSU) got 33.8% of the vote and the free-market Free Democrats (FDP), Merkel’s preferred coalition partner, got 14.6%, for a total of 48.4%. The Social Democrrats (SDP) got only 23.0%, their lowest share in history, while the Greens (Grüne) got 10.7% and the Left (Linke, more or less the former Communists) got 11.9%. The SDP has been willing to enter into a coalition with the Greens, as it did in 1998-2005, and with the CDU/CSU, as it has in the so-called Grand Coalition since the 2005 election, but not with the Left.
The percentages for the CDU/CSU, for (in the former West Germany) the SDP and for (in the former East Germany) Left tended to be larger in the Erststimme (the vote for members in single-member districts) than in the Zweitstimme (the nationwide proportional vote). In the former, voters didn’t want to waste their votes on candidates who had no chance; in the latter, voters wanted to signal which direction they wanted policy to proceed. The increased Zweitstimme vote for the FDP thus shows an increased demand, compared to 2005, for free market policies. The somewhat smaller increases for the Greens and the Left show small increases in support for left-wing policies of various kinds.
Here is Der Spiegel’s similar map for the 2005 election, with a link to the map for the 2002 election. What strikes me as uncanny is that the CDU/CSU tends to win in the historically Catholic parts of Germany (the south, much of the Rhineland) while the SDP and, in 2009, the Left tends to win in the historically Protestant parts of Germany. The CDU/CSU, like the old Christian Democratic party in Italy, had links with the Catholic Church (though not as much as the Italian party) and is in some senses a descendant of the Catholic Centre party that existed from the Bismarck era until the Nazi dictatorship.
Thus in Germany, as in the United States and in so many other countries, cultural factors and attitudes on non-economic issues play an important part in party identification and political behavior even when, as in Germany’s cases, Christian convictions have pretty much faded out. One must add that the south is the most economically successful part of Germany these days (something that was not true a century ago) and also the most pro-CDU/CSU, and that the old factory towns of what was once West Germany remain strongholds of the SPD.
- The huge difference between regions. The CSU won all 46 seats in Bayern (Bavaria), for example, while in Nordrhein Westfalen, which includes the industrial Ruhr, the CDU/CSU beat the SDP by 37-25. The Left was competitive in the former East Germany but was only a splinter party in the former West Germany.
- The SDP won primarily in the old factory towns of the West; in the East the Left beat the SDP by 17-6.
- The victorious coalition was surprisingly competitive in the former East Germany, increasing the CDU/CSU-FDP share of the Zweitstimme vote by 4% to 9% in each of the East German Lander, compared to 2% to 4% gains in each of the West German lander (except for a 1% decrease in Bayern, its strongest region).
- The competition in the former East Germany is mainly between the CDU/CSU and the Left, with the SDP muscled into third or even fourth place.
- In the former East the Left party is very strong in a couple of regions (Brandenburg, Sachsen Anhalt, Thuringen) but weak in the far north (including Angela Merkel's district) and Sachsen (Saxony), which includes the historically prosperous cities of Leipzig and Dresden, as well as Chemnitz, known in the East German days at Karl-Marx-Stadt.
- Voters tended not to waste votes on the minor parties. The FDP won in just 1 district, Berlin-Friedrichshain-Kreuzberg-Prenzlauer Berg Ost, and the Grüne in 0.