Saturday, November 30, 2013


Alan Posener grumbles about the German electoral system.
Since the SPD, the Left and the Greens already hold a majority in parliament, the temptation for Gabriel to break with Merkel in, say, two years to form a "red-red-green" coalition with himself as chancellor could become irresistible. And then Germany will be in real trouble. As I said, in other countries you get more or less the government you voted for. Not here.
Er ... well if they have a majority in Parliament in a proportional system, then a majority did vote for them. More people voted for the CDU than for any single one of these parties by a long way, but aggregate their votes and they represent the choices of more people.

This lamentation rehashes the fashionable pessimism of the wealthy. Raising the minimum wage is derided as a sop to anti-capitalist feeling, whilst he moans that, "Germany is over-reliant on industry and underperforms in services". (This when German industry has given us Bosch and Volkswagen and services gave us the banking crisis and tax avoidance*. Each to his own I suppose).

The heart of the article is annoyance that the right did not win outright, so he longs for a system that might have made it possible. And here there are two broad choices. The first sees elections as a way of producing a single party government composed of the largest single minority, the other as one that ensures that a government is made up of parties that can aggregate a majority of electoral choices. Germany, and most other democracies, have the latter, sometimes hedged round with conditions and judgements about acceptability to keep out anti-democratic parties. Britain has the former, though that too can produce coalition as we now know only too well. And as we also know, the nature of that coalition depends on how supine the minority partners are.

*And yes I know that is unfair, but it is a good line. Tough.

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