With their new draft of the electoral law reform, the SPD, Greens and FDP allow the suspicion that they are using legislation to combat political competition. That should not have happened.
For some time now, Markus Söder has been complaining that the traffic light government in Berlin primarily wants to harm Bavaria and the CSU. That’s what he announced on political Ash Wednesday, but not only there. The only indication that the CSU boss Söder has presented for his accusation so far is the fact that Olaf Scholz has not appointed a Bavarian minister. You hear and read that and think what a crazy stimulant election campaign must be, after all there will be elections in Bavaria in October, and Söder wants to defend his office as Prime Minister.
CSU only just skipped the blocking clause
And then suddenly the traffic light comes along this week with an electoral reform (Read more about the reform here). It provides for the abolition of the basic mandate clause, which would mean that all constituency mandates won directly would lapse if the candidate’s party did not clear the five percent hurdle. The CSU won 45 of 46 Bavarian constituencies in the last federal election in 2021 and still only just jumped the threshold with 5.2 percent. If it fell to 4.9 percent or less the next time, all directly won constituencies would be gone. You read that and think: How politically crazy can the traffic light be to make such a proposal?
When it comes to electoral law reform, you have to differentiate between systematics and politics. The traffic light systematically argues that first votes should no longer have a distorting influence on the distribution of seats in the Bundestag. This distribution of seats results from the result of the second votes – henceforth also called main votes. That is a perfectly justifiable idea, committed to the greatest possible justice. However, the associated cut in German electoral law would be so fundamental that it should not be carried out by a governing coalition on its own.
Because the personalized proportional representation system, from which the system with first and second votes emerged, was not just aimed at a fair distribution of seats in parliament, but also through the constituency candidates a certain local connection between voters and MPs as well as through the basic mandate clause the chance to or to map regional strongholds of a party – that’s why the Left is still sitting in the current Bundestag and the CSU anyway, thanks to three direct mandates.
Political action is completely wrong
If one can still gain something from the systematic intention of the traffic light proposal, the political approach is completely wrong. Incidentally, if only because the SPD, Greens and FDP still had the basic mandate clause in their first draft. In this first draft, too, the first vote would have been weakened because some direct candidates with very low results might not have been able to take up their mandate. That would not have been nice, but it would have been acceptable in consideration of a fairer distribution of seats in a smaller Bundestag.
Now, however, the traffic light is almost unanimously turning the political competition against itself because the CSU and the left fear for their parliamentary existence. The accusation that the SPD, Greens and FDP want to get rid of the competition from these parties is obvious – even if God knows it’s no longer the proud CSU that we used to know, if their boss Markus Söder even dares to think , his party could fall below the five percent hurdle in a federal election. Söder’s rant, which doesn’t go with the usual mia-san-mia behavior of the prime minister and CSU boss, obviously speaks of a completely new CSU feeling: fear.
Nevertheless, the traffic light made a serious mistake by conceding an imperfect but passable first draft, even though it would have been politically justifiable. Instead, she now wants to push through a second draft, to which the rumor is attached that the SPD, Greens and FDP only acted to their advantage. This damages the new electoral law even before it is passed. And so the traffic light damages democracy in the country.
I have been working in the news industry for over 6 years, first as a reporter and now as an editor. I have covered politics extensively, and my work has appeared in major newspapers and online news outlets around the world. In addition to my writing, I also contribute regularly to 24 Hours World.