Sat Jul 23rd, 2005 at 07:54:40 AM EST
As has been widely expected, German President Köhler dissolved the Bundestag (German parliament) yesterday and scheduled early elections to take place on September 18, 2005.
At least two Members of the Bundestag and some smaller parties have announced that they will sue before the highest court in the next week alleging that early elections are unconstitutional. However, in the current political climate it is very unlikely that they will be successful -- all major political parties support early elections as do 78% of the population.
While the election campaigns have been on the back-burner since May 22, yesterday's decision has officially kicked off the campaigns.
So where do we (or rather the Germans) stand right now? If the Germans went to the polls this Sunday, this would be the result:
(The current coalition consists of the red (SPD) and the green (well, Greens) bars. Black is the CDU (currently the conservative opposition), yellow is the FDP (mostly market liberals) and the pink bar is the new and much-talked-about Left Party.)
To add some substance to these numbers: The SPD has been hovering at 27% for the last couple of weeks, while the CDU has dropped from 48% in the last month but has been stable this week. The Greens and the FDP are virtually unchanged, while the Left Party has been steadily increasing its share. (Source, thanks to DoDo for the link.)
Together the CDU and the FDP have 49% of the vote while the other parties in the Bundestag have 48%. The missing 3% are explained by the 5% hurdle every party must pass to gain seats in the Bundestag. The CDU and FDP have thus a narrow majority.
There's been a lot of interest in the Left Party, so let's take a closer look. The following graph shows where the voters for the Left Party are coming from:
The first two bars are unsurprising. A majority are disgruntled SPD voters and the PDS base. Widely speculated, but worth noting nonetheless, is the high percentage of former non-voters (the grey bar in the graph). The Left Party currently draws more than 1 million Germans who stayed home in the last election. Also worth noting is the swing of 7% CDU voters in the graph. (These kind of voters are a mystery to me, I'd appreciate your insights.)
According to the analysis of the pollsters, the Left Party is doing so well, because of its clear image: 45% of all Germans think that the Left Party represents the interests of the poor and 52% think that it particularly represents the East part of Germany. (source)
However, in my view the numbers of the Left Party are inflated right now. First of all, the campaigns have been reluctant so far, since there was a lot of uncertainty before yesterday. Secondly, adding to that the Left Party has received a lot of the media's attention, since the emergence of new political party is a major event in any case. At least one article in the FAZ (major center-right newspaper) argues that the current focus of the media is a bit much, though.
Finally, I think that the current success of the Left Party is driven by the "come back" of their two protagonists and the name recognition they bring with them. The next graph is telling. It shows the stark, but unsurprising, difference in the performance of the Left Party in the East vs. the West. The bar to the right shows the potential in the Western state Saarland -- where Oscar Lafontaine is coming from.