Monday, September 28, 2009

Europe votes: good news and bad

Yesterday saw the German and Portuguese General Elections, elections which have both good and bad news for us lefty greens. First the bad news. Labour's sister parties have been elbowed out of position in both countries leaving the right with a much stronger hand.

In Portugal the ruling Socialist Party lost their Parliamentary majority going from 45% to 36.6% of the vote. Although still the largest of the parties their support was eroded by both the left and the right - leaving the right stronger over all.

The FT believes that the SP will not try to form a coalition but rather, under the watchful eye of their Conservative President, will try to run a minority government with a program agreed by the two right-wing parties (the PSD and CDS/PP).

As you can see from the figures the PS lost its vote share in almost equal proportion to the right and left, with the hard left coalition Left Bloc (BE) making the largest gains. The Democratic Unity Coalition (CDU), a coalition of the Greens and the Communist Party, also increased their Parliamentary representation, although not in as spectacular fashion.

Party Votes % Change Seats
Socialist Party (PS)
Social Democratic Party (PSD)
People's Party (CDS/PP)
Left Bloc (BE)
Democratic Unity Coalition (CDU)

In Germany it seems the Grand Coalition of center left and right parties is at an end. While Merkel's Christian Democrats did not increase their vote share they did increase their seats and certainly are the beneficiaries of the collapse of the Social Democrat vote, a vote that has been distributed among the far right, far left and Greens.

The Social Democrats lost a wapping great third of their seats and aside from the right-liberal Bavarian Party was the only party to lose seats last night. you can see from the numbers that the right neo-liberal Free Democratic Party was by far the biggest winner but the The Left and The Greens also made substantial increases.

Total seats +/-
Christian Democratic Union 194 +14
Christian Social Union of Bavaria 45 -1
Social Democratic Party 146 -76
Free Democratic Party 93 +32
The Left 76 +22
The Greens 68 +17

Which makes the German Parliament look like this;

Being an electoral geek it's also worth looking at how those seats were won. In Germany they have a dual system of constituency votes and party lists that use PR to top up. It's actually a very useful way of seeing at a glance how a PR system alters the way that people vote and, I think, the results show how the big parties of government in this country rely on first Past the Post to bolster their own declining vote.

I'll explain using numbers. Here are the results for the top parties (and the Pirate Party) in both list and constituency votes.


Votes % +/- Seats +/-
Christian Democratic Union 13,852,743 32 -0.6 173 +67
Christian Social Union of Bavaria 3,190,950 7.4 -0.9 45 +1
Social Democratic Party 12,077,437 27.9 -10.5 64 -81
Free Democratic Party 4,075,115 9.4 +4.7 0 -
The Left 4,790,007 11.1 +3.1 16 +13
The Greens 3,974,803 9.2 +3.8 1 -
German Pirate Party 46,750 0.1 +0.1 0 -

Party List

Votes % +/- Seats +/-
Christian Democratic Union 11,824,794 27.3 -0.5 21 -53
Christian Social Union of Bavaria 2,830,210 6.5 -0.9 0 -2
Social Democratic Party 9,988,843 23 -11.2 82 +5
Free Democratic Party 6,313,023 14.6 +4.8 93 +32
The Left 5,153,884 11.9 +3.2 60 +9
The Greens 4,641,197 10.7 +2.6 67 +17
German Pirate Party 845,904 2 +2 0 -

The three parties of government uniformly got better results in the constituency poll than the list system. Two million people (which is a lot) voted for the CDU in their local first past the post constituency who voted for someone else in the PR lists, possibly the FDU although that's an informed guess.

The reason why I included the Pirate Party is that here you can see a small party with a bit of support who people did vote for when it was PR but who were not remotely tempted when it came to candidates for unwinnable First Past the Post seats. A full on 18 times as many people voted for the Pirates under the Proportional Representation system than for them in the constituency votes. In Germany you might shrug your shoulders and say, well they can get seats through the top up list, here in the UK there's no such mechanism which means that minority parties have their small vote diminished even further simply through the voting system we use.

So you can see from this chart that, basically, a load of people voting for the centre right vote for the more minor right-wing libertarians of the FDP when their vote has more chance of making an impact and a large portion of voters who vote for the SPD in the constituencies where only the big players might win then vote for the Left, the Greens and, ahem, the Pirates when their vote has more chance of influencing the outcome.

Geekery aside the Greens have done very well to get more than four and a half million votes and likewise for the Left to get more than five million votes shows, just like in Portugal, that there are alternatives to the failed Labour-style parties so they better buck up their ideas, but as yet that mileau is not winning votes from the right and without doing that they can't move society to the left, just move the left to the left.

I'd like to recommend Tina Becker on Die Linke which I thought was particularly interesting.

1 comment:

pluralprogressive said...

On the whole it was not bad news for the 'real' left. Some social democrats got punished (SDP and PS), some social democrat reformers did well (Die Linke), and the radical left looked impressive (BE). Still some way to go before anything of any substance.

I rather expect to see Die Linke fold in the not too distant future and expect a slow trickle back to the SDP whilst that party is 'rediscovering' it's own social democracy in opposition. I could be wrong however.