Seven weeks until the German Elections!

Willkommen von Deutschland! So, it’s been a little harder to keep up with this blog than I anticipated — as well as with what is happening politically in the United States. Seems I wake up every morning to a dozen push alerts and messages from friends. (Though, I’m glad I might have health insurance when I return home! It was weird to watch that vote over breakfast.)

Plus, I’m in language school eight hours a day. Which is fun… but… a lot.

I want this blog to be a “value add” so I think I’m going to just post here when I see something that I think might be of interest. That said — the German Parliamentary Election (or Bundeswahl 2017) season officially kicked off this weekend and I thought people might enjoy hearing how quaint it is. It lasts seven weeks.

Yes. Seven weeks.

Over the weekend, campaign posters popped up around Germany and in my neighborhood.

They’re so… tame…. and issue-focused.

It’s not just in the posters where there are notable differences between the U.S. and Germany. First, campaigns in Germany are federally funded. Television ads don’t run amok — the government allocates ads by the number of votes earned in the past election. German politicians are not allowed to post posters or run ads which attack their opponents. Obviously, this would run contrary to free speech laws in the U.S., but it is refreshing.

I found this great 2013 article from The Atlantic which pointed out the differences and explains how, post-reunification, the Germans frowned upon attacking your neighbor. It’s really an interesting read.

Beyond campaigning, the parliamentary system works quite differently than the U.S. system. The seats are distributed between far more parties. To be recognized as a party in the Bundestag you have to have 5% of the seats of people from a similar party.

Here’s the current landscape of German politics:

Courtesy German Bundestag website

The NDP is the far, far-right party and the AFD is the far-right party. Neither of these parties currently have any seats in parliament.

The Christian Democratic Union (CDU) and the Christian Social Union (CSU) are, together, the largest party and represent the center-right. This is Angela Merkel’s party and they have a controlling number of seats in the Bundestag with 309 seats.

The Social Democratic Party of Germany (SPD) is the center-left. Martin Schulz is the candidate for chancellor from this party.

Together, the Bündis 90 (Alliance 90) and Die Grünen (the Green Party) hold 63 seats in Parliament. And Die Linke (the German word for “left”) is… well… left. It also holds 63 seats.

I’m excited to be in Germany during this election — which happens on Sunday, September 24. It’s interesting to see how a country’s past influences how they conduct an election. For instance, the history of the East German Stasi continues to influence how Germans value privacy even in elections. (Read that Atlantic article above to find out more about how that alters how candidates campaign.)

I’m hoping to visit a couple campaign events and will post here if I am able to do so! Also, I hope when German language school is done I might have more time for other political posts.

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