Niclauß, Karlheinz: The German federal election as a Chancellor election? Personalities and parties in the 2021 campaign.
The campaign for the 2021 federal election was exceptional, because Angela Merkel concluded her political career. The usual duel between an incumbent chancellor and the candidate of the second strongest party therefore did not materialize. Instead, three chancellor candidates from different parties competed for the leadership of the country. The election campaign was volatile and opinion surveys show many ups and downs. Thus, the performance of the top candidates was decisive for the election results of the parties. The old question: Do voters elect personalities or parties must thus be asked anew. It is evaluated in connection with the personalization of the political debate in other democracies and dis-cussed in light of classic writings on the topic. It becomes evident, that even in a pluralized party system and a coalition of three partners, the strong and personalized role of the chancellor must not be neglected [ZParl, vol. 53 (2022), no. 1, pp. 3 – 16]
Klein, Markus, Frederik Springer and Christoph Kühling: „Last Man Standing“: The impact of candidates for chancellor on the outcome of the 2021 German federal election.
The 2021 federal election was special in several respects with regard to the role of the candidates for chancellor. For the first time, Bündnis 90/Die Grünen entered the competition with their own candidate, resulting in a three-way race for chancellorship. In addition, for the first time in the history of the Federal Republic of Germany, the previous incumbent did not stand for re-election. Based on polling data it becomes evident that in the wake of Annalena Baerbock’s and Armin Laschet’s misconduct and scandals during the election campaign, both their popularity ratings and the vote shares of their respective parties declined significantly. It was only as a result of these failures involving his two competitors that Olaf Scholz – as the “Last Man Standing” – became the Germans’ preferred chancellor. Our analyses also suggest that the CDU/CSU would have done significantly better with Markus Söder as candidate for chancellor and would probably have won the federal election. Regarding the first-time nomination of a chancellor candidate by Bündnis 90/Die Grünen, we find that a preference for Annalena Baerbock had a significant and substantial effect on the green vote. [ZParl, vol. 53 (2022), no. 1, pp. 17 – 38]
Maier, Jürgen, Paul Lukowicz, Jennifer Bast, Marco Hirsch and Martin Lange: Mexican Standoff – “Trielle” in Berlin: Televised debates in the 2021 German federal election campaign.
Multiple debates were held on TV in the 2021 German federal election campaign between the chancellor candidates Armin Laschet (CDU/CSU), Olaf Scholz (SPD) and Annelena Baerbock (Bündnis 90/Die Grünen). For the last three televised debates (so-called „Trielle“), surveying viewers immediately before and immediately after the events and conducting real-time measurement of the candidates’ debate performance help understand their perception and impact. The debate performances of Scholz and Baerbock were rated significantly better than Laschet’s. The candidates used very different strategies. While Laschet focused surprisingly strongly on attack, Scholz pursued a classic incumbent strategy. The perceived performance of the chancellor candidates in the debates had a direct impact on their likability ratings, most strongly in the first broadcast. Overall, Scholz benefited the most from these debates. Baerbock, but especially Laschet, failed to close the gap on the SPD. Our analyses underscore the impact of televised debates and their outstanding importance in election campaigns. [ZParl, vol. 53 (2022), no. 1, pp. 39 – 52]
Jesse, Eckhard: The 2021 German federal election in the light of the representative election statistics.
Germany’s representative election statistics, which accompany the Bundestag elections since 1953 (except 1994 and 1998), are unique in the electoral world. They show the effective voter turnout in ten age classes as well as gender- and age-based voting behavior. They also provide information on vote-splitting, voting in presence or by mail-in-ballot and on invalid votes. The Union’s loss of 11.9 percentage points among men and 5.9 percentage points among women constitutes the largest gender-specific difference in 2021. With regard to voting behavior in different age groups, the Union and the SPD turned out to be “old parties”. Whereas both underperformed among younger voters, the “young parties” – Greens and FDP – were able to gain in this group. The electoral behavior of Die Linke’s voters are somewhat conflicted: Its results among senior voters were best in the East, but worst in the West. The AfD was the party with the largest electoral gender gap: it received votes from 13 .0 percent of male and 7 .8 percent of female electors. Although neither age nor gender determines electoral behavior, Germany’s representative election statistics have been indispensable for electoral research over time. [ZParl, vol. 53 (2022), no. 1, pp. 53 – 74]
Nyhuis, Dominic: Deficits of voting by mail in Germany – and five reform proposals. In light of the growing interest in voting by mail, political science research has increasingly focused on this important aspect of democratic participation. Studies in this field have scrutinized the practical implementation of the mail ballot. A systematic review of the literature on the practice of voting by mail shows possible reforms. Five approaches are discussed, (1) a more generous deadline for submitting postal votes, (2) simplifying the mail- in ballots, (3) translating them, (4) personal notifications in case of rejected mail ballots, and (5) incorporating data about rejected mail ballots into the official election results. In this way, the number of erroneous votes can be reduced and more transparency about the voting process can be secured. It is also required as a measure of citizen-oriented public administration [ZParl, vol. 53 (2022), no. 1, pp. 75 – 86]
Hellmann, Daniel and Danny Schindler: Reducing the Bundestag’s size by unified Christian-democratic parties? A minimally invasive proposal for reform that preserves the proportion of seats.
The German electoral law is a permanent object of criticism. This is mainly due to the Bundestag’s size, which grew to a record of 736 MPs in 2021. Key reasons for this growth are surplus and compensation seats which are hard to explain to the broader public. The reform of 2013 according to which surplus seats are offset between the state lists of one party, is only partly effective to stop the growth of Parliament, since the long-term partners CDU and the CSU run for the Bundestag as separate parties. Against this background, a twofold proposal for reform is needed. First, the electoral law would enable joint lists of parties that do not compete against each other. Second, an amendment of the Bundestag’s standing orders can establish that only parties with joint lists can form a parliamentary party group. The incentives provided by this combined reform could be effective because both Christian-democratic parties benefit from a joint parliamentary group. This proposal could be one component for the upcoming electoral reform since it does not change the proportion of seats and, thus, could also be supported by the CDU as well as the CSU. [ZParl, vol. 53 (2022), no. 1, pp. 87 – 100]
Muno, Wolfgang and Jan Müller: The state election in Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania on September 26, 2021 – red wave at the Baltic Sea.
On September 26, 2021, the eighth state election in Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania took place, in parallel with the federal election. It resulted in a clear victory for the SPD, which governs the state with changing coalition partners since 1994 and was once again able to defend its status as a catch-all party there. A key factor in the SPD’s good election result was the extraordinarily high popularity of its top candidate, incumbent Prime Minister Manuela Schwesig. After the elections, the SPD found itself in a comfortable middle position and could choose a coalition partner from several options. The CDU, Die Linke and AfD lost significant votes, while Bündnis 90/Die Grünen and FDP re-entered the State Parliament, which for the first time reflected unprecedented diversity with six parties reaching representation. The SPD’s great electoral success ultimately meant that, despite a multi- party system in the State Parliament, a two-party coalition of SPD and Die Linke found a solid majority and replaced the grand coalition of CDU and SPD that had been in power since 2006. [ZParl, vol. 53 (2022), no. 1, pp. 101 – 119]
Nyhuis, Dominic, Jan Velimsky, Sebastian Block and Martin Gross: The 2020 local elections in North Rhine-Westphalia: Strong Greens and Social Democrats loosing further ground in an election during the Covid-19-pandemic.
To understand the 2020 local elections in North Rhine-Westphalia, the electoral results are placed in the context of past election results in the state to test the impact of structural characteristics of the largest cities on local electoral behavior. In a second step, the mayoral elections in the largest cities and counties (Landkreise) are added before including the coalitions formed in the largest cities after the election. It becomes evident that while the Social Democrats have lost further ground, the Greens have seen a sharp increase in electoral support. Even though the mayoral elections continue to be dominated by SPD and CDU, the Social Democrats win most frequently in the largest cities, while the Christian Democrats are the prevailing force in the counties. [ZParl, vol. 53 (2022), no. 1, pp. 120 – 134]
Hilmer, Richard and Rita Müller-Hilmer: The 2021 German federal election – breakup with limited risks.
The German federal election 2021 took place under exceptional conditions, and unusual were its course and outcome, too. The election year was marked more than ever by crises, making expected management of future crises a relevant topic. Voting was complicated by the fact that the incumbent chancellor, Angela Merkel, did not run for re-election and that three candidates aspired to the chancellor’s office – both situations a novelty in Germany’s federal elections. Correspondingly high was the volatility: for a long time, the CDU/CSU were clearly heading the polls, then in spring the Greens took over the lead, and in the end, quite unexpectedly, the SPD won the election. The decisive factor for the outcome was the search for a leading person or party who was most likely to be trusted to cope with the great challenges. The electorate took a decisive leap of faith in Olaf Scholz, who was experienced in dealing with the financial and pandemic crises. During the election campaign, Scholz consistently gained support, reinforced by serious communication failures of his opponents, Annalena Baerbock and Armin Laschet. Citizens were most likely to trust Scholz and his SPD to render the upcoming transformations in Germany socially acceptable – a motive that was more important for the voters than coping with the climate crisis and the Corona pandemic. The election result was closer than any other federal election, with the Greens and the FDP playing a key role in forming the government. In the end it was the decision of the FDP against the lackluster conservative party and in favor of a “traffic light” coalition with the SPD and the Greens – another novelty for a federal government. [ZParl, vol. 53 (2022), no. 1, pp. 135 – 171]
Siefken, Sven T.: The path to the first “traffic light” coalition at the Federal level in Germany – rationalized government formation behind closed doors 2021.
The formation of the traffic light coalition and the government of SPD, Bündnis 90/Die Grünen and FDP after the Bundestag election in 2021 was conducted in a structured process, characterized by ongoing institutionalization compared to the past. After a short phase of preliminary talks (“Vorsondierungen”), exploratory talks (“Sondierungsgespräche”) were held in a mid-sized group. This led to official coalition negotiations of almost 300 people, conducted in a large structure with a clear division of labor in a main negotiation group (“Hauptverhandlungsrunde”) and 22 policy-specific working groups. They included a considerable number of party representatives from the states (“Länder”). Compared to previous years, details in the organization of the negotiations were slightly adjusted: It was vertically flatter and horizontally more differentiated, but there was no fundamental transformation. While continuity in structures and process can be observed, the interactions changed: In 2021, they were characterized by strict confidentiality and happened largely behind closed doors. At defined steps after the exploratory talks and the coalition negotiations, results were made public in writing and given to the involved parties for decision. The stipulated way of working together in the coalition and the structure of the committee system in the new Bundestag also show continuity. Overall, a slight increase in parliamentary influence on the coalition negotiations becomes evident. [ZParl, vol. 53 (2022), no. 1, pp. 172 – 199]
Zeh, Wolfgang: Parliamentary debates and social media debates.
Contributions to parliamentary debates are based on democratic legitimation by general elections, whereas discussions in social media consist of the expression of personal opinions. It is of importance to parliaments not to mix up those different forms of public discourses. Parliament is constitutionally not allowed to multiply its membership by including participants without a mandate. This happens, though, when statements in social media get incorporated “live” into parliamentary debates like those of representatives. The speaker may, by means of the parliamentary rules of order, ensure that during parliamentary meetings Members of Parliament refrain from criticizing and discussing the parliamentary negotiations by means of the social media. [ZParl, vol. 53 (2022), no. 1, pp. 200 – 211]