On September 22nd 2013, Germany went to the polls, and 42% of the population voted for the conservative Christian Democrat Union of chancellor Angela Merkel (pronounce with hard 'g') and their allies the Christian Social Union of Bavaria. This right-of-center coalition gained 311 seats – just 5 short of a majority. It was a stunning victory for a European conservative party. Yet today Frau Merkel has been forced to form a so-called 'Grand Coalition' with the opposition party, the Social Democrats (SPD). How does a stunning victory for conservatives result in socialists being in government?
Compare results with British General Elections. In 2001, Labour achieved just 40.7% of the vote, but had a majority of 167 over all the other parties.
How did such a large vote for the conservatives in Germany result in failure to win? It was because of two factors, in reverse order of importance. 1. the failure of the pre-election liberal Free Democratic Party, who gained insufficient votes for seats in the Bundestag and 2. Germany's Alternative Vote form of proportional representation – the very system that Britain's Liberal Democrat Party would have liked to impose on the United Kingdom.
Although the 2010 UK election failed to produce a majority party, the first-past-the-post system remains a better choice for electing MPs, as it maintains a strong link between MP and constituency. Germany's election merely reinforces the views that I expressed here in 2011.