Germany Proves that Alternative Voting Systems Do Not Work

November 28, 2013
Author Article Constitution News Opinion

Angela Merkel
Image from Wikimedia Commons

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.

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