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Oct 5 / Jonathan

PR in Germany

I ran across two rather different takes on the proportionality of the results of Germany’s recent election.

First we have Matthew Søberg Shugart at Fruits and Votes:

The German result

Perusing the results of last Sunday’s German election (thank you, Adam Carr), one thing that jumps out at me is the high—by standards of Germany’s proportional system—disproportionality. …

While we have this from Pauline Lejeune at FairVote:

Germany’s federal parliament: fair and accurate representation

… The highly representative outcome of the German election is the product of its Mixed Member Proportional System…

There’s no real dispute here, but rather implicit comparisons of the German results to rather different standards. Lejeune:

Merkel’s Christian Democratic alliance and their partner, the FDP [secured] a clear majority in the Bundestag (53.37% of the seats) with 48.4% of the nationwide votes.

Historically, this is a rather high level of disproportionality a German election, and Shugart conjectures as to the reason behind it. But for the American voter, Lejeune’s point is the more interesting one:

Without the party list votes and seats, the CDU/CSU would have earned an overwhelming 73% of all seats and been able to govern on its own despite taking less than 40% of the district votes and barely a third of the party list votes.

So with PR and a little less than half the votes, the winning coalition won a little more than half the seats, while in a US-style majority-take-all system, it would have won nearly three quarters of the seats.

Quoting Ernest Naville,

In a democratic government the right of decision belongs to the majority, but the right of representation belongs to all.

…in Germany, anyway.

(If you’re not familiar with Germany’s mixed-member proportional (MMP) system, Lejeune’s article isn’t a bad place to start.)

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