Sunday, March 6, 2016

I voted today in the local elections in Frankfurt, and guess how many votes I had! - Open Post

The Frankfurt City Council

By Patrick

I know that many of you enjoy hearing some interesting details about European or German politics from time to time, and today I have something interesting to report. In our state of Hessen, one of 16 German states, there are local elections today. So far, so good. I have to admit that I do not really follow local politics, as everything is perfect here, and nothing needs to be done at all (LOL!). No, seriously, I am probably a bit too distracted by US politics.

However, when I received the election notice, I got a bit more interested, because included with the election notice was also an "example copy" of the voting ballot. I guess that most of you have never seen such a ballot, because it is unusual. Correct me if I am wrong. I know nothing of local US elections, after all!

Well, to be precise, there were two "example ballots" in the mail. One is for the Frankfurt City Council, and one is for the local Borough Council. I am talking here in the first the place about the ballot for the City Council. What is so special about it, you ask? First of all, it is yuuuuuuuuuuge. I mean, seriously, if Donald Trump had designed it, it could not be any yuuuuuuuuger. I measured it, in order to give you an exact figure, and the original ballot measures, not joking, 1.45 meters in length - that's 57 inches. Here is the proof:

But the yuuuuuugeness does not stop there. How many votes do you think each voter has? One, two, three? NO! For the Frankfurt City Council elections, every voter has no less than 93 votes. That is, because, perfect German logic, there are 93 seats in the City Council. And you really can set 93 crosses on this piece of paper, if you like. You can even distribute these crosses among candidates from totally different parties. And there are lots of them - people and parties.

You can also give one or more votes for each candidate, up to three votes. You can also just vote for a whole "party list", and the 93 votes will then all be counted for this party list. If you do not like people from this list, you can also cross them out. Anyway, there would be much more to explain, but I think you get the general idea. Did you already know that the Germans love complicated things?

The German state and federal elections are much less complicated, because in these elections, you have only two votes, one for a party list, and one for the Representative (Member of Parliament) of your voting district. But in local elections, things can be very different, as you can see, although the rules vary from state to state.

Let's take a closer look at the ballot. On several portions of the ballot, the voting rules are being explained, and as you have already seen, they require careful study, LOL!

You have the Christian Democrats and the Social Democrats, traditionally the two largest parties in Germany.... well as the other "main" smaller parties, the Green Party, the far-left socialist party, helpfully called "The Left", and well as the Liberal Democrats.

Then there are lots of "splinter parties", some of which are already represented the City Council, sometimes just with one seat. The fact that there is no "5% hurdle" for the City Council which exists in state or federal elections means that it is possible even for very little parties to get one or more seats. Some of these little parties are "serious", and some are just plain weird.

There is for example the "Pirate Party" (the Wikileaks/Snowden party) and the "Ecological Leftist Anti-Racist" party:

There are for example also the "Grey Panthers", a long established pensioners party (which has no influence, however), the unknown "Alliance for Progress and a New Beginning", as well as the rather mysterious party (at least to me) called "I am a Frankfurter."

There is also a party called "Politics without a Party".....

....then there are two extreme right-wing parties, the upcoming "Alternative for Germany" and the long established Neo-Nazis which of course do not call themselves Neo-Nazis, but "National-Democratic Party of Germany" (NPD). The latter exists for many decades, and at the moment there is actually a new effort ongoing to declare them illegal, which can only be done by German Supreme Court, where proceedings in this matter have started.

This is by far the funniest name on the list: "Party for Labour, the Constitutional State, Protection of Animals, Support of Elites and Base Democracy."


I actually only realized later that this funny-sounding party is in fact a "satire-party", which has its origins with a political satire magazine which is based in Frankfurt. They even have a member in the European Parliament, believe it or not. More info can be found here.

Well, there is more, but this should suffice!

I found a graphic showing the Frankfurt City Council how it looked right after the 2011 election, and as you can see, quite a number of these small parties got a few seats:

Surprisingly, the second largest party after the Christian Democrats in Frankfurt are not the Social Democrats, but the Green Party. Starting once as a very small, left-leaning environmental protection party in the 1980s, the Green Party became a major force in some locations. In our state of Hessen, the Green Party is currently also forming a coalition with their old "arch-enemies", the Christian Democrats on the state-level. In another German state, the Green Party even leads the government, and the state has a "Green" Governor.

The Mayor of Frankfurt is elected separately from the City Council, via direct vote from the citizens, but not today.

So I hope you enjoyed this little excursion into the wild world of local German politics, and the post was almost "Trump-free"....!

Trump would have 99% of the members of the City Council have "beaten up", as they would not agree with him. The one guy from the NPD however might really like him! I bet he does.

Have a great Sunday!

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