Thursday, 26 July 2012

Wow! The German "Wahlrecht" is illegal... just Wow!

Just imagine the following lovely scenario. In a year's time, there are national elections in your country, but the law defining the "right to vote" is illegal. Well, the German Federal Constitutional Court in Karlsruhe did just that. It declared the right to vote ("Wahlrecht") a representative of each person of German nationality to not be legal in the eyes of the federal constitution ("Bundesverfassung").

As a German who is able to look at it from afar having lived abroad for most of my adult life, this is hilarious. Without boring you all with the details, it boils down to each political party and coalition which was in power tinkering with the "Wahlrecht" a little bit to emphasise the aspects that helped them in the last election. Finally, after it was found that the right was illegal in 2009, the coalition designed a new right to vote against the will of the opposition, which then went to court. The outcome is as mentioned.

According to various news sites (SPON, FOCUS, Die Sueddeutsche) the judges gave various reasons that I will mention with a personal opinion, but first I have to comment that the complexity (mostly mathematical) of this matter is ridiculous. It turned into a coloss of such unimaginably impenetrable proportions that I think most politicians were just hoping that noone would touch it. Reading those articles made my head spin a little and judging by my academic achievements, I always assumed that I was good at understanding complex issues.

The most bizarre aspects of the legislation is that it is possible that a party with more votes, will have "less" seats in the parliament (?!?). Like, I assume, at least 90% of the German population, I am not so strong in the finer points of these laws and rules. In the news and media, they use certain words that I have never bothered to look up, because I wasn't interested enough. One such thing is an "Überhangmandat" (Overhang seat). This is something that hardly anyone understands in its entirety. The english wikipedia article quotes it as
Overhang seats can arise in elections under the traditional (i.e. as it originated in Germany) mixed member proportional (MMP) system, when a party is entitled to fewer seats as a result of party votes than it has won constituencies.
Now, the government and the opposition have about a year to get the next draft right. Having seen how the Belgians can run their country without having a government for about one and a half years, I am skeptical if there will be such a legislation by the designated date. It remains to be seen.

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