When walking through town during the past months one could not escape a number of more or less familiar faces looking at you from their posters – whether they are smiling endearingly or grinning maliciously depends on your point of view. This Sunday it is election time! German citizens over 18 years have the chance to decide who will gain a seat in the Bundestag and whether chancellor Angela Merkel will enter a fourth term or another candidate will take over. The German voting system is quite complex and due to the arise of highly debated issues such as the refugee question this election is bound to be an especially interesting one – here’s some more information so you know what’s going on!
Who gets to vote?
German citizens who have reached the age of 18 or above can vote this Sunday from 8AM until 6PM at an appointed polling station. But being on holiday during the semester break doesn’t mean you don’t get to vote – many people who live in Freiburg already voted via postal vote.
How does the election work?
Each voter gets two votes – one for a local representative and the second one for the party they support. Local candidates who win in their district get a seat in parliament. The second vote determines to which parties the rest of the seats go – the parties have to reach a threshold of five percent to send representatives to Berlin via second vote. This is a measure to prevent the rise of extremist parties and too many different parties in the Bundestag. The percentage of votes a party receives determines how many seats they get.
Who can you be voting for?
The major candidates representing the parties on a nationwide level are Angela Merkel (CDU), Martin Schulz (SPD), Cem Özdemir (Grüne), Sahra Wagenknecht (Die Linke), Christian Lindner (FDP) and Alice Weidel & Alexander Gauland (both AfD). These are the parties that have, according to the prognoses, a chance at reaching the five-percent threshold even if there are many more. This is especially notable for the free-market liberal democrats (FDP) since they failed to get enough second votes in the last election and the right-wing AfD since, so far, they are only represented on a regional level. Some candidates of the AfD have expressed far-right, anti-immigration and anti-Islam statements which is why some candidates from more “traditional” parties oppose them strongly.
How does that concern me?
If you are a German citizen by this you should feel encouraged to take your chance and vote this Sunday! Voting is an essential part of how democracy works and a chance for every citizen to partake in the creation of a government. If you feel like you don’t know enough about the individual parties reading the election programmes is always a good start!
However, even international students and residents of Freiburg have a chance to do a symbolic vote and show how they stand on political issues. The initiative “wir wählen” asks for a right to vote for long-term residents who don’t have a German or an EU passport and offers a chance to vote symbolically. They argue that everyone who lives in a country is affected by its politics and should therefore have a right to exercise democracy. For more information on how, when and where to partake in the symbolic vote check the “wir wählen” website.
***WIN SOMETHING AWESOME****
Last but not least you can always take part in our guessing game and win 5×2 complimentary tickets for the cinema! Guess how high the voter turnout in Freiburg and in Germany in general is and if you get close enough you’ll have a chance to win a prize! For more information have a look at our facebook-page.
Hopefully, now you’ll feel more prepared for the election day and discussions afterwards thanks to this short overview. If you have more questions feel free to leave a comment below!