Far be it from me to poach on Alex’s turf, but here is a bit of German election madness that you won’t want to miss.
As you all know by now, the Left Party — which is basically the eastern PDS, the mutated ruling party of ancien régime East Germany, plus some hard-left western renegades from the SPD — has emerged as a strong potential spoiler. Now an easterner from the other extreme of the spectrum is doing her best to throw sand in the electoral gears.
She had to die to do this, so full marks for effort if nothing else.
Kerstin Lorenz is, or rather was, candidate of the neonazi NPD for a Bundestag seat from Dresden. She has now had the welcome, if in electoral terms untimely, good taste to cleanse the world of her presence. All’s well that ends well, you might say. And you’d be right, except for one nagging detail. Because Ms Lorenz hopped it so close to the election, German rules require that the vote in her district be repeated.
A minor ripple, surely? Maybe not. If the nationwide results are at all close, things might actually depend on the outcome of the special election in Dresden I. Though it is the Left Party that is threatened with the most direct effect, a doubtful result hurts everybody.
A Left Party candidate, it seems, has a good chance of winning a direct mandate in Dresden I. Now, direct mandates are precious things in Germany. If a party wins three, for example, it needn’t worry about that famous 5% hurdle. More to the immediate point, under Germany’s proportional representation system if you don’t win a direct mandate, you can win a mandate through the second, party-list rather than direct vote. If the Leftists’ woman doesn’t get a direct mandate on 12 September because the vote in her district must be repeated, she will become an MP nonetheless through her party’s list. And, if she does, then the Union could later get the district’s direct mandate. Thanks to the so-called ‘overhang mandates’ that result when a party gains more seats in a given state than its party-list votes in that state would otherwise give it, this could cause a shift of up to three seats in the Bundestag. As a result, Germany might have to wait weeks to learn who its new chancellor will be.
The NPD woman would doubtless be laughing up her sleeve at all this. We can be indulgent about that, seeing as she had to do us all the service of dying in order to enjoy her laughter. But now we are left in a situation in which either the Leftists or the Union may benefit. Is there no hope, then, of an outcome that hurts both?