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Bernard Owen on effects of electoral systems

Part IV: More examples: Germany today; Denmark in 1972-73

Bernard Owen, November 2008

The Polish-language version of this page (click) - polska wersja tej strony

This is the fourth and final in a series of short talks by Bernard Owen about effects of proportional representation.

In this series:

Listen to the talk:

Germany in 1960 and today

Germans have an interesting mixed electoral system. Half of the members of parliament (Bundestag) are elected on a majority system, on plurality, and the other half on a proportional system. All the candidates who are elected in the majority part keep their seats, and in the proportional part only those who are needed so that their party obtains (when all the candidates are added) proportionally the same percentage of seats as the percentage of the votes, are kept.

That means that the result in a way is proportional (approximately), but the fact that they have first-past-the-post in the majority part means that they have almost a two-party system. Now this proportional part, of course, brings with it a certain number of difficulties that we have seen in other European countries, that have only proportional representation.

And this happened first in 1960. The Liberal Party (like in Austria, but which had no Nazi connotations) was the ally in government with either the socialists or the CDU/CSU, which are right parties, normal right parties. This grand coalition had the same effect as it had in Austria, that is the NPD (the neo-Nazi party) began gaining in regional elections. They got more and more percentage, and more seats. And people were very much afraid that NPD would reach the limit in the next federal elections to get into parliament. The NPD just missed that limit and did not win the three majority seats that were needed to enter the parliament. But at that time the Federal Republic of Germany thought of changing systems to adopt just a majority system, and do away with the proportional part.

But since the NPD did not get into the parliament, they just let it go.

But now that Germany got into a similar position, it would be interesting to see what happens to the NPD in the ex-Soviet Germany. And in other regions, where there exists a strong socialist or a strong right party, whether you will see them lose seats to the Greens or other small parties. It will be interesting to see in the next federal election whether the small parties do not gain sufficient seats to change the regular working of the German Republic. That is a danger, and I think that the Germans are aware of this, they are thinking of what could be done, maybe doing away with the proportional part of the election would certainly be a good thing.

Had they not had this compensation making the result proportional, it would have been better. The fact that they have this compensation, which gives an almost proportional result, is the danger.

Denmark in 1972-73

What happened to Nazi Germany happened in Denmark in 1973. It happened in Norway at the same date.

Danish political parties have been in place for many, many years. The scene is very stable. And suddenly the Scandinavian countries began reacting against too much taxes, against paying too many taxes. And the government of Denmark decided to put a new tax on detached houses. And one day on television there was an interview of a man called Mogens Glistrup, who pretended that he did not pay any taxes at all. And he became a hero! People wrote in: "who is this man who does not pay taxes?" and all that. And for the election which followed the introduction of new taxes and the fall of the head of the coalition, Glistrup put up his own party. He had had until then absolutely no political engagement, but people wrote in so much that he said "OK, come in". And just like Hitler in 1930 in Germany, he got 18% of the votes, to everyone's surprise. No one expected that he would reach that level.

He was imprisoned later, because his way of avoiding taxation was not quite legal, so he did not make it. But his party still exists, and it means another fragmentation of the Danish political parties.

In this series:

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Let us discuss electoral systems - zapraszam do dyskusji o systemach wyborczych by skubi December 14, 2008, 02:19:06 AM

Back to English-language articles:

Weimar Germany:
Government stability:

Powrót do artykułów po polsku:

Niemcy weimarskie:
Stabilność rządów:

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