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Friday, 26 April 2019 05:51 pm

How our MMP is different from Germany’s

Nov 6th, 2008 | By | Category: Latest News, News

She arrived last month on her gap year – to find a raucous election campaign under way. SABRINA DANKEL, of Lauffen in Germany (pictured right, getting acquainted with John Key), contrasts Kiwi and German electioneering:

As a newcomer, unaccustomed to New Zealand’s political parties, I feel stricken by the sensory overload of the election campaign and criticisms flying back and forth between the parties in the media.

In Germany, reports seem to me much more restrained and objective, and concentrate on the facts.

Although Germany’s voting system is based on the same principles as New Zealand’s, the advertising and promotional process in Germany is totally different.

Normally, the German parliamentary elections for the Bundestag take place not every three but every four years.

Election day in Germany is always on a Sunday and the next one will be on September 27, 2009.

On that day, German citizens 18 or older will vote for their members of parliament and in the following days, the newly elected parliament will vote for a new Bundeskanzler (Federal Chancellor). So, unlike New Zealand, one of our top leaders is not chosen directly by the public.

Elections in Germany are based upon five principles, embedded in the basic law, ensuring that elections are free, public, immediate, equal (for all voters) and secret.

I reckon New Zealand’s MMP system is equivalent to Germany’s. Voters in both countries get to choose both a candidate and a party.

As soon as the German parties have chosen their candidates and put them on the list, the election campaigns, comparable to those over here, begin.

There’s a large number of parties vying for attention, the well-established ones being Sozialdemokratische Partei Deutschland (Social Democrats) and Christlichdemokratische Union  (Christian Democrats). Alongside these the more obscure parties include the Fun Party and the Anarchic German Pogo Party.

Germany, too, has a 5% threshold for a party entering parliament.

German politicians tend to campaign using billboards showing their main candidates, advertising slogans and emotionally affecting photographs. As in New Zealand, they make public appearances but in more formal settings.

The parties’ canvassing is more neutral, it seems to me, than in New Zealand.

Here, I have seen billboards on public land but also on private property – eg, in citizens’ front gardens or yards. But in Germany, you find billboards solely on government land.

German parties or single candidates are neither supported nor represented by big names in the world of entertainment along the lines of the recent American campaigning.

Although the German parties try to win favour by having their candidates appear on German TV shows, the whole campaign is less influenced by entertainment in Germany than it is in the US and even over here.

Now that I’m beginning to understand how New Zealand campaigning works, I am as excited as anyone to find out what election day will bring.


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