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Bundestags Election in Germany 2013

Election analysis 22.9.2013

Detailed analysis of the recent german Bundestag-election 2013

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The CDU achieved a particularly good result, its best since 1994. The

election results are above all a show of trust in Chancellor Angela Merkel.

Since 2005, she has found a way of appealing to voters from all parties

and has mobilised their support for the CDU/CSU union. This growth in

support can only be explained by the way she has opened up the party to

new voters. The Chancellor has reaped the benefits of her positive image

and the high levels of confidence in her ability to find political solutions

that are welcomed by broad swathes of the electorate. For CDU/CSU

voters, the candidate was as important as the policies (38:36). For all the

other parties, policies were much more important than candidates

(Infratest dimap).

During the last term, the Union on the whole succeeded in consolidating

its political core competences and gaining the trust of voters. It even

managed to gain ground in the area of social justice, something that is

quite remarkable in light of the SPD's strong image in this respect. The

Union won 41.5 percent of the second vote, with 34.1 percent for the CDU

and 7.4 percent for the CSU. The CDU gained 6.9 points, the CSU 0.9. In

total, the Union gained 7.7 points. After the Union won 218 of its 239

seats directly in 2009, 2013 also saw an increase in the number of

directly-elected candidates. 236 direct candidates won seats in the

Bundestag, with another 75 gaining mandates via the regional electoral

lists. As a result, the Union won 311 seats out of a possible 631 (+72


The growth of the Union is also remarkable when viewed from a historical

perspective. Chancellors who stand for a third term normally finds it

difficult to remind voters of their previous successes. Only Konrad

Adenauer in 1957 managed to improve on his previous election results of

1949 and 1953, but under quite different conditions, because at that time

the party system was slowly undergoing a process of consolidation. In

winning a third term, Angela Merkel has succeeded in significantly

improving the Union's results. The election results were an improvement

on those of 1994 and also constituted a positive vote for the two main

parties. Even though support for the SPD remains at a lower level, the two

main parties combined have demonstrated clear growth.

The Union has also made above-average progress in some of Germany’s

major cities (with the exception of Duisburg). The strongest (two-digit)

gains were seen in Baden-Württemberg, Brandenburg and Saxony Anhalt.

The districts with the best second vote results for the Union were almost

exclusively in Bavaria (with the exception of Cloppenburg-Vechta). The

Union's worst second vote result was in Berlin-Friedrichshain-Prenzlauer

Berg (15.4 percent).

Interestingly, Union voters in this election were generally quick to make

up their minds about where to place their vote. 37 percent decided a long

time ago and 18 percent said they always vote for the same party

(average 14 percent; Infratest dimap).

Although the SPD's candidate was viewed relatively positively after his

nomination, the party was unable to recover from the slump in support

that was experienced during the campaign. This was clearly detrimental in

a context where the majority of Germans wanted Merkel to continue as

Chancellor and where personalities played a major role. The opposition

also experienced problems in its core area of social democracy. It was

unable to regenerate itself in terms of policy and regain public confidence

in its ability to act and find solutions. However, it recovered somewhat in

comparison to the last election and in the end won 25.7 of the vote (+2.7


The SPD will be sending 193 members to the Bundestag. Once again, the

SPD experienced losses amongst its direct candidates. In 2005 it had 145

directly-elected MPs, whereas this figure dropped to 64 in 2009 and 58 in

2013. As a result, large swathes of Germany now have no directly-elected

SPD MPs. In Schleswig-Holstein and Berlin the party has two direct

mandates, with a further one in Rhineland-Palatinate and none in Baden-

Württemberg, Bavaria, the Saarland, Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, Saxony,

Saxony Anhalt and Thuringia. With just a few exceptions, the SPD had its

best performance in its traditional bastions of North Rhine-Westphalia. It

achieved its best second vote results in Gelsenkirchen, Aurich-Emden,

Herne-Bochum II, Duisburg II and Essen II, and its worst in Saxony.

The Left suffered clear losses with a drop of 3.3 points. The party won 8.6

percent of the vote, leaving them just a hairsbreadth (0.2 points) ahead

of the Greens and allowing them to stake a claim as the country's thirdstrongest

party. But it suffered dramatic losses in both rounds of voting.

Apart from the 4 direct mandates in Berlin (which have almost always

fallen to the PDS/Left), it lost 12 direct mandates, all of them to CDU

candidates. Polls show that the Left have long suffered from the effects of

their internal squabbles. Although there was little serious doubt that they

would gain entry to the Bundestag via the direct mandate clause, it did for

some time seem that the party was hovering around the five percent

hurdle. It was only after it really mobilised itself towards the end of the

campaign – probably thanks to its leading candidate2 Gregor Gysi – that it

was able to reactivate some of its potential.

The Greens will have been disappointed with their result of 8.4 percent, a

drop of 2.3 points. In 2010 their star was beginning to rise and a poll

carried out in April 2011 by Forschungsgruppe Wahlen in the wake of

Fukishima placed them at 27 percent. But this was followed by a steady

decline in support, a trend that their campaign strategy was unable to

turn around. Although the Greens are clearly perceived as the experts on

the environment and energy, these areas were rather overshadowed in

the campaign by social justice issues. Their manifesto had many

similarities to that of the Left, though it was not quite so extreme. This

message could have led to cognitive dissonance among voters (this

requires investigation in other analyses). For the fourth time in a row, the

Greens were able to defend the direct mandate of Hans-Christian Ströbele

in Berlin Friedrichshain-Kreuzberg. In Stuttgart I, Cem Özdemir was

defeated by less than 5 points. The Greens focused on their leading

candidates, Jürgen Trittin and Katrin Göring-Eckardt, while their first

elected Green Minister-President, Winfried Kretschmann, stayed in the


For the first time in a parliamentary election, the FDP just fell short of the

five percent hurdle. Its result of 4.8 percent represented a drop of 9.8

points. And because the party failed to achieve three direct mandates it

will not play a part in the next parliament. After achieving its best ever

result in 2009 (14.6 percent), 2013 turned out to be its worst. The 2009

result was largely due to a widespread desire among voters to put an end

to the grand coalition, which encouraged considerable numbers of former

CDU voters to support the FDP, but there was no such motivation in 2013.

Early in 2010, the FDP quickly began to attract criticism after taking its

place in government. Whereas the Union received almost exclusively

positive feedback, the liberals found themselves drowning in negatives. In

the end this led to it losing its role as the "functional party". Even the

party's top leadership failed to appeal to voters. Although 49 percent of

voters had pronounced themselves generally happy with Guido

Westerwelle before the elections, parliamentary leader Rainer Brüderle

gained a score of 28 percent, with party leader Philipp Rösler bringing up

2 The Left nominated a front-runner from every conceivable wing of the party, so the nomination was teeming

with eight candidates. However, only Sahra Wagenknecht and Gregor Gysi appeared on posters around the


The Alternative for Germany party (AfD) just fell short of the 5 percent

hurdle with 4.7 percent. A one-issue party whose leaders made some

controversial statements during the campaign, the AfD mobilised voters

who are unhappy with current policies on Europe and the euro. Like all

protest parties, it gained particular traction with previous non-voters. The

AfD gained attention with its relatively professional national poster

campaign. This was an impressive achievement for a party that was only

set up in April and that, according to its own figures, already has over

16,000 members. No other "young" party has ever managed to campaign

at this level. It also benefited from having a great deal of media coverage.

However, outside its own supporter base, the AfD attracted a negative

response (-1.4 all; Forschungsgruppe Wahlen). The Left achieved the

same figure. However, AfD supporters gave them a score of 3.8. 61% of

voters for the Pirates claimed their vote was based on "dissatisfaction with

other parties", whereas this motivation is only given by 37 percent of AfD

supporters. 60 percent of these said their vote was based on policy

(Forschungsgruppe Wahlen). However, in the Infratest dimap survey, 57

percent named their motivation as being "disappointment". The AfD also

only managed to mobilise three-quarters of its potential in the final weeks

of the campaign (Infratest dimap).

Of the other small parties, the Pirates clearly failed to enter parliament

by winning just 2.2 percent of the vote (+0.2 points). The surge in

support experienced in 2011 that led to four seats in state parliaments has

clearly ebbed away. Personal squabbles, public indiscretions and a narrow

range of policies all made it difficult for the party to mobilise its potential

voters. The NPD won 1.3 percent of the vote (-0.2 points). The REP

remained insignificant with just 0.2 percent.3 The NPD certainly fought an

aggressive campaign, but here too, signs of personal weariness and

attrition combined with internal conflicts over the party's direction hardly

helped to motivate its potential voters. The Free Voters took part in the

Bundestag elections for the first time, winning 1.0 percent of the vote and

thus becoming eligible for state funding. Originally they wanted to fight

the election with the Wahlalternative 2013 political group, which then in

the spring of 2013 became the AfD. Some of the Free Voters' more wellknown

supporters moved over to the AfD.

Germany's electoral laws have changed since the last parliamentary

elections. "Overhang" seats are now balanced by "compensation" seats so

that the Bundestag is formed only via the proportion of second votes.

There were 622 members in the last parliament. 24 of these were

overhang seats (21 for the CDU and 3 for the CSU). The Union and the

SPD were the only parties to benefit from the overhang seats4, but it was

a different party at each election. And it was never out of the question

that the Left could win overhang seats, because the number of these

seats increased after reunification. The change in electoral law means

that the effect of the overhang seats is reduced because they are balanced

out by compensation seats. After the latest elections, the Bundestag

comprises 299 directly-elected members and 299 members elected via the

lists, plus any overhang and compensation seats. The size of the

parliamentary group is decided solely by the second vote cast for the

party. The fear that the compensation seats could result in parliament

becoming overblown proved unfounded. Of the 631 seats in the

Bundestag, 28 are compensation seats, so parliament has only grown by 9


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