5 Ways Elections in Germany are Different from US Elections
by Kate Müser
Last year I had to register to vote in the state of New York, since that was the last state I’d voted in, which felt odd since I only lived there for 10 months. But given the absurd campaign in the run-up to the 2016 presidential election, filling out my absentee ballot became all the more important to me.
I held out hope that some miraculously competent third-party candidate would pop up on the ballot – that is, until it turned up in my mailbox.
In Germany, politics are not like grocery shopping: Germans apparently appreciate choice, and, anti-Aldi-style, there are more political parties than the average German could name without googling. Admittedly, I had lost touch with just how few choices there are in the US.
Nearly a year later, it’s Germany’s turn to head to the polls. The result will eventually be the most powerful person in Europe and – considering the current global political climate – potentially even the world.
But Americans might be shocked to find out that no chancellor candidates will appear on Germans’ ballots, since the chancellor is chosen later by the ruling coalition formed post-election by the leading parties.
Instead, national elections consist of a local candidate for the federal parliament, the Bundestag, and a nod to a party of their choice. It seems fairly unspectacular for a vote that will help shape the future of Europe.
In fact, “unspectacular” can apply to elections in Germany in general. There is no mudslinging, no late-night Twitter rants, practically no merchandising, no big televised rallies – and only recently have the top chancellor candidates started holding debates.
Germany’s big 2017 election on September 24 is only weeks away, but if you were to visit Germany now, you’d be hard pressed to notice it.
In this video, I’ve gone into 5 big ways that German national elections are different from those in the US. Both systems have plenty of pros and cons – but not much in common.
Kate Müser, who grew up in Pleasanton, California, was surprised to discover that she feels even closer to her home state now than she did when she first moved to Bonn, Germany, over 13 years ago.
For over a decade, Kate has been a TV, radio and online journalist at Deutsche Welle, where she currently hosts the video series Meet the Germans with Kate and the TV show PopXport.