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Review: 2018 Swedish General Election

The rise of the right-wing Sweden Democrats did not live up to the media’s hype.

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Sweden has not been exempt from the constant coverage and talk about the continued rise of right wing populism throughout Europe, and Sweden’s election put the Sweden Democrats (SD) in the spotlight.  The highly anticipated election was to be yet another test of the center-right and center-left’s resilience to their rise, as well as the continued increasing popularity of the left-wing.  Polling showed the right-wing SD in a position to potentially win a plurality of the vote, or at least finish in second.  Instead, the main event didn’t quite live up to the hype, and the real battle was elsewhere on election night.

As the votes began coming in, at first it looked like the populist wave had truly happened to a significant extent with the SD receiving 21.4% and solidly in second place after 241 electoral districts (out of 6,004) were counted.  Slowly, though, it became apparent that the populists had struggled in the more populated districts while the center-left Social Democrats (SAP) never lost their lead at around 28.3%, despite taking significant losses compared to 2014.  It was the center-right Moderates (SAP), instead, who surged late into second place, earning 19.8% of the vote, while the SD dropped to 17.7%.

While both the well established SAP and M performed worse than in 2014, both parties will be relieved that the Sweden Democrats were held to a modest 4.8% gain compared to the previous election.  Exit polling showed that 19% and 18% of SD’s voters had previously voted for the SAP and M, respectively, in 2014, showing the relative pull the party has had on both the center-right and center-left.  The major parties performed better than the polls expected despite that pull, and they will be satisfied following tonight’s results, but the hard work of forming a government begins tomorrow.

Stefan_Löfven_efter_slutdebatten_i_SVT_2014_(cropped)
Prime Minister Stefan Löfven (SAP) can breathe a sigh of relief for only a moment before negotiations begin. (Wikipedia)

While the SAP won a plurality of the vote, both they and their coalition partner, the Green Party (MP), suffered losses combined at about 4.4% of the vote.  While a modest defeat, they had a weak hold on power before, and it will be difficult for them to form a government.  If you include the socialist Left Party (V) to create a “Left Block,” they together received 40.6% of the vote, slightly more than the center-right “Alliance” at 40.3% (both coalition are unofficially projected to receive 143 seats each despite the left block’s slight vote edge).  V, though, is not overwhelming happy to work with the center-left, and tensions were already high between the SAP and MP, making it questionable at best if there is a possible agreement for a minority coalition between the parties.  Time will tell, and the SAP is the largest party and will take the lead, as per the usual, on coalition discussions, but they will have difficulty finding enough support.

On the center-right, the Moderate’s Alliance allies had a decent night.  While the Liberals (L) gained about the same percentage as 2014 (gaining just 0.1%), the Centre Party (C) gained 2.7% of the vote to reach 8.6%, and Christian Democrats (KD) gained 1.8% of the vote, surprisingly, to reach 6.4%.  These gains, though modest, total to 4.6%, enough to counter the Moderates’ 3.5% loss and give the Alliance a serious claim and chance at governing.  The group is split, though, on how to deal with the SD, with many within the Moderate and Christian Democratic parties being more willing to work with the populists while the Liberals and Centre are adverse.  If the Alliance is to take the lead, they will need at least the passive support of the SAP or SD to elect a Prime Minister, and neither of those parties would be excited to do that.  The latter would be possible if just M and KD chose to work with SD, though an agreement is unlikely due to the tension between the parties and they would still fall short of a majority.

As we discussed in our preview of the election, a cross-block coalition is a serious possibility as well.  While still short of a majority, a center-left plus liberal coalition or general agreement between the SAP, MP, C, and L could be a possibility, though still likely lacking a majority (they are unofficially projected to receive 165 seats, 10 short of a majority).  The Alliance will be tentative about breaking up to help the SAP, but the SAP would likely be even more resistant about allowing a Prime Minister from a party that they beat.  No cross-block coalition would work with either V or SD involved, as it would alienate at least one of the partners as well.  There are options for the leaders of the main parties, but none of the results are likely to be a comfortable government.


Winners

The Alliance: While the Moderates lost seats, the block managed to have a net gain in vote percentage despite the rise of the Sweden Democrats.  That bodes well for them and especially for the minor parties which lost little to no support to the SD.  They are in a potential situation to form a government.  Can they navigate the treacherous waters ahead to do so?

The Left Party: The SAP’s drop left an opening for V to move into.  While they didn’t quite live up to the higher expectations of the polls, they managed their best result since 2002 and are in a position to force the SAP to work with them if the center-left is going to lead the government.

Sweden Democrats: While they failed to blow everyone away, the over-hyping from the media was not their fault.  The SD managed to increase their vote total from 2014 by 4.75% of the vote and solidify third place.  Like the Left Party, they are making the center-right consider working with them in they want to govern.

Losers

The Social Democratic Party: They survived.  That’s about the only positive out of tonight for the SAP.  This is their worst result in 107 years and they are no longer the sole power at play when it comes to forming a government.

The Greens: For a significant portion of the evening it appeared that the Green Party might finish below the 4% cutoff point.  They beat it, but losing 2.5% of the vote and two-fifths of your seats is not a fun position to be in.  They are on the edge and will need to be careful if they do not want to fall below that 4% mark in the next election.


Even after the results become official, we won’t know the official coalition for a few weeks to potentially months, as there are so many pieces in play.  We will post an update following the creation of a government as well as update this post when the results are final.  Tomorrow we will also be posting a subjective evaluation of the election apart from our more data focused analysis here.

2018 Swedish General Election: A Preview

Are the Swedish Social Democrats in for another term in government, or will they be delivered only their 7th defeat in 97 years?

Overview

Now that we’ve set up the background and overview of Swedish politics, we can now take a took at their upcoming parliamentary elections, which will take place on Sunday, September 9th.

The election comes during a time of increased attention being paid to right-wing populism across Europe.  The majority of the coverage of the Swedish election is focused on the far-right Sweden Democrats (SD), who have ridden European populist wave into a prominent position in Swedish politics.  The governing minority coalition between the Swedish Social Democratic Party (SAP) and the Green Party (MP) is a weak one at best, reliant on the support of the center-right “Alliance” parties to pass key legislation.  This centrist cooperation has added fuel to the SD’s fire and also given the socialist Left Party (V) a boost, challenging the SAP on their flank.  The SAP’s long reign over Swedish politics is coming to an end, as the party has steadily declined over the last decade and a half.  The question in this election is: what comes next?

Polling and Projections

Swedish_Opinion_Polling,_30_Day_Moving_Average,_2014-2018
Opinion polling has the SAP leading in a close race for creating a new government. (Wikipedia)

While Swedish opinion polls still show the SAP as the likely favorite in earning a plurality of seats in the Riksdag, they are used to a much larger margin.  The center-left coalition is looking at significant losses: the SAP is polling between 23% and 26%, down from 31% in 2014, and the MP is polling around 5% to 6%, down from 6.9%.  It is possible for the coalition, which was not in a strong position before, to fall below 30% support.  Meanwhile, the center-right Alliance is showing a mix of gains and losses.  The leader on the center-right, the conservative Moderate Party (M), is polling between 17% and 18%, down from 23.3% while the smaller parties in the group are fairing better: the agrarian Centre Party (C) is polling between 8 % and 10%, up from 6.1%, the Liberals (L) are polling around 6% to 6.5%, up from 5.4%, and the Christian Democrats are polling around 6%, up from 4.6%.  The Alliance’s stagnation comes as the SD has pulled away M’s more right-wing supporters that believe the Moderates have been too liberal.  The Democrats’ polls have been extremely varied, with polls showing them anywhere from 16% and in third place to 25% and in first, up from their previous result of 12.9%.  The majority of polls show them in second at around 17% to 19%, though, and they will likely fall short of beating the SAP.   The Left Party are expected to make serious gains of their own, as they have consistently polled around 9.5% to 10.5%, up from 5.7% in the previous election.  Finally, the far-left Feminist Initiative is not expected to enter parliament, polling only around 1% to 1.5%, well below the 4% requirement and the 3.1% they received last election.

Jimmie Åkesson inför partiledardebatt i SVT
EnJimmie Åkesson and the Sweden Democrats are unlikely to be in the government, but they are the party that everyone is watching. (Wikimedia)

Possible Coalitions

The rise of the fringe parties has caused uncertainty over what coalition to expect following the election.  One thing is for certain: the Democrats and the Left Party will not be a part of an official coalition, though the former could end up in an awkward support agreement with the Alliance and the latter could continue to unofficially support the center-left.  Here are a few possible outcomes.

1. Alliance Minority Government:  The Alliance is expected to finish with around 38% of the vote between the parties, more than the center-left’s 28% to 31%.  With the center-left taking significant losses it is likely that the Alliance decides it is time for their turn in the government.  Minority coalitions are not fun for anyone, but Sweden has a precedent of being decently successful with them.  The Moderates have expressed no tolerance for working with the SD, so a potential outcome is the center-left, or at least the SAP, returning the favor that the Alliance has granted to them since 2014 and offer support for the Prime Minister and at least major budgetary legislation.  It is not impossible that the Democrats could have a tentative support agreement as well with this government, but it is unlikely given the tense relations on the right currently.

2. Center-Left Minority Government: It is unheard of for a minority government to survive with 30% or less of the vote, but we are in interesting times.  The SAP is likely to be the largest party unless the SD pulls off an upset, so it is partially their directive to form a government.  While they could look to V for a support agreement or at least to continue to unofficial support that they have provided since 2014, they would still need assistance from the center parties.  The most likely outcome would be some sort of agreement with at least the Liberals and the Centre Party, who would be the most willing to work with the center-left.  Still, they would likely have to convince the Moderates to come along, even if just unofficially, if they wanted any chance of passing significant legislation.  It is possible, but it is unlikely and would probably not last the 4 years until the next election.

3. Grand Coalition: If the SAP and Moderates decide to put aside their differences and form a Grand Coalition, with potentially another partner or at least support from either the Centre Party or possibly the Liberals, they could possibly form a more stable government.  This has happened in other countries, such as Germany, where the established parties have been threatened by the rise of the right-wing populists.  This, again, would not be an easy agreement as the Alliance does not want to break apart to work with the SAP.

4. New Elections: There is always a significant possibility of new elections when there is no clear mandate for any party to form a new government.  The center-left and Alliance will be doing everything they can to prevent that, as it would likely continue to push the Democrats’ support higher, but putting aside policy goals for the sake of stability is not easy or popular.

Stefan_Löfven_2012-01-26_001
Stefan Löfven will hope to remain Prime Minister following the election, though forming a government will be no easy task. (Wikipedia)

Conclusion

Election analysis is always more interesting when no one knows what is going to happen.  That is why all eyes will be on Sweden on Sunday and during the coalition negotiations afterwards to see what the end result is.  In some places like the Netherlands, right-wing populists have stirred the pot but not disrupted government formation, but in other places, such as Germany, they have forced uncomfortable coalitions, and in places like Hungary, they have taken over.  It is unlikely that last possibility will happen here, but at the very least, a lot of coalition math will be done following the election to try and form a stable government.

Stay tuned for our election night coverage on twitter (@NobleReasoning) and our post-election analysis.

Politics of Sweden: An Overview

The social-democratic dream in Sweden has become a nightmare for the center-left.

Sweden has historically been a social-democratic stronghold, revered by the center-left around the world.  This control has resulted in relative political stability throughout years in which the rest of Europe experienced upheaval from extreme factions on both ends of the spectrum.  This stability has become challenged with the power of the Swedish Social Democratic Party (the SAP) waning in the past decade and a half.

Having led the formation of the government following 22 of the 28 elections since 1921, the SAP is not used to its power being challenged.  The country’s historical homogeneity has prevented massive changes in political opinions, until recently.  The center-right “Alliance” Swedish government was the first to accept all permanent asylum seekers during the Syrian Refugee Crisis in 2013, causing a large wave of immigration from the Middle East.  This policy received a critical response, especially from the right-wing, and as of 2017 over 300,000 Syrian and Iraqi immigrants live in Sweden.  This influx led to the rise of right-wing populism, turning the near irrelevant far-right Sweden Democrats (SD) into the third largest party in the Riksdag (the Swedish parliament) following the 2014 general elections.  This rise was, and continues to be, a major blow to the leading party of the “Alliance,” the center-right conservative Moderate Party (M), who were largely responsible for the open immigration policies.

Stefan_Löfven_efter_slutdebatten_i_SVT_2014_(cropped)
Stefan Löfven’s SAP is synonymous with Swedish governance. (Wikipedia)

The SAP have held a tentative minority coalition with the Green Party (MP) since 2014 with some limited support from the center-right Alliance’s parties, a cooperative effort crafted to avoid involving the Sweden Democrats in any coalition negotiations.  This move has put more fire beneath the Democrats, who have appealed to the center-right voters’ frustration with the Alliance’s kowtowing to the SAP.  Meanwhile, the same has occurred on the left, as the SAP has been threatened by the left-wing socialist Left Party (V), muddying the waters for future governing coalitions.  Like many social democratic parties across Europe, the SAP is not very willing to work with the socialists.  Despite claims from many politicians, especially in the United States, Sweden is not socialist, and the divide between these two parties shows the split that still exists between the two ideologies.  The upcoming election is overshadowed by the rise of the far left and right and whether ideological divides must be crossed to form a government or whether the traditional parties will continue their cooperation.

Like most countries in Europe, Sweden uses a parliamentary system, with the unicameral Riksdag selecting the executive, the Prime Minister.  Technically Sweden is a constitutional monarchy, though, like most constitutional monarchies, the real power lies with the legislature and Prime Minister.  The current Prime Minister is Stefan Löfven, who was elected in and 2014 and is also the leader of the SAP.  The members of the Riksdag serve a 4-year term, unless the governing coalition fails to maintain support, in which case early elections can be called.  The members are elected using proportional representation, specifically with the open-list party system in regional constituencies.  Any party that receives 4% of the vote nationally or 12% within one constituency will earn seats in the Riksdag.

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Largest party by district (left) and municipality (right): Red – Social Democratic, Blue – Moderate, Yellow – Sweden Democrats (Wikipedia)

As a background for the upcoming elections, we can look at the most recent elections to the Riksdag in 2014.  Heading into the election, the Alliance held a shaky control of the government.  The group was led by the conservative Moderate Party with the three smaller parties in the group being the center to center-right Liberals (L), the centrist social liberal and agrarian Centre Party (C), and the center-right to right-wing Christian Democrats (KD).  The SAP took control of the government following 2014 because of the Alliance’s failures, not because of its own successes.  The Moderates fell 6.74% of the vote to 23.33%, Centre fell 0.44% to 6.11%, the Liberals fell 1.63% to 5.42%, and the Christian Democrats fell 1.03% to 4.57%.  The Alliance’s losses went directly to the right-wing populists.  The SD more than doubled its result from 2010, gaining 7.16% of the vote to finish in third with 12.86%.  While not an overwhelming number, this was enough to take away the center-right’s advantage.  The center-left alliance remained all but unchanged, with the SAP gaining 0.35% to reach 31.05% and the Greens losing 0.45%, falling to to 6.89%.  V, meanwhile, also stagnated, gaining only 0.11% to reach 5.72%.  The resulting center-left minority government received less of the vote than the Alliance, but SAP’s solid first place finish gave them precedent to form the government instead of the Moderates.

The center-left government since 2014 has remained on weak footing, as the SAP desperately relied on the Alliance’s support to pass a budget and avoid what seemed like an inevitable snap election at the end of 2014.  The agreement between the ruling coalition and the Alliance fell apart in 2015 when the Christian Democrats left but since then the other three center-right parties have softly agreed to allow the minority government to continue.  This shaky footing for the SAP and Greens has only worsened over the past four years, as the continued rise of the far left and right will challenge the Swedish establishment in this election.  The question is whether the SAP will manage to save its machine or watch it crumble to populists like multiple countries in Europe have seen over recent years.

We will take a look at the 2018 election itself and discuss the dilemma of coalitions in our next article.

 

Three Fights

The political battleground is evolving.

There are three major political fights emerging in the US and internationally that will only escalate:

1. Social-Democrats vs. Democratic-Socialists/Left-Wing Populists
2. Libertarians/Classical-Liberals vs. Right-Wing Populists
3. Moderates vs. Everyone else

The first of these obviously represents the divide between the Clinton (and technically even Obama) and the Sanders wings of the Democratic Party. Internationally: the SPD vs. Die Linke in Germany, the SAP vs. V in Sweden, internal divides in the UK Labour Party, and more. It seems that Democratic-Socialists are really starting to believe that Social Democrats have given in too much to capitalism. It’s a growing movement that the Social Democrats are using right now to try to win elections in the short-term. In the long-run, though, Socialists and Communists in every form see the Social Democrats as enemies, not allies, in their fight against capitalism. If the Democrats give in completely, there’s likely no going back.

The second is obviously a divide within the Republican Party. Notice that this isn’t the social conservatives. They, like much of the “somewhat conservative” faction of the GOP, have been swept up in the Right-Wing Populist wave that has followed Trump into office. This divide is from one of the two groups that has fought this populism: libertarians. The likes of Justin Amash and Rand Paul are often the only major voices objecting to it on the right, and though there are policy agreements, the underlying philosophies are competing. The battle is a strange one due to the intertwining yet divided nature of the two groups. They both point at government corruption, are (often) skeptical of foreign intervention, support lower taxes and less regulations, and are highly critical of many parts of the welfare state. Yet these similarities seem small once the differences are discussed: economic globalism vs. protectionism, pro-immigration vs. increased immigration restrictions, drug legalization vs. prohibition, gay marriage, privacy rights/surveillance, core parts of welfare, and more. In fact, the fight begins when libertarians realize that right-wing populism does not want limited government. It wants an expansive nationalist government that protects the people from various exterior threats that challenge their way of life.

Libertarians want the government to leave them alone. Right-wing populists want the government to make sure that people leave them, and their way of life, alone. Those two things are inherently incompatible beyond a few policy agreements. The libertarian desire for expansive freedoms apart from tradition is a threat to that way of life that right-wing populists want protected. The right-wing populist desire for extensive security against threats is in fact a threat to the freedoms that libertarians hold dear. This divide will split the right and the winner will depend on what the younger generations choose. Unlike the collapsing Social Democrats and rising Democratic Socialists, I don’t think there is an obvious long term favorite here. Among the younger generations, libertarianism in its many forms is growing. Right-wing populism tends to appeal to older groups, but it also has its younger torch bearers.

The third fight is what is left. The moderates: the leftover center that has not gone with the Social Democrats or Democratic Socialists on the left and has not followed the trend into Right-Wing Populism or Libertarianism. The moderates seem at war with all of these at the same time. They may work with some of the more centrist policies in a compromise with the Social Democrats, Libertarians, and even Right-Wing Populists at times, but they fervently resist these movements. On the right, they are the parts of the establishment who have not followed the majority of the GOP into Right-Wing Populism. They are the Jeff Flake and John Kasich Never-Trumpers who take a more pragmatic resistance to many of Trump’s more extreme policies. This has led them somewhat into an awkward relationship with the Never-Trump libertarians. The pseudo-alliance is temporary and weak, as the cracks in policy and philosophical goals are large but are sometimes overlooked when it comes to each other being “the enemy of my enemy.” On the left, this can represent the more true moderates, as well as some of the social liberals who are slightly more market oriented than their social democratic counterparts. Together they are trying to hold ground against the Democratic Socialists. The moderates on the left have been in a long term relationship with the Social Democrats, so I’m unsure if that war is as serious as the others, but the disagreements are still there. This moderate center is the group that smiles at a “unity” presidential ticket to ward off the right and left wings. They often misunderstand why the fringe factions have grown following years of moderate rule from both the Republican and Democratic sides pre-2008.

I am not trying to claim that everyone falls into these three fights. There are constitutional conservatives like Ben Sasse and other groups not represented here. What I mean is these are the main prominent groups and the battles I see in the future unless something changes. These trends are international. The US, the UK, Germany, and the rest of the EU are experiencing these battles. Merkel’s fights with the AfD in Germany and the awkward position of the FDP are a near perfect example between parties of what is happening within the GOP. Fights between the SPD, the Greens, and Die Linke in Germany are the same on the left. While we have a first past the post voting system, our battles are more intra-party while many other countries have inter-party battles, but they are all but the same.

The question is: who wins this round? The moderates and social democrats have controlled things for a long time in the US and Europe, but that is changing. How they respond to the rising forces will determine a lot. I see the more moderate center-left collapsing rapidly in favor of slightly more left-wing social democrats (and often green parties) and democratic socialists. The right is more foggy. I have hopes that libertarians will win but at least in the short run, populists are winning.

2018 Winter Olympics Rankings

Dissatisfied with how there is no solid Olympic ranking system? Check out ours for daily updates!

Dissatisfied with how there is no solid Olympic ranking system?  Olympic Rankings tend to be done by either the most gold medals or by total medal count, but neither of these capture the actual rankings of countries by the significance of each medal.  To fix this, we have created two different ranking formats.  The first format grants 3 points for a gold medal, 2 points for a silver medal, and 1 point for a bronze medal.  The second format weights better medals more heavily, granting 5 points for a gold medal, 3 points for a silver medal, and 1 point for a bronze medal.

These rankings will be updated nightly with each day’s results.  A tie-breaker is by number of medals, if countries are still tied by number of gold medals, and then by number of silver medals.

Format 1 (3,2,1)

1. Norway: 81 points (14,14,11)
2. Germany: 69 points (14,10,7)
3. Canada: 59 points (11,8,10)
4. United States: 49 points (9,8,6)
5. Netherlands: 42 points (8,6,6)
6. South Korea: 35 points (5,8,4)
7. Sweden: 34 points (7,6,1)
8. Switzerland: 31 points (5,6,4)
9. France: 29 points (5,4,6)
10. Olympic Athlete from Russia: 27 points (2,6,9)
11. Austria: 27 points (5,3,6)
12. Japan: 26 points (4,5,4)
13. Italy: 18 points (3,2,5)
14. China: 17 points (1,6,2)
15. Czech Republic: 13 points (2,2,3)
16. Finland: 9 points (1,1,4)
17. Belarus: 8 points (2,1,0)
18. Great Britain: 7 points (1,0,4)
19. Slovakia: 7 points (1,2,0)
20. Australia: 5 points (0,2,1)
21. Poland: 4 points (1,0,1)
22. Slovenia:
3 points (0,1,1)
23. (Tied) Hungary and Ukraine: 3 points (1,0,0)
24. (Tied) Spain and New Zealand: 2 points (0,0,2)
25. Belgium: 2 points (0,1,0)
26. (Tied) Kazakhstan, Latvia, and Liechtenstein: 1 point (0,0,1)

Format 2 (5,3,1)

1. Norway: 128 points (14,14,11)
2. Germany: 107 points (14,10,7)
3. Canada: 89 points (11,8,10)
4. United States: 75 points (9,8,6)
5. Netherlands: 64 points (8,6,6)
6. Sweden: 54 points (7,6,1)
7. South Korea: 53 points (5,8,4)
8. Switzerland: 47 points (5,6,4)
9. France: 43 points (5,4,6)
10. Austria: 40 points (5,3,6)
11. Japan: 39 points (4,5,4)
12. Olympic Athlete from Russia: 37 points (2,6,9)
13. Italy: 26 points (3,2,5)
14. China: 25 points (1,6,2)
15. Czech Republic: 19 points (2,2,3)
16. Belarus: 13 points (2,1,0)
17. Finland: 12 points (1,1,4)
18. Slovakia: 11 points (1,2,0)
19. Great Britain: 9 points (1,0,4)
20. Australia: 7 points (0,2,1)
21. Poland: 6 points (1,0,1)
22. (Tied) Hungary and Ukraine:
5 points (1,0,0)
23. Slovenia: 4 points (0,1,1)
24. Belgium: 3 points (0,1,0)
25. (Tied) Spain and New Zealand: 2 points (0,0,2)
26. (Tied) Kazakhstan, Latvia, and Liechtenstein: 1 point (0,0,1)

Political Party Analysis: Social Democratic Party (Germany)

Will the “Schulz effect” be enough for the center-left SPD to retake power in Germany? (Photo from T-Online)

Overview and History

The Social Democratic Party (SPD) is the main center-left party in Germany, following a Social-Democratic ideology as their name implies.  They traditionally serve as the main competitor to the center-right CDU/CSU sister parties but currently serve as the junior coalition member in the “Grand Coalition” with the CDU.  The SPD is the oldest party in Germany, as the party was founded in 1863 and was re-founded following World War 2.  The party takes pride in being the main opposition to the rise of the National Socialist German Workers’ Party (NSDAP aka the “Nazis”) during the Weimar Republic.  Since then the SPD has led 6 out of the 18 governments and served as the Union’s junior coalition partners three times.  Their Chancellor-candidate, Martin Schulz, created a “Schulz effect” with his nomination, bringing the SPD into close contention with the CDU, but this high has worn off in recent months.

The SPD’s favored coalition partner is the center-left progressive Green Party, but it is rare that the two parties have a majority at the national level.  They also have formed coalitions with the libertarian Free Democratic Party (FDP) in the past, mainly before the Greens became a larger party.  Over the past few election cycles the SPD has lost more support to the Greens and the left-wing Die Linke party, causing problems for their hopes of retaking the Chancellorship from Angela Merkel, as the SPD and Die Linke have a contentious relationship.  This relationship means they are usually unwilling to work together at the national level, making a center-left and left-wing coalition almost impossible, though the two parties currently govern together in the states of Brandenburg, Thuringia, and Berlin.

A balloon with the logo of SPD is seen as Schulz, top candidate of the SPD for the upcoming federal election, gives a speech in Abensberg
The balloon that was the “Schulz effect” has popped, but can the SPD recover and prevent themselves from losing more ground? (Photo from Reuters)

 Recent Electoral History and Political Power

National Party Strength Ranking: 2nd

The SPD is the second strongest party in Germany heading into the election on September 24th.  Details on their control in specific areas are below.

Chancellor: The SPD has had 3 West German and German Chancellors.  The CDU and the SPD are the only parties to ever have a Chancellor.

Bundestag: In 2017 the SPD received 20.5% of the vote and 153 out of the 709 seats in the Bundestag, dropping 5.2% of the vote.  It finished in 2nd place, behind the CDU, with its worst electoral result since before World War 2.

Bundesrat: States send representatives on behalf of the state governing coalition to vote in the Bundesrat.  The SPD leads 7 of the 16 state coalitions and serves as a junior coalition partner in 4 state.  Effectively they lead coalitions worth 27 of the 69 votes in the Bundesrat and serve as junior coalition partner for 15 votes.

European Parliament: The SPD is a member of the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats parliamentary group in the European Parliament.  In the 2014 European Parliament elections, the SPD finished in 2nd place, behind the the CDU, with 27.3% of the vote, earning 27 out of the 96 seats allocated to Germany.  They gained 6.5% of the vote and 4 seats.

State Parliaments: The SPD holds 516 out of 1,821 seats throughout the state landtags, which makes them the second strongest party throughout the states.

Projections for 2017 Election

According to opinion polling, the SPD is expected to finish solidly in second place, far behind the CDU/CSU union.  We project they will receive between 21% and 24% of the vote, slightly less than the 25.7% they received 4 years ago.  This is likely due to Die Linke, the FDP, and AfD all being on the rise (AfD is a right-wing party but has stolen voters from almost every party).  Martin Schulz’s “Schulz effect” won’t be enough this time around, as his more progressive stances generated an initial buzz that wore off in time.  The recent debate against Merkel also didn’t go well for him either, driving polls even lower.

As we discussed in our preview of the election, there is a possibility of the continuation of a Grand Coalition if the CDU and FDP don’t earn a majority of the seats and a Jamaica coalition fails.  The SPD will be likely hoping that doesn’t happen as they have suffered as junior coalition partners.  Regardless, they will be disappointed with these polls heading into the election as they were riding high early after Schulz’s nomination only to fall flat in the end.


Economic and Fiscal Policy

The SPD is a solidly center-left party on economic policy.  They follow the idea of intense regulation of the social market economy with an extensive welfare system to support the middle and lower classes.  With this, their platform for 2017 includes a new unemployment allowance for 4 years following the completion of training.  They also call for increased taxation on the rich while decreasing taxes for the poor and middle classes and introducing a tax on financial transactions.  On healthcare the SPD calls for more requirements for the employer to pay for healthcare and on education they call for free education from daycare through masters’ degrees.  On the environment the SPD calls for increased regulations and phasing out of coal power plants.  Minimum wages have to rise, manager salaries must be limited, women must be paid the same as men, and there must be a minimum amount of women on the board of directors of companies.  Finally, the SPD demands that the pension amounts must remain at the current percentage and the retirement age cannot be raised above 67.

 

Liberty Rating*: D

Social and Foreign Policy

The SPD is again a center-left party on social issues but does hold some center to center-right policies as well.  On the hot issue of immigration, the SPD calls for increased aid for refugees, openness to asylum grants, and the continued allowance of dual citizenship for two generations.  Interestingly it adopts a traditionally more rightist policy of a point-based system for immigration in general though.  They also want 15,000 new police stations and increased counter-terrorism tools though do not advocate complying with the 2% of GDP military spending mandate from NATO.  The SPD is very pro-EU, calling for a common EU economic policy and the powers of the EU parliament should be expanded.  A unique position of the SPD is their calling for a voting age of 16 instead of 18 as well.

Liberty Rating*:  C

Political Spectrum**

SPD Spectrum

Based on our liberty ratings for the SPD economic and social policies, they are are a center-left Social Democratic party.  They hold both center-left as well as some left-wing economic policies, causing the it to fall slightly inside the “moderate-left” sector instead of the “left” sector.  Socially, they fall inside of the “Moderate-left” sector sector due to their mix of open asylum policies as well as center-right immigration and security policies.


*Disclaimer: The policy positions in this article have been evaluated using Wikipedia, the party’s own website, and various articles concerning Germany politics.  We attempt to rate the parties based on all information that is available, but due to language barriers, lack of information, or simple mistake we may have missed something.  If you feel our liberty ratings or general evaluations are incorrect, please let us know on our contact page or nicely in the comments and we’ll try to fix it.  If you have questions on how these ratings are created, feel free to ask as well.

**This spectrum shows economic liberty on the right axis and social liberty on the left axis, so 100 on both axis is “pure” libertarianism and 0 on both axis is pure authoritarianism for example.

Political Party Analysis: Christian Democratic Union and Christian Social Union (Germany)

The sister parties forming “The Union” have a long history, full of sibling squabbles and successes.

Overview and History

“The Union” is the combination of the Christian Democratic Union and the Christian Social Union.  The former runs in every state but Bavaria and the latter runs only in Bavaria, effectively acting as one party electorally while having slightly different ideologies.

The Christian Democratic Union (CDU) is a center-right Christian Democratic party that has moved more towards the center in recent years due to working with the Social Democrats in the Grand Coalition.  It historically has been the largest party since it’s foundation in West Germany in 1945 following World War 2.  It is the ideological successor to the Centre Party which was a major party in the Weimar Republic.  It has led 12 out of 18 governments since the end of World War 2, winning an absolute majority once, in 1957, and the CDU is the only party that has done so.  They previously led the government in a coalition with the Christian Social Union and the center-left Social Democratic Party (SPD), who is their main electoral rival, following the 2013 federal election.

The Christian Social Union (CSU) is also a center-right Christian Democratic party, but they have a more Catholic base (along with Bavaria) and are more socially conservative and fiscally interventionist than their CDU counterparts.  As the CDU was the successor the the Centre Party, the CSU is the successor to the Weimar Republic’s Bavarian People’s Party, which also was an independent sister party to the Centre Party.  The CSU has dominated Bavarian politics, winning an absolute majority in the state elections 13 times and forming a coalition with the Free Democrats when they fall short.

The relationship of the two parties has overall be friendly throughout their history, despite their slight differences.  Relations have been strained over Merkel’s recent immigration policy, though, as the CSU disagreed with her more open policies towards refugees.  There have always been some sibling squabbles between the sister parties and occasionally rumors of separation occur in the CSU, but threats of the CDU running against them in Bavaria are enough to keep the parties from bickering most of the time.

They had one of their worst electoral performances in party history in the 2017 election and are currently in negotiations with the CSU, the Free Democratic Party (FDP), and the Greens to form the country’s first 4 party coalition government.

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Angela Merkel has been one of the longest serving Chancellors in German history and has served as a stable hand in times of European turmoil.  (Photo from Wikipedia)

 Recent Electoral History and Political Power

National Party Strength Ranking: CDU: 1st, CSU: 7th

The CDU is the strongest party and the CSU is the 7th strongest party in Germany following the federal election on September 24th of 2017.  Details on their control in specific areas are below.

Chancellor: Angela Merkel has served as Chancellor since 2005.  Overall the CDU has had 5 West German and German Chancellors.  The CSU has never had a Chancellor.

Bundestag: In 2017 the CDU received 26.8% of the vote and 200 out of the 709 seats in the Bundestag, down 7.3% of the vote and its worst result since 1949.  It still finished in 1st place, ahead of the SPD.  The CSU received 6.2% of the vote, entirely from Bavaria, and 46 seats, down 1.2% of the vote.  Together they earned 246 seats and 32.9% of the vote.

Bundesrat: States send representatives on behalf of the state governing coalition to vote in the Bundesrat.  The CDU leads 6 of the 16 state coalitions and serves as a junior coalition partner in 1 state.  Effectively they lead coalitions worth 26 of the 69 votes in the Bundesrat and serve as junior coalition partner for 6 votes.  The CSU holds an absolute majority in Bavaria, controlling 6 Bundesrat votes.

European Parliament: The CDU and CSU are members of the European People’s Party parliamentary group in the European Parliament.  In the 2014 European Parliament elections, the CDU finished in 1st place, ahead of the SPD, with 30% of the vote, earning 29 out of the 96 seats allocated to Germany.  They dropped 0.7% of the vote and lost 5 seats due to the Constitutional Court allowing parties receiving less than 5% of the vote to receive representation in the European Parliament.  The CSU finished in 6th place with 5.34% of the vote and 5 seats.  They lost 1.9% of the vote and 3 seats.

State Parliaments: The CDU holds 532 out of 1,821 seats throughout the state landtags, which makes them the strongest party throughout the states.  The CSU holds 101 of the 180 seats in Bavaria, which technically means they hold the 7th most state landtag seats.

 

 


Economic and Fiscal Policy

The Union remains fairly center-right on economic policy, emphasizing that they want full employment by 2025.  They also call for billions of more euros for schools and investment in research universities outside of cities to encourage living in rural areas.  They call for a continuation of Germany’s balanced budget without increasing taxes, except increasing the limit on taxable income slightly.  They believe a priority should be decreasing the German national debt.  The CDU holds the bureaucracy as an important part of the German economy and favors a “social market economy” with regulations to ensure the economy works for the people.  This is done through a large safety net and keeping unemployment low.  They also continue to call for privatization of most if not all state controlled companies.  On housing, they call for alleviation of the tax on purchasing a home for young families purchasing their first house as well as allowing property owners building apartments to write off more of their property taxes.  On many issues, though, they have compromised with the Social Democrats and regulated things such as passing a regulation setting a minimum quota for women on the board of companies.  They have accepted and want to work towards the Paris Climate Accord’s goals as well without banning certain types of cars.

Liberty Rating*: C+

Social and Foreign Policy

The CDU and CSU split more on social policy (as the CSU is slightly more conservative), but the majority of their platform is still the same.  Both emphasize the role of the family in German culture and advocate increasing the child allowance by around 1,500 euros per child.  This is largely to combat the shrinking German birth rate.  On security they both advocate increasing the amount of police officers as well as increasing video surveillance in public areas and punishing crimes more harshly.  In terms of internet monitoring they advocate more data retention and blocking more internet searches.  While gay marriage has been legalized as part of its coalition with the SPD, the Union is resistant to complete equality on tax law and adoption.  While the Union was very accepting of refugees during the refugee crisis, the CDU calls for more integration and a more point based system of immigration.  On European policy, the CDU is a staunch advocate for continued European integration and strengthening of the EU in general.  They are very pro United States on foreign policy and willing to be involved in coalition wars.  They have called to increase the military budget to the 2% of GDP mandated by NATO.

Liberty Rating*:  D+

Political Spectrum**

CDU and CSU Spectrum

Based on our liberty ratings for the CDU and CSU’s economic and social policies, they are both center-right Christian Democratic parties, with the CSU being slightly more socially right and economically center.  They hold both economically liberal and interventionist policies, causing the it to fall slightly inside the “Right” instead of the “Authoritarian” sector.  Socially, they fall inside of the “Moderate” sector sector due to their mix of immigration policies, devotion to the family, supporting the EU, and compromising while not out rightly supporting gay marriage.


*Disclaimer: The policy positions in this article have been evaluated using Wikipedia, the party’s own website, and various articles concerning Germany politics.  We attempt to rate the parties based on all information that is available, but due to language barriers, lack of information, or simple mistake we may have missed something.  If you feel our liberty ratings or general evaluations are incorrect, please let us know on our contact page or nicely in the comments and we’ll try to fix it.  If you have questions on how these ratings are created, feel free to ask as well.

**This spectrum shows economic liberty on the right axis and social liberty on the left axis, so 100 on both axis is “pure” libertarianism and 0 on both axis is pure authoritarianism for example.