I have not been to a German election office in ten years. Already when I was still living in Germany, I preferred to vote by mail. I think it’s neat: Keeps the voting Sunday free. Never have I ever been someone that needed much time for a decision. But also I am not a habitual voter that just always goes for the same party.
This is my second time voting from abroad. It’s 2017, and in order to participate, I need to download a pdf, manually fill it in, and send it back to Germany without ever receiving confirmation that someone received my letter. That’s just
shit ineffective. I mean… I have a rather long name and henceforth an insanely long e-mail address. I remember how I once participated to an online contest for students, and I could register with my e-mail address, but the sign-in form did not accommodate for an e-mail address that long. When it comes to my rights to participate to a general election, my participation should not depend on someone being able to decode my bad handwriting which I am forced to squeeze into too little space. A web form that then automatically creates a pdf-file should not be much of a technological challenge. As much as it should be possible to receive a confirmation on such a platform that the letter was received. It should not need a party website to make it look progressive.
The other thing that really bugs me is that the electoral law for Germans living abroad (“Auslandsdeutsche”) changed. The previous rule was declared unconstitutional, but from my perspective, it was replaced with a no less unconstitutional rule. In the old systems, people holding German citizenship were allowed to vote if at some point in their life they had lived for three months in Germany. Now that’s not necessary anymore if those Germans living abroad can demonstrate familiarity and immediate concern with Germany’s political affairs. Note that just reading the news and having family ties does not count; we are talking about strong requirements such as investments, work, and memberships of political organizations. At the same time, the new law re-instates a rule that Germans living abroad lose their automatic voting rights if they have been continuously registered abroad for more than 25 years and do not have said immediate concern with Germany’s political affairs.
It sounds fair, but my problem with this is that it effectively strips me off any voting rights on a national level. Since, obviously, I’m not gaining voting rights in my host country after 25 years no matter how much I am immediately affected by living there. Hence, it makes me a citizen of second rank.
Coming to this election, I’ve split my vote. In Germany, I have one vote which I can give to a candidate of my local constituency. (Here’s a paradox: As long as I maintain my German voting right, I am assigned to the local constituency in which I was registered last, even though it’s fair to assume that this one might overstretch my personal concerns with Germany’s political affairs.) The other vote goes to a party list which is up for election in my federal state.
So I had a look at the general platforms of all parties (and I mean all parties except for the extremist ones on the left and right) and on the personal profiles of all direct candidates. I may say that I am generally fine with the current government. I could live with another four years of Merkel, but I could also live with her being replaced by Martin Schulz, the opposing candidate from the SPD. I believe that both represent a good mindset and leadership style. What I am really looking for is politics that represent core values of Soziale Marktwirtschaft, Germany’s economic-political system from the 1960s which I think still offers mechanisms that can help us today.
I would not like for the SPD to govern with only partners from the left, and I would not like for the CDU/CSU to govern in absolute majority or with a partner from the right (read: the right-wing populists of the AfD). But these are options that all polls suggest I can exclude easily. However, in the last two general elections, I voted for the liberals from the FDP because I found myself to be in strongest agreement with their political positions, and evaluating all platforms at hand, that actually has not changed. (Or, better: our positions have changed in similar directions.) The FDP did not make it into parliament last time, and I’d be happy if they made it back. But direct candidates in Germany are essentially always either from the CDU/CSU, the SPD, or (in Eastern Germany) the left-wing socialists. If I want to support the FDP, I have to give it my list vote. That’s what I did.
And then I had the choice of a few direct candidates. I am not a big fan of direct candidates which are essentially provincial in their political setup and whose visions do not expand much beyond the scope of constituency politics. The most progressive person I could identify in my constituency was the local candidate of the SPD, Tim Renner. He is, by the way, the former CEO of Universal Music Germany, and the founder of one of Berlin’s niche-music oriented radio stations (Motor.FM). More than that, he represents those elements of social-democratic policies which I can support even though I’m often more leaning towards the liberals and the moderate conservatives. Hence, I felt that him taking a seat for his party would strengthen these policies within his parliament group.
There is no constituency-based opinion polling in Germany, so it’s difficult to predict an outcome. The incumbent from the CDU has won with wide margins in previous elections. Still, I think Tim Renner might stand a chance. Well, and if not, then I have still voted according to the best principles of democracies: Actually looking in detail at the political positions of parties and candidates, and voting for the best political match.
Yet they might tell me in a few years that I’m a citizen of second rank.