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The Outcome of the September 2005 Elections (September 19, 2005)

The close outcome of the September 2005 Bundestag elections surprised pollsters, who had predicted a majority for a CDU/CSU and FDP coalition. Here, the director of Forsa, a major polling institute, analyzes the results. He focuses in particular on the loss of voter support for the two mainstream parties, the CDU/CSU and the SPD.

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Continued Decline in Significance for the Two Mainstream Parties; Forsa Institute Analysis of the Bundestag Election on Sunday

Manfred Güllner, head of the Forsa Institute in Berlin, has analyzed the results of Sunday’s Bundestag elections for the Associated Press. Here is his report:

“The results of the Bundestag elections on Sunday are yet another milestone marking the declining significance of the two mainstream parties, a trend that has been observable for years. Only 53 of every 100 eligible voters voted for either the SPD or the Union [CDU/CSU]. Almost as many (47 percent of eligible voters) either abstained from voting altogether or voted for one of the smaller parties. The two mainstream parties were shown less trust only in the first Bundestag elections in 1949, when the democratic party system in Germany still hadn’t been firmly established after the collapse of the Nazi regime.

As early as 1953, however, 62 of every 100 eligible voters were choosing either the Social Democrats or the Christian Democrats. In the Bundestag elections of the 1970s, this share rose to 82 percent of eligible voters. Since then, the percentage of eligible voters who voted for one of the two mainstream parties has been declining again. In 1987, only 68 of every 100 eligible voters chose either the Union or the SPD. Since the first all-German election in 1990, the share has hovered around the 60 percent mark, and in 2005 it fell to an all-time low.

The decline in confidence in the SPD (only 26 of every 100 eligible voters voted for the SPD on Sunday, confidence in the Social Democrats was lower only in the 1953 Bundestag elections and in the first all-German elections in 1990, when Oskar Lafontaine was the party’s candidate for chancellor) came as no surprise. Many former SPD voters were deeply disappointed by the fact that their party hadn’t given sufficient support to Chancellor Gerhard Schröder’s reform course and that this lack of support from his own party had forced Schröder to call for new elections.

In July, only around 12 million eligible voters were planning to vote for the SPD. With the aid of new, internet-based survey methods, Forsa polls were able to ascertain for N-TV and Die Welt am Sonntag that over the course of the election campaign the SPD managed to win back 3.9 million voters from 2002 who had previously been lingering in the undecided camp. But with 16.1 million votes, the SPD fell well short of its 2002 voter share, not to mention its 1998 share. Compared with the last Bundestag elections in 2002, the SPD lost more than 1 in 10 voters; and compared with the 1998 elections, it lost as many as 1 in 5.

Whereas the loss of confidence in the SPD had been expected, it came as a surprise in the case of the Union, especially since election research institutes hadn’t predicted this loss of confidence on the basis of polls conducted prior to the election. Only 27 of every 100 eligible voters chose the Union. This represents an eleven percent decline in voters in comparison with the last Bundestag elections in 2002, and a loss of almost six percent in comparison with the elections before that in 1998. This means that Angela Merkel garnered fewer votes for the Union than Helmut Kohl did in his last election as a candidate for chancellor. In comparison with the first Helmut Kohl election on March 6, 1983 (the first election after the change of government in 1982), when 43 of every 100 eligible voters chose the Union, the CDU/CSU’s voter base shrank by almost 38 percent.

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