I’ve been reading a bit on Twitter and on other people’s WordPress blogs to recall what happend during the first eight episodes of Berlin Station.
I stumbled over some criticism about the writing, reclaiming the writers having got things wrong about the election in Germany as an important part of the plot.
That’s interesting because I (as a very experienced German voter) can say that they got it all perfectly right.
But I understand that our German electional rules are a bit more complex than the American system and that by reflecting things based on that it may appear a bit strange.
So, just for the records, how do elections work in Germany and how is that reflected in the show?
Germany has two houses of parliament, the Bundestag and the Bundesrat.
Those two chambers are needed to pass laws.
The Bundestag is elected by the people directly while the Bundesrat is not elected directly but it gathers it’s members according to the majorities of the „Bundesländer“.
That means it’s a representation of the states of our federation.
The election that takes place in Berlin Station is an election for the Bundestag.
We elect the Bundestag in Germany all four years.
Everybody who is at least 18 years old and is a german citizen has the right to elect.
We need not register for voting. There are no such things like that people who were or are in prison are automatically not allowed to elect. It’s possible to take electional rights from people as a part of their sentence by a judge for a restricted time.
That happens rarely.
So we have no problem with huge groups of people being left out as voters.
When we go to the polls on election day we nonetheless have a similar picture like in many other democraties. A relevant number of people don’t feel they should take their rights and don’t show up at the polls.
Those who go are confronted with several choices. We have two voices for that.
Important to say is, that we do not elect our Bundeskanzlerin directly.
With our first vote we elect a candidate that is nominated by a party to represent our region, the „Wahlbezirk“ in the Bundestag. So Mrs. Merkel has a Wahlbezirk in Germany where she is the direct candidate for her party.
This vote works in a „The Winner takes it all“ system. That candidate in a Wahlbezirk who gets the most of those „first voices“ (as we call them) wins a seat in the Bundestag.
That’s what is referred to in the scene saying „The PfD won their first ever seat in the Bundestag.“
In reality it actually happened that one or two direct candidates of AfD won „direct mandates“, what means they got more „first votes“ than the candidates of the bigger parties.
Then we have a second voice on election day at the polls.
With that we vote for a party. That’s when the very small parties come to the table too.
The list of options is always much longer for the second vote.
With that voice we vote for the proportion of majorities in the Bundestag.
There is one hurdle to take in this for parties. They need to get more than 5% of all votes to actually get into the Bundestag. Most very small parties don’t get there. They always appear accumulated as „others“ in the results. The „others“ often get around 5 per cent of all votes together. That means that those votes do not influence the proportion of the Bundestag. The other about 95% of voices are counted for 100% of the seats.
That’s what is referred to in the scenes where there is talk about „…15% at the polls…“ .
The actual members of parliament are then first of all those who were elected directly. And then there will be those who get in from a list each party has with a ranking. Depending on the number of Per Cent they gained the number of candidates of their list will become „MdB“ what is „Mitglied des Bundestages“ meaning member of parliament.
Now it may seem strange that there is talk about „…PfD forming a ruling coalition…“.
Isn’t that nonsense if they only get 15% of the seats?
No, it is not. Luckily it didn’t happen in reality. But it could.
That’s where fiction kicks in in Berlin Station.
If…IF…there were more than one right wing party in the Bundestag and they WOULD build a coalition with a majority ( 15%PfD, 3 more parties at 10% and one small party at 6% were enough) it would be possible that the German Bundestag WOULD elect Katherina Gerhard for Bundeskanzlerin.
And then all of the rest of the story (surveillance plant of Hanes, taking influence on who is high ranking leader in BfV) would be a possible option.
Luckily this isn’t our reality. As AfD is pretty lonely currently in terms of probably getting any real power.
But the writers built their Berlin Station story based on a possible situation in Germany.
And as we already know Josef Emmerich is determined to finish what Katherina started and won we can be pretty excited for this season finale coming to us soon…