Here in Germany, we’re in the midst of election season. Germans are preparing to elect their federal, regional, and municipal representatives. I’ve learned a lot about the culture surrounding politics in Germany over the past few weeks, and given that today was the municipal election in Niedersachsen, it felt fitting to share some of my observations.
Coming from a country with extreme polarization, one of the starkest contrasts I’ve experienced so far is the multi party system. Germany has five main political parties (CDU, SPD, FDP, Die Linke, and Die Grünen), as well as smaller parties such as du., the HipHop party, or the Piraten Partei, or pirate party. I’ve attached here a link to Wahl-O-Mat, a quiz that can help you figure out where on the German political spectrum you stand. (Unfortunately I was only able to find a German version -- my apologies).
Due to the wide variety of parties, party loyalty isn’t as big of a deal as it is in the United States. Political parties are (often) not ingrained in one’s identity -- while someone might describe themselves as right-leaning or left-leaning, it’s not quite equivalent to Americans describing themselves as Democrats or Republicans.
In my politics class at school, we learned about the views of each party and their proposed solutions to municipal issues. We had the chance to give each party Noten (grades) to indicate what we thought of their suggestions. Though we didn’t turn this assignment in for credit, it served an important purpose. In Oldenburg, individuals over the age of 16 can vote in municipal elections, and for some of my classmates, this was helpful preparation. I of course won’t be voting this year, but this exercise was productive for me as well; it helped me to break out of my black and white (or, perhaps more appropriately, red and blue) view of politics. On some issues, I found myself agreeing with parties I never thought I would find common ground with.
None of this is to say that Germany or German politics are perfect. This is an especially intense season as Germany prepares to elect a new Bundeskanzler(in). Additionally, I can only speak from my experiences in my town -- what I write here does not necessarily represent the views of everyone in Niedersachsen, everyone in Oldenburg, or even everyone in my neighborhood. However, living in Germany during an election year has changed how I see politics and helped me to open my mind.