Splainer

Monday, September 27 2021


Dive In

With anger you have to shout, demand that you need 50% reservation. It’s not a small issue. It’s (an) issue of thousands of years of suppression. You are entitled. It’s a matter of right… Women of the world, unite. You have nothing to lose but your chains.

That’s Chief Justice of India NV Ramana issuing a rousing call for a 50% reservation for women in the judiciary. He pointed out that women constitute only about 30% of the lower judiciary, 11.5% of the High Courts, and 12% of the Supreme Court. Ramana also pointed out this shocking bit of data: “The survey I directed found out that out of 6,000 trial courts, nearly 22% have no toilets for women.”

 
Big Story

A messy end to Angela Merkel’s reign

The TLDR: Germans went to polls over the weekend to elect a replacement for the woman who has ruled them for 16 long years. And they don’t seem to have made up their mind. The latest results indicate a close tie between the leading parties. But since both plan to hook up with the left-leaning Greens party to form a coalition, expect a post-Merkel Germany closely focused on climate change. 

 

Tell me about the results

First, let’s talk about how the peculiar German electoral system works. It was designed in the post-World War II era to avoid the kind of splintering that brought Adolf Hitler to power—with just 37.4% of the vote. Here’s how it works:

 

  • Each person casts two votes to elect members of the lower house of the Parliament, i.e. the Bundestag—which has at least 598 seats.
  • One vote is for a directly elected MP from their district. These make up 50% of the seats (299) in Parliament.
  • The other vote is for the party of their choice—and those seats account for the other 50% of parliamentary seats. 
  • The number of seats each party gets is determined by proportional representation—i.e. it reflects a party’s vote share. So often, doing that math will increase the total number of seats in the lower house. So the outgoing Bundestag had 709 seats! Like we said, weird. 
  • Any party that gets less than 5% of the vote is automatically disqualified.
  • Point to note: No single party has won a majority since World War II—so Germany has always been ruled by a coalition.
  • In the end, all the members of the Bundestag get together and select a Chancellor—once the coalition has been formed—which can take months.

 

The parties: The two major parties are the left-of-centre Social Democratic party (SPD) and right-leaning Christian Democratic Union (CDU)—which current Chancellor Angela Merkel leads. Interestingly, the current government was formed by a coalition between these two parties. The smaller parties that help form a ruling coalition are the left-leaning Greens and the Free Democrats (FDP)—which represents pro-business liberals. 

 

Ok, so who won?

The Social Democrats narrowly won Sunday's national election with 25.8% of the vote—narrowly ahead of the Christian Democrats who scored 24.1%. As a result, both parties believe they can form the government. But this time around, they are unlikely to form an alliance with each other. Everyone expects a three-way coalition with the Greens (14.6%) and Free Democrats (11.5%) in the mix—which would be the first in German history.

 

Amusing point to note: Each party is represented by its own colour—and therefore each likely coalition has its own nickname. For example: ‘traffic light’—which is red (SPD), yellow (FDP) and the Greens.

 

A big win for the left: While the results are close, they represent a remarkable comeback for the Social Democrats who gained 10 points in the polls within just three months—and have vastly improved on their 20.5% showing in 2017. And it represents a big swing to the left after 16 years of conservative rule.

 

A big defeat for the right: Bucking the rightward trend in the rest of Europe, the Germans have decisively voted for a left-of-centre government. The far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) is on track to get 10.5% of the vote—which is worse than four years ago when it entered parliament for the very first time with 12.6% of the vote.

 

Who will replace Merkel then?

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In today’s edition

Headlines That Matter

  • Taliban’s back to its old ways
  • Mamata’s foreign travel woes
  • The crazy petrol crisis in the UK
  • The good news about metabolism

 

Smart & Curious

  • The climate crisis has made a better future impossible
  • Magic mushrooms are replacing Prozac
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