Germany is caught in the midst of election fever! Posters have sprung up in the last few weeks all over town, sporting the smiling faces of politicians with catchy slogans underneath them. I have ridden by them every day on my bike, happily oblivious of what these people stood for, pleasantly reminded of election season at home when people would stick signs for local politicians in their front lawns so that I could hurdle over them on my way to school. But that happy oblivion is long gone, for tonight my political inclinations have been set straight by German technology! That’s right, scientists in a lab have developed a device that will take your answers to simple questions and return to you a full report on your political beliefs. I am speaking, of course, of the Wahl-O-Mat!
While I won’t have the pleasure of joining my German comrades in voting this Sunday, I still wanted to see which party I might hypothetically vote for were I fully educated on the matter and fully a citizen of this country. Here in Germany it’s not a simple question of Democrats vs. Republicans. There are in fact six different political parties represented in the German Bundestag (Parliament)! How Germans managed to choose their party allegiances before the Wahl-O-Mat was invented in 2002 I’ll never know.
So I tried my luck at the Wahl-O-Mat to see where I stand. Below you can read along with my selections to each agree/disagree/neutral question. ACHTUNG: I just did this for fun. While I did take the answers seriously, I still only spent a few minutes thinking about the answer to each one. Some of the questions involved specific references to German laws I didn’t really know anything about… so I’m pretty sure my opinion of a lot of these issues would change if I just new more about them.
I tried to force myself to side with agree or disagree (and not pick neutral) just to keep things interesting. Also, the exclamation points were all there in the questions. I like the Wahl-O-Mat.
1. An all-out no exemptions smoking ban in all restaurants in Nordrhein-Westfalen (NRW)! (disagree)
2. Gymnasium should stay as the long-term school format. (neutral)
3. All regions of NRW should have a “social ticket” system for the trains and buses .(agree)
4. Fewer “open for business” Sundays in NRW! (disagree)
5. The debt limit should be written into the NRW constitution. (neutral)
6. Autobahn speed limit in NRW! (disagree)
7. The country should encourage more culture projects from immigrants. (agree)
8. There should be referendums/petitions on finance issues also (don’t fully understand… are petitions currently limited? Better go with neutral here.)
9. Recipients of Hartz-IV benefits should have their benefits reduced when they reject job offers. (agree)
10. NRW schools should offer Islamic religion classes in German. (agree)
11. Members of the state parliament should continue to be allowed to sit in on supervisory meetings of the WDR (a big news station). (agree?)
12. The country should work to ensure that all students can receive financial aid regardless of the income of their parents. (agree)
13. No new large mosques should be built in NRW. (disagree)
14. Basic municipal services (gas, water, electricity, waste) should be completely publicly owned. (agree)
15. The marriage between a man and woman should continue to be associated with more rights than same-sex civil unions. (disagree)
16. For major deployments, all police officers should be required to carry an ID (agree).
17. NRW should allow the growth of genetically altered plants. (agree)
18. The country should provide all teaching materials and textbooks to schoolchildren for free. (agree)
19. NRW should ban the National Democratic Party (neo-Nazi party). (disagree)
20. The Real Estate Transfer Tax should be reduced (agree).
21. NRW should make the last year of kindergarten before primary school a requirement. (agree)
22. More people with immigrant backgrounds should work in the police force. (agree) According to the Berlin-Institut für Bevölkerung und Entwicklung, “Only about three percent [of young people with a migration background] work in a public school as a teacher, are police officers or are employed in the registry office. In no other country were the proportions lower.” For a country with one of the highest immigration rates world wide, this number should probably be higher.
23. The doctor’s office consultation fee should be abolished (disagree). I’m all for free health care, but I think there needs to be something to keep people from just going to the doctor with any complaint at all…
24. The state should do more to protect copyrights online. (disagree)
25. Child benefits should just be given to German families. (disagree) I don’t know if I understood this properly, but it seems to be saying that ethnic families should not get the benefits that “native” German families receive.
26. NRW should buy information about tax crimes, even when that data has been stolen (neutral) I do not understand this…
27. There should be a quota for women present on company boards of directors. (disagree) I agree there should be more women in high corporate positions, but I don’t agree the government should enforce a law about it…
28. Businesses should be allowed to continue to donate to political parties. (disagree)
29. Municipal suffrage for all permanently residing in North Rhine-Westphaliaforeigners! (agree)
30. The solidarity surcharge should also be used for structurally weak regions in North Rhine-Westphalia. (agree)
31. All schoolchildren with handicaps should be taught in mainstream schools (agree).
32. The country’s constitutional protection should be abolished (disagree). I may not have fully understood this… but constitutional protection sounds like something I want.
33. Parents who educate their children entirely at home, should receive financial support (“Betreuungsgeld”). (agree) as long as the rest of the schools are publicly funded…
34. NRW should campaign for a nationwide minimum wage. (disagree) I vaguely remember being convinced that the federal minimum wage was an economically illogical institution the last time I read about it… so I’ll stick with that.
35. Foreigners who have already lived for many years without trouble in NRW should be granted a right to permanently stay (agree).
36. In regional elections: 16-year-olds allowed to vote! (disagree) I don’t think I should have voted when I was sixteen…
37. NRW should promote programs against Right-extremism (agree)
38. More coal power plants should be built in NRW (disagree).
I was then given the option to weight certain opinions… I decided to abstain from this customization.
I was then asked to choose (only) 7 parties to compare my choices to. Here are the ones I picked, some because they’re the biggest parties, others just for kicks, and a couple just kind of randomly:
CDU – Christian Democrats – the current party in power, the party of Angela Merkel
SPD – Social Democrats – the largest party after the CDU. Very centered, the traditional party of the working class.
Grüne – Green Party – Originally a one-topic party, founded as a body against nuclear power. They’ve diversified since then.
Die Linke – The Left – Democratic Socialist party, sort of a carryover from the former East Germany
Piraten – The Pirate Party – A new, young party devoted to the internet. They are criticized for their monothematic approach, but they welcome all opinions.
pro NRW – The pro Nordrhein Westfalen Party – An extremely right-wing (read: neo-Nazi) party. I chose this one to be compared to just based on the name, because I live in NRW. I had no idea they were this way.
NPD – National Democratic Party – This is the closest thing to a modern Nazi party. There are efforts to forbid its existence.
Familie – The Family Party – A minor conservative party, and the party with the smallest Wikipedia page. I chose this party randomly to spice up my list, again not knowing what they stood for.
And the results are in! My hypothesis was that I’d match up with the Grüners, but let’s see what the Wahl-o-Mat had to say!
The Familien-Partei??? Really? And then the Piraten? Hilarious. I’m only really familiar enough with the Pirates to know that they probably won’t be winning many seats this Sunday… but I guess we’ll see! I have to look into this Family party a little closer, then I’ll report back. My roommate has a theory that the Wahl-O-Mat is rigged by Die Linke, because all of her friends ended up with Die Linke on top despite not really supporting them. And sure enough they’re the third place on my list, too. I’m a little disquieted by how long those yellow bars are for pro NRW and NPD… I wish that chart had some kind of scale on it. I’m beginning to doubt the Wahl-O-Mat and its Sorting Hat-like powers.