Social Democratic Party

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Austria: 400 gnomes disappeared in Austria, and it’s causing a political scandal | The Washington Post

Last weekend in the mountainous Austrian state of Vorarlberg, 400 gnomes disappeared. Nobody knows where they have gone. But everyone knows it’s down to politics. With regional elections set for Sept. 21, the left-wing Social Democratic Party ordered 20,000 gnomes called “Coolmen” earlier this year. The gnomes, toting sunglasses and campaign signs, were the party’s last-ditch effort to prevent an electoral defeat in Vorarlberg. About 400 of the gnomes were attached to lampposts on Saturday as alternatives to traditional posters, but their mass disappearance by Sunday morning was conspicuous. “I suspect our rival party OeVP [the Austrian People’s Party] to have removed the gnomes,” local Social Democratic Party leader Michael Ritsch told The Washington Post on Tuesday. Ritsch has filed a complaint, and the state’s police forces have launched an investigation.

Full Article: 400 gnomes disappeared in Austria, and it’s causing a political scandal - The Washington Post.

Germany: Raising The Bar For Participation? The German SPD Membership Ballot | Social Europe Journal

It was an interesting and promising experiment: In December 2013 the German Social Democratic Party (SPD) asked its members to vote on the question of a possible grand coalition with the German Christian Democrats of Angela Merkel. And within as well as outside of the party many observers had been questioning if this procedure was such a good idea. A broad and fundamental discussion arose about the planned party ballot and whether the mere 475.000 members of one political party should, in the end, be able to decide if a planned national government could materialize. And don’t forget about the question of wether the usual procedures of a parliamentary democracy can easily be extended with more direct and participatory forms of decision-making. A big part of the guessing game on a possible outcome of the membership vote was due to the fact that any survey could only focus on people sympathizing with the SPD but not directly on the members themselves. Only the party leadership holds the address list of party members and running a poll over the whole population just to filter the voting SPD members out would have been far too costly. The result was that until the party ballot was held nobody really had an idea what the outcome would be and therefore about the consequences for the SPD, any new government run by Angela Merkel, and for German democracy in general.

Full Article: Raising The Bar For Participation? The German SPD Membership Ballot.

Czech Republic: A election with consequences | openDemocracy

Only a few months ago, no one would have expected that 2013 would turn out to be an election “super-year” for the Czech Republic. The first-ever presidential elections took place in January, while legislative elections were originally scheduled for the spring of 2014. But then the political scandal broke involving Prime Minister Petr Necas. The whole cabinet was forced to resign, and as it was replaced by the technocratic government of Jiri Rusnok (a man loyal to president Milos Zeman), it started to become clear that the country was heading towards a period of unusual political instability. The new cabinet failed to win a confidence vote and MPs eventually voted to dissolve the parliament, triggering early elections. Two main issues stand out in the forthcoming elections  – the emergence of three to four new parties likely to win seats in the parliament, and the ambiguous role of President Milos Zeman.

Full Article: A Czech election with consequences | openDemocracy.

Germany: The wildcards of Germany’s general election | The Irish Times

German federal elections are not for the faint-of-heart – or the colour blind. For the first time in decades, when the polls open for 60 million German voters on September 22nd, Europe – and the world – will be watching. The huge level of international attention is down to the cause and effect of the euro crisis. The domino effect in the crisis exposed just how interlinked our European economies and political systems already were. Shifts in Europe’s political tectonic plates are under way, pushing Berlin to the fore and its influence on post-crisis measures that will, in future, bind us even closer together. So what is at stake? At its most basic, Germans will decide whether or not to reward Angela Merkel with a third term for steering a relatively steady economic ship in turbulent waters. The opposition Social Democratic Party (SPD) are busily poking holes in the Merkel crisis recipe: it has resulted in an astronomical bill for bank rescues, they say, leaving less money for education and investment and Germany increasingly a country of haves and have-nots.

Full Article: The wildcards of Germany’s general election - Financial Services News | Business News | The Irish Times - Tue, Sep 03, 2013.

Germany: Colours of the rainbow – A guide to Germany’s federal elections | The Economist

Like much of Germany’s democratic machinery, its voting system is designed to avoid past mistakes. A combination of proportional representation and first-past-the-post majority voting fosters stable coalitions and discourages small fringe parties. When Germans go to the polls on September 22nd, they will elect the members of the Bundestag, or lower house of Parliament. Whichever coalition of parties can muster a majority of members will form the federal government. (Members of the Bundesrat, the upper chamber, are delegates of Germany’s 16 states, or Länder). Germans have two votes. One is for a candidate to represent the local electoral district (of which there are 299), chosen by simple plurality of votes. The second vote is for a party. Any party receiving 5% or more of the total is entitled to seats in the Bundestag, whether any of its candidates have won a district or not. If a party gets more seats through direct election than its share of the overall vote merits, it can keep some of these “overhang” seats. Thanks to a recent change in the electoral law, the other parties then get “compensatory” seats to restore the balance among the parties. These provisions mean the precise number of Bundestag members will not be known until after the election, but it could reach 700.

Full Article: Colours of the rainbow | The Economist.

Belarus: Boycotted Belarus election declared valid | UPI.com

Enough residents voted in otherwise-boycotted Parliamentary elections in Belarus to make the results valid, the country’s Central Election Commission has declared. The commission ruled Sunday that more than 50 percent of eligible voters cast ballots in the elections for all 110 seats in the Belarus National Assembly, the nation’s lower house of Parliament, RIA Novosti reported. The country’s two main opposition parties — the United Civic and BPF parties –boycotted the polls because of alleged fraud, urging voters to skip what they called “pseudo-elections” for the “rubber-stamp” lower house. 

Full Article: Boycotted Belarus election declared valid - UPI.com.

Germany: Most populous state to hold new elections as government stumbles over budget | The Washington Post

Germany’s most populous state will hold early elections after its minority government narrowly failed to get a budget passed Wednesday — a prospect that could boost the country’s center-left opposition. All 181 members of the state legislature in North Rhine-Westphalia voted to dissolve it. That means a new regional election must be held within 60 days, although no date was immediately set. North Rhine-Westphalia, a western region of some 18 million people that includes Cologne and the Ruhr industrial region, is governed by the center-left Social Democrats and Greens. The vote Wednesday came hours after a budget proposal from the state government fell one vote short of a majority. Center-right opponents have accused it of poor financial management and demanded more belt-tightening.

Full Article: Germany’s most populous state to hold new elections as govt stumbles over budget - The Washington Post.