Every week we provide you with a new topic and with it useful vocabulary and idioms. This week it is time to vote – wählen! The German federal election – die Bundestagswahl – is coming up on Sunday, September 26th and we have a few interesting facts for you.
A quick history on votes
Elections have been the main means by which modern democracy has operated since the 17th century. But elections have been held long before that, in ancient Greece and Rome. These were used to select – auswählen – rulers and the pope. Suffrage – das Wahlrecht – is typically only for citizens of the country. But the question who is allowed to vote is crucial to the process of elections. The electorate – die Wählerschaft – does not automatically include everyone. In Australia, for example, the Aboriginal people were only allowed to vote after 1962. And for a long time only male citizens in general were allowed to vote. In many countries this is still the situation.
In order to convert a vote into a political decision we need an electoral system – ein Wahlsystem. There are different counting systems and ballot types – proportional, majoritarian – nach Mehrheit – and mixed systems. In most elections the secret ballot – geheime Abstimmung – is now considered crucial for a free and fair result. Furthermore, elected officials are accountable – rechenschaftspflichtig – to the people and must therefore return at prescribed intervals to be reelcted. But there are different schedules for different countries – for instance, the president of the US is elected for four years, the president of Ireland for seven years and the president of France for five years.
Sometimes an election is in danger of being rigged – hier: manipulieren. As a result, the winning party might not actually have the trust of the majority of the electorate. Furthermore, a sham election – die Scheinwahl – is held purely for show while the outcome has already been decided in advance.
My vote for this years election
The last German federal election took place 4 years ago in 2017. Evey German citizen who is at least 18 years old is eligible – hier: berechtigt – to vote. Everyone has the opportunity to vote per postal vote – Briefwahl. On top of that, right now politicians and their supporters attempt to win voters over to their side by campaigning – Wahlkampf. The city of Leipzig is full with campaign posters by the top candidates – Spitzenkandidat:in. And in order to keep track on how your candidate is doing people can consult opinion polls – Meinungsumfrage. Of course, people can also abstain – sich enthalten – from their vote.