Why I can’t vote next week

With the General Election in the UK only a week away, you may be forgiven for asking how someone who does not live in the country is able to vote.  The answer is that, like me, they probably are not able to.

Ballot boxTo vote in the UK your name has to be on the electoral roll, and to be on that you have to fulfil certain conditions.  One of these used to be an address in the UK and the normal method of registration is still via a form that is delivered to all households between September and November each year.

But even if you registered on a UK address and then spent most of your time out of the country there was a distinct downside to being on the electoral role: jury service.  Since the members of a court jury are selected at random from the electoral roll, being on it you run the risk of being summoned for jury service and having to travel back to the UK at short notice – something a German employer may not understand.

Now, however, times have started to change and much like other countries UK citizens are being allowed to vote even if they live overseas – at least in the General Election.

To do so, you need to register as a voter and have your registration counter-signed by another British citizen living abroad.  You will also need to chose between a proxy or postal vote – and apply for these far enough in advance of the election (not easy with this election being called so close to the actual voting day).

And yet these new rules will not help me, as there is one important limit – you must not have lived outside the UK for more than 15 years – exactly the amount of time that I have now lived in Germany.

So although I will following the results of the General Election next week and parts of the campaign have even made the news in Germany, I shall not be able to vote.

Anything is possible in German politics

… or so it would seem.  After the recent general elections (Bundestagswahl) we can expect to have a so-called “black and yellow coalition” in power.

The colours refer to the CDU and FDP parties, who are not actually so far apart in many of their policies, but still have a lot of debating to do until they agree on everything.

What worried me a little bit was a comment that I heard on the radio a few days ago, that “all topics are open to discussion”.  I would have expected that some topics did not need to be discussed, and it reminded me of the last round of coalition talks 4 years ago, where the CDU and SPD discussed raising the VAT rate.  One party wanted to raise it by 1%, the other did not want to raise it at all, and in the end they agreed on 3%!

Over the next few weeks the parties – including the CSU as well – will thrash out their policies and come up with a contract by which they will theoretically govern the country for the next 4 years.  I am wondering how much they will undo the work of the previous CDU/SPD coalition, and in particular how many policies will be agreed upon, that neither party had in their manifesto during the election campaign.

Scrapping the Gesundheitsfond would be a good start…

Truly German – Episode 05 – 2nd October 2009

Truly German is a podcast that talks about the news in Germany. Sometimes this will by national news, maybe political, but we will also be covering some local topics.

We want to have some fun at the same time, so part of the podcast is our Länderquiz – in which our contestant has to guess in which Bundesland three different news stories took place in.

Will Maria win herself a T-Shirt this week?

The topics are:

  1. Election results
  2. Döner reward for voters
  3. Hessen to relax smoking laws

The quiz covers the following stories:

  1. Manga fans meet up
  2. Diplomats gather at Schloss Horst
  3. The 356th Onion Market

Listen to the episode and contact us if you’d like to have a go yourself!

(Press the “play” button to listen to the podcast)

Download the MP3 file

Subscribe to the podcast


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