It is a strange parallelism: For weeks it has been emphasized incessantly that in the bloody war in Ukraine democracy, including the one here, is being defended, that a primal struggle is taking place there, so to speak, and that Germany must therefore get involved in a manifest way – and then in the An election was held in Germany’s largest federal state, and the turnout was the lowest it has ever been.
In the Ukraine so many people who are willing to sacrifice life and limb for a democratic form of government – and here so many people who squander their completely risk-free right to do so.
The low turnout – it was 55.5 percent – must worry all democratic parties, said CDU leader Friedrich Merz on Monday. As a matter of fact. All the more so as the number has a strong social component. It can be summed up roughly in the formula that disinterest in democratic participation increases the lower the socio-economic factors in the constituencies are.
For example, 68.8 percent voted in the Cologne II constituency, which is characterized by middle-class, older students, and only 38.1 percent in the Duisburg III district, which is characterized by more precarious living conditions. Status-turnout correlation is not a new phenomenon, but as with all creeping developments, there is a risk of missing the critical point.
In general, of course, there is unanimity that education and status are unacceptable as electoral factors because that would erode democracy from below. It would become an elite event and in case of danger there might not be enough people to defend it.
What exactly stopped people from going to the NRW polling stations last Sunday has not yet been determined. Maue topics, nice weather, not in the mood? The political scientist Klaus Schubert from the Westfälische Wilhelms-Universität Münster sees a mobilization deficit rather than general electoral fatigue. That would explain the significant drop in participation compared to the 2017 state election, in which 65.2 percent of those eligible to vote had taken the trouble to exercise their right to vote.
Seen in this way, the parties could feel called upon to put more effort into the selection of their candidates and the presentation of the topics in the future – without immediately relying on a riot, which experience has shown is only a deterrent. But the citizens can also feel called upon to see democracy not only as a right that they have, but also as an obligation. Because the trusting attitude “It will be fine without me” can also lead to fatal indolence on the part of the masses.