When is a constituency safe?

by Matthias Koch

Under which conditions can a constituency be counted as safe? This question is especially important for parties and candidates, yet has found different answers among scholars. Based on results since the 1998 Bundestag election the article investigates which of several indicators proves best to predict the constituency-winner in Germany. Empirically, winning by a margin of 17 percentage points of the personal vote turns out to be a valid criterion. With regard to differences between the electoral performances of parties represented in the Bundestag it becomes clear that party specific criteria are, however, more vulnerable in case of party system change. Especially the Alternative for Germany (AfD) remains an unknown factor for the forthcoming federal election. Due to the success in Landtag elections, it seems possible, that the AfD could win direct seats not only at the state level, but also at the federal level. For SPD candidates only four constituencies are safe wins. Predictions for the CDU/CSU are much better: numerous candidates can be certain to win the constituency seat.

The article is published in: ZParl, Volume 48 (2017), Issue 2, pp. 350 – 369.

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