Ask Germans Why Less Frequent Elections Make Sense

Too many votes?

Photographer: Maja Hitij/Getty Images

The coming German election may be the last one run on a four-year cycle. The parties now represented in the German parliament and at least one that stands to enter it on Sept. 24 all agree that the legislative term should be extended to five years. That means it's highly likely Germany will make the switch before 2021. They make some arguments that Americans, too, should consider.

Since the end of World War II, the Federal Republic of Germany has only had eight chancellors, and three of them served for more than a decade; Angela Merkel will match Helmut Kohl's 16-year record if she wins next week. But, unlike, say, in Russia, where the presidential term was increased from four to six years in 2008 specifically to extend President Vladimir Putin's tenure, the emerging German consensus is not about a longer political life for leaders. It's about the kind of calm common sense Germany's political class proudly demonstrates to the rest of the Western world in these colorful times.

Merkel's party, the Christian Democratic Union, points out that the election campaign takes time out of a government's productive term, and coalition negotiations post-election take some more. The coalition talks lasted a record 86 days in 2013 and they may take even longer this time around. In the U.S., coalition talks aren't a problem, but the campaigns themselves are insanely long. From the moment the first serious candidate, Ted Cruz, announced he was running, the campaign for the last presidential election went on for 597 days.

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