On April 07th 2022, German right-wing populist party Alternative für Deutschland (AfD) politician Alice Weidel claimed on Twitter that the vaccine mandate in Germany only failed because of the dissenting votes of her party. She refers to the voting of the deputies in the Bundestag earlier that day. According to Weidel, only 40 votes more were needed to reach the majority of the votes and therefore to establish the vaccine mandate. Checking different scenarios of the vote proves that Weidel’s claims can in general be labeled as mostly false. Only in one scenario her claims can be labeled as mostly true.
On April 7th 2022, various initiatives on the subject of mandatory COVID-19 vaccination failed in the German Bundestag. In a roll-call vote the deputies rejected all four proposals.
The proposals were based on a recommendation by the Health Committee. In this recommendation, the draft laws of Baehrens and Janecek were previously merged, which provided for mandatory vaccination from the age of 60 starting on October 15th 2022. While the other votes showed clear differences in the in-favour and against-votes, the vote on the compromise law of Baehrens and Janecek with 296 votes in favour and 378 against wasn’t that distinct.
Weidel, who is part of the head of AfD’s parliamentary group, refers to it as the draft law of the “Ampel coalition“ which is the governing coalition consisting of the parties SPD (left-wing), Die Grünen (left-wing) and FDP (right-wing). In her tweet, she doesn’t mention that the proposed vaccine mandate would only concern a specific part of the population. Her statement rather implies a general vaccine mandate in the population.
Ultimately, the draft law couldn’t reach the majority of the votes: 296 deputies voted for and 378 deputies against it. Nine deputies abstained from voting and 53 of the total 736 members didn’t cast a vote.
Out of the 80 members of the AfD in the Bundestag, 76 voted against the draft law and four didn’t cast a vote. According to Section 42 (2) sentence 1 of the Grundgesetz (fundamental rights, “GG”), a majority of the votes in the Bundestag is required for a decision. For a simple majority only the votes cast count. Therefore, only a one-vote difference would be enough to reach a majority.
In her tweet, Alice Weidel claims that without the AfD’s against votes the vaccine mandate “would be reality now”. She alleges that the “Ampel coalition” would have needed more than 40 in-favour votes to reach a majority.
These statements can be interpreted in different ways, which is why we will play them out in three scenarios. Considering the political views of the AfD, a scenario in which the AfD would’ve voted for the vaccine mandate is unrealistic. This is why we are not taking this scenario into account.
Scenario 1: The AfD abstains from voting
296 members of the Bundestag voted for and 378 members against the vaccine mandate for people over 60 years. Without the 76 against votes of the AfD, only 302 against votes by other deputies remain. In a scenario in which all AfD members had abstained from voting, the simple majority for the draft law would still haven’t been achieved with 302 votes against and 296 votes in favour. A majority of the in-favour votes would require less than the 40 votes Weidel is talking about. This is why we label both Alice Weidel’s statements in this scenario as wrong.
Scenario 2: The AfD is not part of the Bundestag
Without the party members of the AfD in the Bundestag, the number of deputies would decrease to 656. According to Section 1 (1) sentence 2 of the Bundeswahlgesetz (Federal Electoral Act), the Bundestag must consist of at least 598 members, which would be the case in this scenario. As already shown in the previous scenario, even without the AfD, there would be more against than in-favour votes if all members behaved in the same way as in the real vote. For a majority of the in-favour votes, less than 40 votes would be needed. In this scenario, too, we label both of Alice Weidel’s statements as wrong.
Scenario 3: Members who abstained from voting or didn’t cast a vote would change their vote to in favour
378 members, including most of the AfD deputies, voted against the introduction of a vaccination obligation from the age of 60. In order to introduce it, a simple majority of 379 in-favour votes would have been necessary. Accordingly, 83 in favour-votes were missing. Her statement that the “Ampel” coalition would have needed more than 40 votes for a simple majority is therefore true.
However, the Bundestag consists of only 736 members. Since there were 378 against votes including the AfD votes, only 358 votes remained, so that even if all other members would have voted for the draft law, no majority could have been achieved. That’s why, in this scenario, we label Alice Weidel’s statement that the AfD’s dissenting votes prevented the introduction of compulsory vaccination for people over the age of 60 as true.
All scenarios are relatively far-fetched and unrealistic. The tweet is not concrete enough for us to be able to know exactly what Alice Weidel’s intended meaning was. We assume, however, that she refers to the third scenario and to the fact that, among other things, the AfD’s dissenting votes prevented the possibility of a majority of in-favour votes in terms of figures. Nevertheless, the statement that compulsory vaccination would now be a reality without the AfD’s dissenting votes is wrong, since it cannot automatically be assumed that other deputies would have voted differently without the presence or abstention of the AfD.
However, the statement that the “Ampel coalition” lacked more than 40 votes to achieve a majority for compulsory vaccination is mostly true, as 83 in-favour votes were missing to achieve a majority. In terms of figures, however, those votes did not exist.
At this point we would like to note that Alice Weidel’s tweet suggests false claims by omitting information such as that the vote was not a general vaccination obligation for everyone but for people over the age of 60. Because of that in addition to our perception that the first part of the tweet is more relevant we label the statements of her tweet as mostly false.
RESEARCH | ARTICLE: Hanna Bekele and Philipp Kaltenmark, Hochschule der Medien, Stuttgart (Germany)
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