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Double vote and extra seats – Germany's complicated electoral system

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Double vote and extra seats - Germany's complicated electoral system

The German constitution explicitly states that members of the federal parliament (also known as the Bundestag) are elected every four years “by general, direct, free, equal and secret elections.”

As the Bundestag itself explains on its website, “general” means that every German who has reached the age of 18 has the right to participate in the process. This time, 60.4 million citizens – 31.2 million women and 29.2 million men, more than a third of whom are over 60 – have this right – with 2.8 million they can go to the polls for the first time in their lives.

The term “direct” refers to the fact that citizens vote directly for their MPs, without the mediation of representatives who make up a college of electors – a clear difference compared to the system in place in the United States.

Double vote and extra seats - Germany's complicated electoral system

Elections are also considered “free” because no pressure or blackmailing of voters is allowed, both by domestic and foreign actors. They are “equal” also because each vote has the same specific weight and the same value in terms of the composition of the parliament, thus capturing a system that can basically be characterized as simple proportional – although with several. Asterisks.

Finally, the elections are “secret” because every German man and woman have the right to cast their ballot without anyone else having the right to know about their choice – something that is also guaranteed in the case of the letter votes, the number of which is expected this year to break every previous record, approaching 40% (almost 29% was in 2017).

The person and the party

So far, so good. But then things start to get complicated, as the German electoral system includes various aspects and “clauses”. Such that, among other things, the number of members of the Bundestag is constantly changing and is always greater than the minimum of 598 deputies.

Double vote and extra seats - Germany's complicated electoral system

Typically, however, the above number is divided exactly into two – as many as the votes of each citizen. It is, in practice, a double voting process – one for a specific candidate and one for a party.

Half of the 598 minimum, however, came from direct and personal voting in the 299 constituencies, each with a population of about 250,000. Voters choose whoever they want from among the existing candidates, who in theory (though rarely in practice) can be independent, provided they have collected 200 signatures from their supporters. The person who receives the most votes is automatically a member of the Bundestag.

The other half (also 299) come from the party lists in each state and the distribution is proportional, based on the percentage secured by each party. The only condition is that he has exceeded the 5% threshold nationwide or, even if he does not succeed, that he has managed to elect at least three of his candidates in direct personal voting.

Double vote and extra seats - Germany's complicated electoral system

The tactic vote

As it is obvious, the above process leads to interesting peculiarities. Deutsche Welle explains one by giving a specific example.

Voters, in particular, have the right to “divide” their vote between two parties, following a specific electoral tactic: They can choose the Christian Democrats in the direct vote and the Liberal Democrats in the party, to help their traditional ally to enter parliament or be strengthened.

The second peculiarity is the one that is responsible for the different number of deputies in the Bundestag after each election process – for the real reason, in the elections of 2013 it was 630, while in those of 2017 they reached 709!

Double vote and extra seats - Germany's complicated electoral system

How the seats increase

But why is this happening? The explanation must be sought in the fact that the number of seats secured by each party at the national level based on the personal (direct) and party (indirect) vote of the Germans is usually different. However, the constitution and the electoral law stipulate that whichever candidate prevails in each constituency rightfully acquires the status of MP. Automatically, therefore, there is an increase in the number of total seats in any state where such a phenomenon is observed, due to the so-called “surplus seats”.

Another kind of problem could arise here, as some parties, which have received higher percentages in the indirect vote, will find themselves wronged in the final division. In order to prevent this from happening, the legislator has provided for the existence of additional seats, which are called “balancing seats” and are distributed proportionally to all other parties.

Their number does not depend directly on the number of “surplus seats” that have arisen in the 16 states and after the necessary set-off between the parties represented in parliament.

Double vote and extra seats - Germany's complicated electoral system

With all this in mind, millions of Germans have started sending their ballot papers since the end of August, while the rest will go to the polls on Sunday, September 26th. As for the abstention rate, which in 2017 reached 24% (compared to 28.5% in 2013), for now it remains a mystery.


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Source: politis.com.cy

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