Electoral Systems: Germany’s Legislature

Another guest blog from the Euro Pol students…and another one on Germany.


Germany’s system of government involves a complicated electoral system and a two-house parliament. The upper house is called the Bundesrat. The lower house, the Bundestag, is used for the actual policy-making and has the power in the government. The Bundestag currently there are 620 members.

The electoral system of Germany is a bit screwy and hard to understand. It’s called a mixed electoral system, which means that some of the representatives are elected using first-past-the-post (FPTP) system, like we have in the US. 299 members are elected this way: it corresponds with the number of constituencies in the country. The first person elected in each area is the one that wins the nomination. The rest of the members are elected through proportional representation, which means with a party list. The first person on the party list gets elected, then the second, third, etc. Citizens get two votes: one for a candidate in the general election and one for a party in each state. The parties then choose candidates to send to the Bundestag based on the percentage won.

Another quirky thing about Germany is that with the mixed system, parties can actually get more seats than they have. For instance, in this term, there are 620 members of Parliament  (MPs) but only 598 total seats. If a candidate (and their party) wins more seats through the FPTP than the second PR vote, they can keep the extra seats they won, which creates more MPs.

The electoral system of Germany is really strange, but it seems to work for them. Coalition governments are pretty common – but that’s another topic for another day.

Anyway, an interesting fact is that out of the 620, one-third (290) are women! It’s nearly double that of the United States House of Representatives, which has only 16.4% women.

Sources:

http://www.ipu.org/parline-e/reports/2121_A.html

Crepaz and Steiner, Chapter 3

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