The Bundestag is getting bigger – and therefore more expensive. The right to vote should therefore already be reformed in the past legislative period, but nothing came of it because any proposal would have discriminated against one or the other party. The next election is coming up in 2021 and the time for reform is running out again. Which models are currently being discussed and is there still a chance for an agreement? The most important questions and answers
With two votes: First the candidate of the party with the most comes to parliament Erststimmen in the constituency. The current 299 constituencies are intended to ensure that all parts of the country are represented in parliament.
About the composition of the Bundestag, ie the size of the parliamentary groups, decides only that second vote, For this purpose, the parties draw up lists of candidates in each federal state.
If a party can send more constituency candidates to parliament than it would be entitled to after the second vote result, will arise Overhang seats, The other parties then receive additional votes so that the balance of power between the parties in the Bundestag corresponds to the second vote result compensatory seats, The standard size of 598 MPs in the Bundestag can then not be met, the parliament becomes larger.
Since 2017, the Bundestag has had 709 MPs and has never been so big, with only more parliamentarians sitting in the People's Congress in Beijing. It could grow towards 1,000 MPs by the 2021 election, which would cause space problems and additional costs.
The Federation of taxpayers estimates that it would be possible to save up to € 78 million if the standard size of 598 were maintained instead of the 709 MPs. Attempts to reform have been made for years, but always failed due to the different interests of the individual parties.
The size results from the overhang mandates that have to be balanced (see above). The Union makes the greatest contribution to this effect: Because CDU and CSU have won the most constituencies so far, but the second parties have recently fallen behind, and there have been more and more equalizing mandates for the other parties.
In essence, everyone agrees: The Bundestag should become smaller again. After one from the President of the Bundestag German politican (CDU) working group failed a year ago to work out a new system, the parties have developed their own proposals:
The three opposition parties Greens, Left Party and FDP presented the most detailed legislative proposal so far last autumn: they want to reduce the number of constituencies (and thus constituency deputies) from 299 to 250 and increase the number of list positions in the Bundestag from 299 to 380. Despite a larger standard size of the parliament of 630 seats (instead of 598 so far), the Bundestag would be smaller than today – because there would be fewer overhang mandates that would then have to be balanced out again.
One disadvantage: overhang mandates, if they do arise, should no longer be balanced out per federal state, but should first be offset nationwide against the party's overall second vote result. This could shift the proportion between the federal states.
at CDU and CSU So far, the common line was clear: they want to allow up to 15 overhang mandates and not compensate for the other parties with compensation mandates. That would be covered by the Federal Constitutional Court, the Bundestag would be smaller than today – but the other parties strictly reject this. Because it would favor the Union and also distort the character of a proportional representation – according to which only the result of the second votes decides on the majority in the Bundestag. After all, the size of the political groups is also essential for the formation of a government. In case of doubt, it is ultimately a question of one vote.
In the meantime, however, the CDU also seems to see that there is hardly any way of reducing the number of constituencies. In the end, this gave the party's presidium an idea. The extent to which the CDU is willing to reduce it is still open. Only: the sister party Christian Social Union has already clearly disagreed. It does not want to delete any constituencies and does not want to do without electoral candidates.
The CSU has put forward its own proposal: Do not reduce constituencies, but increase the number of list positions – that would raise the standard size of the Bundestag, but would make it more difficult for mandates to emerge.
The parties involved various scientists, including the Düsseldorf political scientist Sophie Schönberger, She advocates that only as many constituency candidates be admitted to parliament as a party is entitled to according to its share of the second vote. The advantages: there were no overhang and compensation mandates. It could remain with 299 constituencies, the elaborate and politically difficult to implement new measurement of Germany would be dispensable. Argues similarly the AfD in their proposal,
In the constitutional blog, Schöneberger also expressed general doubts about the system of first and second votes. It is considered "not plausible" that the first vote for the constituency candidates promotes local ties to the voters, as is often argued. In addition, the often scarce first vote results speak against the principle of constituency candidates – here often a few percentage points decide which party can send their candidate to parliament.
The model gained similar importance by the Berlin Tagesspiegel journalist Albert Funk: He proposes to fill the mandates obtained in accordance with the second vote in equal parts from the constituencies and from the candidate lists of the federal states. In this case, too, there would no longer be one member from every constituency – the regional proportion would be endangered. But that doesn't have to be a problem – see above.
The main problem: parties decide on electoral law reform. And they benefit from changes to different degrees. Fewer constituencies mean disproportionate losses for the Union. The Union's proposals, on the other hand, primarily affect the little ones. A reform of the electoral law should be decided by consensus, if possible, so that neither party takes advantage of the other. The reform must also comply with the applicable electoral laws and the case law of the Federal Constitutional Court. Serious changes such as re-electing the constituencies are therefore difficult to implement.
There is no factual deadline. However, if the next Bundestag election is to take place regularly in autumn 2021 based on a new right to vote, time is running out: in summer the parties will draw up the first lists of candidates. It is unlikely that the constituencies will be reassigned by then. Bundestag President Schäuble warned of an agreement until the end of January. If reform fails during this parliamentary term, the next Bundestag is likely to become significantly larger than before.
The Federal Returning Officer and his independent constituency commission propose how the districts are to be cut, the Bundestag decides. There are a few guidelines: The constituency should be a "coherent entity", it says in the federal electoral law. All circles are said to be home to approximately the same number of eligible voters. Circles need to be resized if they are 25 percent larger or smaller than the average. Constituencies must not cross the borders of the federal states. Constituencies are based on the municipal boundaries, in Bavaria also on the government districts.
A team of mathematicians from the University of Aachen has developed a program that takes all of these factors into account. It could downsize Germany to up to 200 constituencies instead of 299. The number of constituencies in 2002 was last reduced to the 299 that still exist today.
Schäuble recently warned: If the Bundestag were larger than 709 MPs, parliamentarians would have to move their offices to containers. It also gets tight in the plenary hall. One also hears as many arguments that so many deputies are no longer meaningful to employ. The democratic legitimation is declining. In addition, Germany still has 16 state parliaments.
In addition, a large parliament is naturally expensive. For comparison: 435 MPs sit in the US House of Representatives, 577 in the French National Assembly and 650 in the British House of Commons. The National Council in Vienna even has only 183 seats. But there are also just under nine million people living in Austria. Relative to the population, Germany's parliament – if you ignore the United States – is big, but not huge.