Draft for electoral law reform: Away from the XXL Bundestag
Parliament should shrink back to its normal size. A draft law by Red-Green-Yellow provides for 598 MPs instead of the current 736.
BERLIN dpa | The traffic light factions have presented a bill for an electoral law reform that would reduce the Bundestag back to its normal size of 598 MPs. Due to overhang and compensatory mandates, the parliament had continued to grow – to 736 MPs most recently. Originally, the bill already available in September.
The draft law by the SPD, Greens and FDP now provides that there should be no more overhang and compensation mandates in the future. As a result, MPs directly elected in a constituency will not be given a seat in the Bundestag.
The chairmen of the traffic light parliamentary groups in the Bundestag sent the draft law to CDU/CSU parliamentary group leader Friedrich Merz (CDU) on Sunday. In a letter they offered to talk about it. “The fractions of the democratic center are united in wanting to avoid a massive enlargement of the Bundestag beyond its statutory standard size for future federal elections,” it says. “That’s why we want to find a solution for the next federal election that can be widely supported.” The letter and draft law are available from the German Press Agency in Berlin.
Overhang mandates arise when a party wins more mandates from the first votes than it is entitled to based on the result of the second vote. The party may keep these additional mandates. The other parties receive compensatory mandates in return.
The Bundestag is currently one of the largest parliaments in the world. According to the draft law, the previous division into 299 constituencies and two votes, which each voter can cast, will remain in place. In the future, only the second votes should be decisive for the distribution of seats in the Bundestag. They are called “main votes” in the draft, the first votes are called “constituency votes”.
The main vote result is used to calculate how many of the 598 mandates each party is entitled to nationwide and how these are distributed among the individual state lists. If a party directly wins fewer constituencies than it is entitled to, the remaining seats are distributed via the list.
However, if it wins more constituencies directly than it has seats based on the main vote result, the candidates with the worst constituency vote result get nothing. “Successful candidacy in the constituency will therefore in future require, in addition to the relative majority, coverage by main votes,” says the draft law.
The waiver of overhang and compensation mandates would affect all parties. There were 138 of them in the 2021 federal election. Of these, 41 were from the Union, 36 from the SPD, 24 from the Greens, 16 from the FDP, 14 from the AfD and 7 from the Linke.
The draft law is to be discussed by the parliamentary groups this week. He is unlikely to meet with unanimous approval from the traffic light ranks, either, because members of parliament can calculate that they will lose their mandate with the new rules in the next election.
The resistance in the Union is likely to be even greater. The CDU and above all the CSU have prevented effective electoral law reform in the past two legislative periods because they benefited the most from the current regulations. They even let reform attempts by the Bundestag Presidents Norbert Lammert and Wolfgang Schäuble (both CDU) come to nothing.
“The time for making excuses for real electoral reform must be over. The German Bundestag must become smaller,” said Konstantin Kuhle, the chairman of the FDP in the Bundestag commission for the reform of electoral law and the modernization of parliamentary work. The traffic light groups have now shown a way to do this and made a concrete offer to talk to the Union. “We want a reform of the Bundestag electoral law to be decided by a broad majority in parliament in order to ensure acceptance of the new electoral law,” emphasized Kuhle.