Reform proposal: Bundestag should shrink from 736 to 630 MPs

Reform proposal: Bundestag should shrink from 736 to 630 MPs

reform proposal
Bundestag is to shrink from 736 to 630 MPs

The plenary hall of the Bundestag.  Photo: picture alliance / Kay Nietfeld/dpa

The plenary hall of the Bundestag. photo

© picture alliance / Kay Nietfeld/dpa

The traffic light adjusts its proposals for the reduction of the Bundestag again. Parliament should not shrink quite as much – and there is an unpleasant surprise for one group.

The Bundestag should shrink after the next election from the current 736 to a permanent 630 MPs – and thus not quite as much as originally planned. The factions of the SPD, Greens and FDP have agreed on this, as the German Press Agency learned from coalition circles on Sunday. The traffic light coalition submitted its first draft for an electoral law reform to the Bundestag at the end of January. This included 598 seats in the Bundestag.

This number will now be increased again in the last few meters in order to reduce the number of “orphan constituencies” from which no directly elected MP is sent to parliament. The amendment has been submitted to the dpa, the news portal first reported “Pioneers” about it. The reform is to be passed in the Bundestag on Thursday or Friday.

trouble for the left? “Basic mandate clause” deleted

In addition to the changed size of the parliament, the coalition proposal also contains another change that is likely to go against the grain of the Left Group in particular: the so-called basic mandate clause is omitted. According to this, parties that receive less than five percent of the second votes can still enter the Bundestag if they win at least three direct mandates. This clause has been used four times so far: in 1953 and 1957 the German party (DP) of them, in 1994 the PDS and in 2021 its successor party Die Linke, which failed at the 5 percent hurdle with 4.9 percent of the second votes.

Overhang mandates are eliminated

The reform has been discussed for years because the number of members of the Bundestag has recently continued to grow. In 2021 it reached the record size of 736 MPs. The reason is the German electoral system with its two votes. With the first you can directly elect a member of parliament in your constituency – of which there are 299. The second vote is used to calculate the proportion of seats that a party gets in the Bundestag.

If a party is actually entitled to fewer seats via the second vote than it has won constituencies via the first vote, it is awarded so-called overhang mandates. The other parties, in turn, receive compensatory mandates.

Both should now be gone. The Bundestag will thus have a statutory size of 630 MPs. The number of constituencies remains at 299. However, 331 mandates instead of the originally planned 299 will be awarded via the state lists. This is intended to keep the number of MPs who win a constituency with the first votes and still do not get into the Bundestag as small as possible.

No agreement with the Union

The coalition factions could not agree with the Union. The CSU in particular is against the traffic light plans. So far, it has particularly benefited from the overhang mandates. The reform proposal of the Union provides for a reduction in the number of constituencies from 299 to 270. This would then also significantly reduce the number of overhang and compensation mandates.

In any case, the downsizing saves taxpayers’ money that is spent on MPs’ allowances, employees, offices and travel. In the 2023 budget, costs totaling around 1.14 billion euros are estimated for the Bundestag. In 2018 it was 974 million euros, in 2016 according to the Federal Ministry of Finance still around 857 million euros.


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