German Federal Electoral System

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The electoral system described here was found unconstitutional by the federal constitutional court (see press release of July 3rd, 2008). A new electoral system (not described here yet) went into effect on May 9th, 2013.

Electoral System

Multi Member Personal Representation with closed lists (Additional Member System - AMS).


Number of Deputies

Since 2002, the regular number of seats in the Deutsche Bundestag is 598. 299 of these are single constituencies with a relative majority, the remainder by regional lists (land’s lists) of the parties (despite this, all 598 seats are distributed by PR). This number can increase with overhang seats.

Legislative Period

The Duration of the legislative period is four years. There are plans to increase it to five years.

Right to vote / Eligibility to Stand for Parliament

Every German has the Right to Vote, if …

Eligible is, who has the right to vote.

Number of Votes

Each voter has two Votes. The first vote (constituency vote) for the direct candidate in the constituency (electoral district) the second vote (party vote) for a party’s regional list.

Structure fo the electorate

The Federal Republic of Germany constitutes

Distribution of Constituencies

The Federal Republik of Germany has been divided into 299 constituencies (since the 2002 election). The number of people living in a constituency shall not differ more than 15 % from the average. If the number differs in excess of 25 %, a new districting is obligatory.

Restrictive clause (Barring clause, threshold)

To gain seats by proportional representation, a party needs at least 5 % of the valid party votes or must have won at least 3 constituencies (Grundmandatsklausel). This clause is not valid for parties of national minorities (Danish, Frisian, Sorbish).

Calculation Method

Seats are distributed by the Quota Method with largest remainder (Hamilton/Hare/Niemeyer) to the parties. The same method is used to distribute the party’s seats to their regional lists.

Recommanded by the authors of and supported by the Federal Returning Officer, the Parliament is checking a change to the Divisor Method with standard rounding (Webster/Sainte-Laguë).

Distribution of seats

In the constituencies the candidat with the highest number of votes is elected in a constituencies (relative majority). The total number of seats to be distributed by proportional Representation (598) is reduced by the number of candidates winning a constituency,

The remaining seats are distributed beneath the parties meeting the Restrictive Clause proportional to the party votes by the Quota Method with largest remainder (Hamilton/Hare/Niemeyer).

If a regional list of a party declares before voting day not to be connected with the other regional lists of this party, this regional list is considered for the distribution as an own party (but only for the Hare/Niemeyer-calculation, not for the restrictive clause).

Not considered for PR are the party votes of the electors, voting with their first vote for a successful candidate without a regional list.

In a second step, the seats of each party are distributed by the Quota Method with largest remainder (Hamilton/Hare/Niemeyer) to the regional list (again ignoring party votes of successful partyless candidates).

The number of the seats to be filled by the regional list, is reduced by the number of constituency seats won. The remaining seats go to the candidates on the list.

Overhang- and compensation seats

If a regional list has won less seats than constituency seats in that land, the overhang seats (excessive seats) remain with that party. There is no compensation within the party or with other parties. The total number of seats exceeds the regular number of 598. But after a deputy vacates his seat in the German Bundestag, this seat may not be given to a successor from the regional list as long as the party has one or more overhang seats in the respective land.

This means the Electoral System favours the proportional representation within a party more than among parties, resulting in votes with negative weight.

To prevent this, the legislature should think about the following improvements:

  1. All regional lists of a party are connected
  2. Distribution of seats to the parties according to Webster’s/Sainte Laguë (or Jefferson/d’Hondt)
  3. Sub-Distribution of seats to the parties’ regional lists according to Webster’s/Sainte Laguë
  4. Internal compensation of internal overhang seats
  5. Re-write paragraphs 6 and 7 in the Federal Electoral Law

    Additional: Abolishment of the (alomost worthless) first vote (constituency vote)

by Martin Fehndrich (2002-08-21, last update: 2007-08-22, last link update: 2007-08-22 )