It´s Election Time in Germany

It´s Election Time in Germany

On September 26, 2021, Germany held federal elections to elect members of the 20th Bundestag. State elections were also held in Berlin and Mecklenburg-Vorpommern. Angela Merkel, who was first elected in 2005, has decided not to fight for re-election, making her the first incumbent Chancellor of the Federal Republic of Germany to do so.

The Social Democratic Party of Germany (SPD) received 25.7 percent of total votes, its best performance since 2005, and became the largest party for the first time since 2002. With 24.1 percent, the ruling CDU/CSU, which had led a grand coalition with the SPD since 2013, scored their worst ever performance, down from 32.9 percent in 2017. With 14.8 percent, Alliance 90/The Greens earned their best performance in history, while the Free Democratic Party (FDP) gained a modest amount of ground and finished with 11.5 percent. With 10.3 percent, the Alternative for Germany (AfD) dropped from third to fifth position, a drop of 2.3 percentage points.

The Left had their worst result since their official creation in 2007, falling just over one-tenth of a percentage point short of crossing the 5% electoral threshold. Despite winning three direct constituencies, the party was entitled to complete proportional representation. The FDP and the Greens are regarded kingmakers in the intricate coalition talks required for the establishment of a government, and a three-party coalition has been touted as a likely outcome. While the ruling grand coalition might remain in power with a smaller majority, several members of both the CDU/CSU and the SPD have ruled this out.

German students from Jacobs University actively took part in this year’s elections as well. While some were happy with the results, others weren’t. In conversation with Christoph Bogatzki, a Psychology major Class of 2022, was one of many who were delighted with the result of the general elections. “I voted for the Green Party,” Christoph said. “I believe the Green Party actually cares about the environment and so I think it was the right decision to vote for them as climate change is an issue we can no longer ignore or let slide.”

Germany has a mixed-member proportional representation system, which combines aspects of proportional representation and first-past-the-post voting. The Bundestag has 598 nominal members who are elected for a four-year term and are distributed among the sixteen German states in proportion to the number of eligible voters in each state. Every voter has two votes: one for the constituency (first vote) and another for the party list (second vote) (second vote). In single-member seats, 299 MPs are elected purely on the basis of first-past-the-post voting. The second votes are used to give parties a proportional number of seats in the states and then in the Bundestag.

The Sainte-Lagu method is used to assign seats. A party gains additional seats from the relevant state list if it wins fewer constituency seats in a state than its second votes would entitle it to. Under certain conditions, such as a set amount of supporting signatures, parties can file lists in every state. Only those states in which a state list has been filed allow parties to earn second votes. [47]

When a party wins single-member constituencies in one state, it gains more seats (so-called overhang seats) than it would be entitled to based on its second vote share in that state. The Bundestag normally has more than 598 members as a result of this provision; 735 seats were up for grabs in this election, up from 709 seats in 2017. There were 709 seats in the 19th Bundestag, with 598 normal seats and 111 overhang and compensation seats elected in 2017. Because overhang seats are calculated at the state level, many more seats are added to balance this out across the states, far more seats than would be required to correct for overhang at the national level to prevent negative vote weight. A party must either win three single-member constituencies via first votes or exceed a nationwide electoral threshold of 5% of second votes to qualify for seats based on party-list vote share.

If a party wins just one or two single-member constituencies and does not obtain at least 5% of the second votes, the single-member seat(s) is retained, but other parties that meet at least one of the two threshold conditions receive compensating seats. The most recent incident was in 2002, when the PDS received only 4.0 percent of second-round votes overall but won two constituencies in Berlin. The same is true if a single-member seat is won by an independent candidate, which hasn't happened since 1949. A voter's second vote does not count toward proportional representation if he or she casts a first vote for a successful independent candidate or a successful candidate whose party did not qualify for proportional representation; however, it does count toward whether the elected party exceeds the 5% threshold.

Even though this was the first time I’ve actually encountered a general election taking place anywhere other than my home country, it was very exciting to how different the German general election was. I believe it’s systematic and much more organised than elections that take place in South-Asia.

The German population has always thrived when it comes to democracy. It has produced some of the greatest leaders in the modern history of the world and I am certain that the next government will be just as effective and efficient as that of the great Merkel’s.



It´s Election Time in Germany