How people elect parliaments
Germany has a bicameral Bundestag (Federal Assembly), of which the lower house, also termed the Bundestag, is a composite assembly of approximately 598 members.
The Bundestag system, developed in the 1950s, was the first of the mixed-member proportional electoral systems.
299 local divisions are divided proportionally among the 16 German Land(states) in proportion to population. Voters cast two separate ballots, one for local division candidates and one for parties nationally. Members for these single member divisions are directly elected by the plurality voting method.
A further number of at least 299 members are allocated to parties in the numbers required such that the party composition of the whole assembly is proportional to the national total votes for each party.
The total of 598 seats are then notionally distributed among all parties that have either won more than 5% of the total national vote, or won at least 3 local member divisions.
National parties representing ethnic minorities (such as the Danish community in Schleswig-Holstein or the Sorb people in Saxony) are excused from the election threshold due to the Constitutional imperative to protect such minorities. However no party representing these peoples has won seats in recent decades.
Each seat-eligible party is allocated seats proportionally using the Sainte-Laguë/Schepers method. Each party’s seat entitlement is then distributed between the Lander in proportion to the party’s national vote results in each of the Lander. (Note that this may not result in the total number of members from each Land being proportional to the populations of each land).
Each party’s resulting entitlement of seats in each land is then awarded to specific candidates, with seats first confirmed for candidates who have won local divisions in that land, and any remaining seats filled from the party list.
If a party has won more local divisions in a land than it is entitled to according to the calculation described above, the relevant seats (termed ‘overhang seats’) are nevertheless awarded to the local candidate and the total size of the Bundestag is increased accordingly.
In recent elections the number of overhang seats has risen as a result of the two largest parties receiving decreasing shares of the total party vote while continuing to win almost all the local electoral division seats. Following a 2011 constitutional court ruling that this result was unacceptable as a breach of equality of voter influence, an electoral rule has been adopted whereby additional party list seats are created to compensate for overhang seats, so as to ensure proportionality among the parties in the Bundestag relative to each such party’s share of the total national vote.
Candidates are entitled to nominate simultaneously for a local division and for the relevant regional list, which may (depending on the candidates’ positions on their lists) effectively mean that each of the major party candidates in a local contest are effectively assured of election, and such expectations may be held by voters as well as candidates.
Terms are up to four years
Inequality in the effective influence of voters caused by variations in Bundestag division enrolments has been significant in recent elections, with the standard deviation of variations compared to the mean enrolment being xxx% in 2013.
[nomination openness – party configurations]
[summary of results]
Inequality in the effective influence of voters caused by variations in division turnouts (formal votes) has been significant in recent elections, with the standard deviation of variations compared to the mean formal vote being xxx% in 2013.
[inequality by margins]
2013 – 2017
[data source – data completeness – anomalous contests]
[Datasets are not yet published]