German parliament is elected through proportional vote.

First vote, a second vote, direct candidates, overhang seat, 5-percent-threshold: find out just how the German Parliament is election system works.

German Parliament election system

Like many other countries, Germany is a representative democracy. In contrast to direct democracies, for instance like Switzerland, political decisions are not made directly by the people, but through delegates. Members of Parliament -MPs- who represent their voters on a national level.

In this upcoming election of the German Parliament, the chancellor is not elected directly by the people but by members of parliament. MPs also debate and vote on various issues, moving them a step closure to becoming law.

First Vote for your Local Constituency, Second Vote for the Federal Level

With the first vote, voters directly elect a candidate from their respective constituency. The candidate who has the highest first vote share wins the seat in parliament. By applying this election rule, it is ensured that all regions are represented in parliament. 299 members of parliament are directly elected by the people and represent their regions on a national level, with parties allotted a minimum number of seats based on this first calculation.

The second vote allows the voters to vote for a political party on a national level. This second vote often decides on the majority ratio in the German Parliament – how many of the remaining seats each party is entitled to.If a party receives 40 percent of the second votes, it also gets 40 percent of seats. However, after determining how many seats each party receives, they are divided into the various regional lists. Since 2009, the number of seats for each party in the German election system is calculated with the Webster method. The second vote is ultimately more important as it decides the composition of Parliament in a fair and representative manner.

The German Parliament and its two votes enable it to represent local constituencies as well as national-level politics.

Learn more about Direct Elections

Balance Seats and the 5% Threshold

Balance seats appear when a party receives a low number of secondary votes, which would proportionally lead to fewer seats, but it has received a higher number of first votes. These seats are allocated to parties beyond the total 598 seats that exist in Parliament. Therefore, the number of seats in the German Parliament fluctuates every election to better represent the voting share of the two votes.

The 5 percent threshold is the well-known clause which restricts smaller parties in the German election system. Each party standing for election has to gain at least 5% of secondary votes. If the second vote result of one party is below 5 percent, the party does not receive any seats in parliament.

Around 61.5 Million Eligible Voters in Germany

According to estimates by the Federal Bureau for Statistics, 61.5 million people are eligible to vote in the German Parliament election. Every eligible voter who is in the electoral roll receives the right to vote. Voter eligibility criteria are stipulated in German Law and federal election law. Every German who is 18 years or older is eligible to vote and stand for office.

Since 2002, the German Parliament has had a minimum of 598 members. One-half of representatives receive the most votes in their constituency. The other half gains their seats in parliament through the national list

Federal Constitutional Court verdict regarding election computers – online voting as a vision for the future?

In 2009, there was a heated debate about voting computers. The Federal Constitutional Court declared the use of voting machines by the Dutch company Nedap in German elections unconstitutional. But the debate did not end there. Support for online voting, rather than election machines, is increasing, with even the head of the BSI (the Federal Ministry for Information Security, Arne Schönbohm voicing his support.

Read more about digital democracy