Politico.eu: Berlin braces for a bloated Bundestag24 September 2017 | 05:58 | FOCUS News Agency
Germany is likely to end up with a bloated — and less functional — Bundestag after this Sunday’s parliamentary election, Politico.eu reports.
Despite repeated warnings of parliamentary inflation, as reported by POLITICO a year ago, Europe’s most populous country has failed to reform its electoral system and experts predict the unprecedented potpourri of parties expected to enter the assembly this year could bring the number of seats to 700 or even higher.
“If the Bundestag grows to above 670 members, the only countries with larger assemblies would be North Korea and China — obviously systems in which the parliament does not wield any democratic power,” said Sophie Schönberger, a professor of constitutional law at the University of Konstanz.
Currently, Germany’s lower house of parliament has 630 members, versus 598 prescribed in the electoral rulebook — and it’s “very plausible” that it could swell to more than 700 on Sunday, Schönberger said.
The flexible number of parliamentary seats has to do with the fact that Germans cast two ballots in election: the first for a candidate in their constituency; the second for their party of choice via a list.
If a party wins more direct candidates via the first vote than it would be eligible to have via the second vote, it has a right to so-called “overhang seats.” That, in turn, makes the other parties eligible for so-called “leveling seats,” which produced a 631-seat Bundestag in 2013. (That fell to 630 in 2015 when a parliamentarian resigned without being replaced.)
But — believe it or not — this is where things only start to get complicated.
In addition, various factors can have an influence on how seats in the Bundestag are distributed — be it, for example, differences in voter turnout between Germany’s 16 federal states, the share of voters who choose different parties in their first and second vote, or how large the difference between the two largest groups in the parliament is.
Just 2,000 votes in the tiny city-state of Bremen, for example, could theoretically lead to 18 additional seats in the Bundestag, according to constitutional law expert Schönberger — in a country with an overall electorate of 61.5 million.
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