Electoral systems

Majority voting (uninominal voting):

In the constituency, the candidate who obtains the most votes is deemed elected (relative majority).


Proportional representation: 

The total of votes cast for a list (party) is decisive for the number of deputies a party will have. Every vote counts; consequently, also candidates of smaller parties can win seats in parliament. However, the system of proportional representation is conducive to the formation of splinter parties and might thus hinder the establishment of clear parliamentary majorities – especially if there is no restrictive clause.

The legislation pertaining to Bundestag elections combines an electoral system where votes are cast for a candidate with a system where votes are cast for a party list. A total of 598 deputies are elected according to the principles of proportional representation. While 299 deputies are elected in the constituencies on the basis of first votes cast in a relative majority voting system, 299 deputies are elected from Land lists on the basis of second votes cast in a list voting system. The Land lists are fixed lists in the sense that the order of candidates on the lists cannot be altered by the voter. In addition to the 598 seats, there may be balance seats.

It may be said that the legislation pertaining to Bundestag elections provides for a two-vote system as the voter has two votes. Although there may be deviations resulting from the Federal Elections Act (especially overhang mandates), the second vote is decisive for the distribution of seats as such, i.e., for the distribution of the 598 deputies. The first vote is cast to elect the candidate for direct election nominated in the constituency. As a matter of principle, Land lists submitted by one and the same party are regarded as a combined list in the electoral area so that better use can be made of the votes obtained when seats are allocated. Bundestag seats are distributed among the parties represented at federal government level and then among the Land lists according to the “Sainte-Laguë/Schepers” system.

Members of the European Parliament from the Federal Republic
of Germany are elected according to the principles of proportional representation with “rigid” lists; this means that the lists that cannot be altered. List nominations may be established for each Land (Land list) or as combined Land lists (federal list). Every voter may cast one vote. Lists may be submitted by political parties or other political associations. Individuals may not stand for election. The decision of whether to establish a Land list or a federal list is taken by the executive committee of the party or political association.

Legal bases

Bundestag election:

Sections 1, 4, 6 of the Federal Elections Act (BWG)

European election:

Sections 2, 8 of the European Elections Act (EuWG)

Last update: 20 September 2018