Overhang Hangover

Putting the Bundestag on a Diet

  • Why it matters

    Why it matters

    The configuration of the Bundestag could be crucial in a close election next year.

  • Facts

    Facts

    • The current lower house of parliament, the Bundestag, has 631 members. The minimum number is 598. Critics fear that number may eventually rise to as high as 750.
    • Germans have two votes, one for a direct candidate in their district and one for a party list in the state.
    • If a party in a state receives more direct mandates than proportional mandates, all the successful candidates gain additional seats in the Bundestag. Equalizing mandates are then used to maintain proportional representation.
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    Audio

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Bundestag
The current Bundestag has 631 members. Some politicians fear that number may rise to over 700. Source: DPA

It’s a little late to change Germany’s electoral laws, just one year before the federal elections. But that is exactly what Bundestag President Norbert Lammert of the center-right Christian Democratic Union is attempting to do.

Mr. Lammert is retiring after 37 years in the Bundestag. And it looks like he wants to ensure that before he leaves, he has done something about the ballooning number of parliamentarians in the German lower house.

While the minimum number of deputies in the chamber is 598, there are now 631, due to a particular quirk of German electoral rules, known as “overhang mandates.”  In the country’s proportional representation electoral system, voters have two votes, one for individual candidates in their district and one for the political party list in their state. When a party in one federal state receives more direct mandates via the first vote than the overall number of seats, it is entitled to additional seats in the Bundestag.

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