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German Parliament Gains Record Number of Seats

A record number of parliamentarians is expected to sit in the German parliament in the coming years. After the preliminary election results have been announced, the electoral council predicts that the Bundestag will soon have 735 seats. There are now 709, and that is also a record.


The fact that the number of seats in the Bundestag is constantly changing with the German electoral system. Germans vote twice in parliamentary elections: for a candidate in their constituency (the ‘Erststimme’) and for a national party. This second vote, the ‘Zweitstimme’, determines the seat ratio between parties in the Bundestag and thus also the balance of power in German politics.

The parliament has in principle 598 seats, but it is possible that a party does not get enough seats for all candidates who have been directly elected via the second vote. That must then be rectified. This, in turn, may mean that other parties are also entitled to more seats because the seat ratio determined via the Zweitstimme must be correct.

That system differs from the neighbouring Netherlands, where the House of Representatives always has 150 seats. However, not all German voters are enthusiastic about the growing number of parliamentarians in their country. Some 71 percent of Germans think parliament has too many seats, and a YouGov poll showed last weekend. Only 3 percent of the respondents would like an even bigger Bundestag.

In principle, political parties in Germany only enter the Bundestag if they receive at least 5 percent of the vote. This electoral threshold should prevent parliament from fragmenting because many small parties are elected. However, an exception is made for parties that do not achieve the 5 percent but gain at least three seats via the ‘Erststimme’. That seems to apply this time to the Die Linke party.

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