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All 598 seats in the Bundestag, as well as 111 overhang seats
355 seats needed for a majority
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politics and government of
Federal elections were held in Germany on Sunday, 24 September, to elect the members of the 19th Bundestag. The new Bundestag will have to elect a Chancellor with an absolute majority of its members, who will in turn form a new government.
The Christian Democratic Union/Christian Social Union (CDU/CSU), led by Angela Merkel, had maintained a double-digit lead over the Social Democratic Party (SPD) in opinion polling since the 2013 election, aside from a period in early 2017 following the selection of Martin Schulz as SPD leader.
The first exit poll after the polls closed at 6 p.m. showed the Christian Democratic Union/Christian Social Union (CDU/CSU) to have 33% of the vote, the Social Democratic Party (SPD) to have achieved its worst result ever with just 20% of the vote, and Alternative for Germany (AfD)—who were previously unrepresented in the Bundestag—have taken 13% of the vote.
At the previous federal election, in 2013, the incumbent government—composed of the Christian Democratic Union (CDU), the Christian Social Union (CSU), and the Free Democratic Party (FDP)—failed to achieve a majority of seats. The FDP failed to get over 5% of the vote, denying the party seats in the Bundestag for the first time in its history. In contrast, the CDU/CSU obtained their best result since 1990, with nearly 42% of the vote and just short of 50% of the seats. The CDU/CSU successfully negotiated with the Social Democrats (SPD) to form a grand coalition for the third time.
In March 2017, the SPD chose Martin Schulz, the former President of the European Parliament, as their leader and chancellor candidate. Support for the SPD initially increased; however, the CDU afterward regained its lead, with polls generally showing a 13–16% lead over the SPD. In May, the SPD lost control of the major state of North Rhine-Westphalia in a state election.
German law requires that a new Bundestag shall be elected on a Sunday or on a nationwide holiday between 46–48 months after the last Bundestag's first sitting (Basic Law Article 39 Section 1). In January 2017, then President Joachim Gauck scheduled the election for 24 September 2017.
After the election, the 19th Bundestag has to hold its first sitting within 30 days. Until that first sitting, the members of the 18th Bundestag will stay in office (Basic Law Article 39 Section 1 and 2).
Germany uses the mixed-member proportional representation system, a system of proportional representation combined with elements of first-past-the-post voting. The Bundestag has 598 nominal members, elected for a four-year term; these seats are distributed between the sixteen German states in proportion to the states' population eligible to vote.
Every elector has two votes; a constituency and a list vote. 299 members are elected in single-member constituencies by first-past-the-post based just on the first votes. The second votes are used to produce an overall proportional result in the states and then in the Bundestag. Seats are allocated using the Sainte-Laguë method. If a party wins fewer constituency seats in a state than it would be entitled to, it receives additional seats from the relevant state list. Parties can file lists in each single state under certain conditions, for example a fixed number of supporting signatures. Parties can receive second votes only in those states in which they have successfully filed a state-list.
If a party by winning single-member constituencies in one state earns more seats than it would be entitled to according to its second vote share in that state (so called overhang seats), the other parties receive compensation seats. Because of that, the Bundestag usually has more than 598 members. The 18th and current Bundestag, for example, started with 631 seats: 598 regular and 33 overhang and compensation seats.
In order to qualify for seats based on the party-list vote share, a party must either win three single-member constituencies or exceed a threshold of 5% of the second votes nationwide. If a party only wins one or two single-member constituencies and fails to get at least 5% of the second votes, it keeps the single-member seat(s), but the other parties, who accomplish one of the two threshold conditions, receive compensation seats (in the most recent example of below-threshold party results, during the 2002 election, the PDS won only 4.0% of the party-list votes nationwide, but won two constituencies in the state of Berlin). The same applies if an independent candidate wins a single-member constituency (which has not happened since 1949). In 2013 election, the FDP only won 4.8% of party-list votes, cost them lost all of the seats in the Bundestag.
If a voter has cast a first vote for a successful independent candidate or a successful candidate whose party failed to qualify for proportional representation, their second vote does not count to determine proportional representation. However it does count to determine whether the elected party has exceeded the 5% threshold.
Altogether 38 parties have managed to get on the ballot in at least one state and can therefore (theoretically) earn proportional representation in the Bundestag. Furthermore there are several independent candidates, running for a single-member constituency. The major parties that are likely to either exceed the threshold of 5% second votes or to win single-member constituencies (first votes) are:
|Party||Ideology||Political position||Leading candidate(s)|
|Christian Democratic Union (CDU)||Christian democracy, liberal conservatism||Centre-right||Angela Merkel (sitting Chancellor and Chancellor candidate)|
|Social Democratic Party (SPD)||Social democracy||Centre-left||Martin Schulz (Chancellor candidate)|
|The Left||Democratic socialism, left-wing populism||Left-wing to far-left||Dietmar Bartsch, Sahra Wagenknecht|
|Alliance 90/The Greens||Green politics||Centre-left||Cem Özdemir, Katrin Göring-Eckardt|
|Christian Social Union (CSU)||Bavarian regionalism, Christian democracy, conservatism||Centre-right||Joachim Herrmann, but endorsed Angela Merkel as Chancellor candidate of their party-alliance with the CDU|
|Free Democratic Party (FDP)||Liberalism, classical liberalism||Centre to centre-right||Christian Lindner|
|Alternative for Germany (AfD)||National conservatism, Euroscepticism||Right-wing to far-right||Alexander Gauland, Alice Weidel|
By tradition, the Christian Democratic Union of Germany (CDU) and Christian Social Union in Bavaria (CSU), which refer to each other as sister parties, do not compete against each other. The CSU has only filed a list in Bavaria, while the CDU has filed lists in the other fifteen states. This allows them to join in one parliamentary group after the election as the CDU/CSU, which they have always done in the past and which they are expected to do again after this election.
As the CDU/CSU and the Social Democratic Party (SPD) are likely to win the most seats in the election, their leading candidates are referred to as Chancellor candidates. This does however not mean that the new Bundestag is legally bound to elect one of them as Chancellor.
Exit polls suggest that the Christian Democratic Union (CDU) and the Christian Social Union of Bavaria (CSU) will remain the largest bloc despite losing 8.5% percentage points from their last result. Their grand coalition partner and principal opponent to lead the government the Social Democratic Party (SPD) also fell in the popular vote, by about 5 percentage points. The right-wing, eurosceptic Alternative for Germany is set to enter the Bundestag for the first time as the third largest party, while the Free Democratic Party (FDP) is set to re-enter the Bundestag with 10% of the popular vote after being shut out in 2013. The Greens and the Left are set to remain in the Bundestag with about the same vote share as the previous election.
The CDU/CSU and the SPD remained the two largest parties in the Bundestag, but both received a significantly lower proportion of the vote than they did in the 2013 election. Both the FDP and the AfD received enough votes to become parties in the Bundestag. This was the first federal election in which the right-wing AfD received enough votes to be represented in the Bundestag.
|Christian Democratic Union (CDU)[a]||14,027,804||30.2||186||12,445,832||26.8||7||193||-73|
|Social Democratic Party (SPD)||11,426,613||24.6||59||9,538,367||20.5||89||148||-45|
|Alternative for Germany (AfD)||5,316,095||11.5||3||5,877,094||13.0||92||95||+95|
|Free Democratic Party (FDP)||3,248,745||7.0||0||4,997,178||10.7||78||78||+78|
|The Left (DIE LINKE)||3,966,035||8.6||5||4,296,762||9.2||61||66||+2|
|Alliance 90/The Greens (GRÜNE)||3,717,436||8.0||1||4,157,564||8.9||64||65||+2|
|Christian Social Union in Bavaria (CSU)[a]||3,255,604||7.0||45||2,869,744||6.2||0||45||-11|
|Ecological Democratic Party||166,132||0.4||144,772||0.3|
|Pirate Party Germany||93,173||0.2||173,867||0.4|
|National Democratic Party||45,239||0.1||176,715||0.4|
|Human Environment Animal Protection||11,446||0.1||154,783||0.7|
|Animal Protection Alliance||2,008||0.0||7,855||0.0|
|German Communist Party||1,817||0.0||3,314||0.0|
|The Violets – for Spiritual Politics||1,235||0.0||–||–||–|
|Alliance for Germany||5,144||0.0|
|Socialist Equality Party||387||0.0|
|Source: Bundeswahleiter (299 of 299 constituencies reporting)|
Because of the strong performance of the CDU and CSU in former West German constituencies, they have an unprecedented number of overhang seats, and in turn an unprecedented number of leveling seats will be allocated to other parties to create a proportional Bundestag. An anticipated 690 members, up from 631 members from 2013–2017, are expected to be seated. A "normal" Bundestag, without compensation for overhang seats, has 598 members.
The SPD's deputy leader Manuela Schwesig and the SPD's parliamentary chairman Thomas Oppermann have said that SPD will leave the current grand coalition government, after dissatisfied election results.
The media speculated that Chancellor Angela Merkel may need to form a Jamaica coalition (black-yellow-green) with the Free Democrats and the Greens, if the Social Democrats leave the government.
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