Dispute over exploding costs: Why the Bundestag could soon have 900 MPs


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It is the largest Bundestag in the history of the republic: 709 MPs are currently sitting in the Reichstag, plus a number of office employees. In 2020, the costs are likely to break the billion mark. The parties cannot agree on an electoral law reform. The Left, FDP and Greens have concrete proposals that would be effective.

The number of deputies in the Bundestag continues to rise: after the next Bundestag election, almost 900 parliamentarians debate under the large dome in the Reichstag. Since there will not be nearly enough space in the government district of Berlin for her and her employees, an online tender is already running for around 400 container offices, which should offer space from 2021.

But why are there ever more and more members of the Bundestag? And why has an electoral reform so far not got a majority? In a current hour in the Bundestag this Wednesday, there was an argument about this. Sputnik answers the most important questions for you …

How has the size of the parliament developed?

The first German Bundestag was elected in August 1949, at that time still in Bonn. At its first meeting, it had just 402 seats. After the 1953 federal election, there were already 509 seats. After stagnation between the 1960s and 1980s, Parliament grew by leaps and bounds to 662 in 1990 after reunification. In the current legislative period there are 709 seats in the German Bundestag, and the trend is rising. It is the second largest parliament in the world, only the National People’s Congress in China is larger with 2,987 seats.

Why did Parliament grow so much?

German electoral law guarantees constituency winners a direct mandate. There have been 299 constituencies in Germany since the 2002 federal election. At the same time, the second vote in the federal election regulates the composition of the parliament. It is therefore possible for a party to get more seats in parliament through direct mandates than the election result actually provides: these are the so-called overhang mandates. In order to correctly represent the majority of the election result, correction is then again carried out using compensation mandates. The Union faction received 43 overhang mandates in the last election, which led to 65 equalization mandates for the other parties in the Bundestag.

What could an electoral law reform change?

The parliamentary groups of the Left, FDP and Greens have put forward proposals which essentially envisage a reduction of the constituencies. The idea is to merge smaller constituencies and reduce the total number from 299 to 250. This would also reduce the number of winners of a direct mandate. At the same time, the three parties want to abolish the so-called seat quota procedure. This stipulates that the regular 598 seats are divided according to the population share of the individual federal states. This measure could then reduce the number of compensation mandates. All parties would have to give up seats equally.

Why do the SPD, CDU and CSU reject the proposal?

There is massive protest on the part of the government parties against a reduction in the number of constituencies. This is not really surprising, since the current system has given the SPD and the Union many seats: 231 of the 246 members of the CDU and CSU have a direct mandate, while the SPD has 59 out of 152 parliamentarians. Union politicians in particular argue that winning a direct mandate is due to the fact that it is very close to the citizens, which must be rewarded accordingly and is more difficult to achieve in larger constituencies. Instead, both factions introduce a general limit of up to 650 mandates.

What is currently arguing about?

Recently, several members of the Union had submitted the idea to limit the Bundestag to 598 seats. Half of them – i.e. 299 mandates – should therefore be obtained through direct mandates, the other half through the second vote. President of the Bundestag Wolfgang Schäuble had also proposed reducing the constituencies from 299 to 270 and generally not distributing more than 15 overhang mandates. The smaller parties reject all of this, however, because such a reform would probably be at their expense. They accuse the government parties of being blocked.

What’s next?

The parties in the Bundestag will probably not be able to agree on a reform of the electoral law in the current legislative period. Merger of several constituencies alone would have major bureaucratic consequences that could hardly be implemented in a short time. It is conceivable, however, that the individual parties anchor their proposals for reforms in the respective program for the 2021 federal election. This would indirectly allow voters to vote for their favorite model.

By the way: In the Bundestag debate on the electoral law reform on Wednesday, the parliament was hardly occupied, and at times only seven MPs were to be seen in the seats of the SPD, the same picture with the Union. An interest in the topic is certainly different.


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