WIf it doesn’t fit, it will be made to fit. This is a well-known saying that is in no way intended to express one’s desire to strive for a smooth solution to a problem; Rather, the sentence expresses the opposite. If necessary, brute force methods are used. This is how you read the first version of the planned reform of the election law that the traffic light parties want to implement. It was announced exactly one day before the start of the Bundestag committee that wants to devote itself to this very topic.
For some, this is an unfriendly act by the alliance. “It remains questionable whether discussion in Parliament by traffic light is really desirable, as the proposal is only communicated to the public before we can work on it together. Michael Fraser, legal advisor to the CDU/CSU Parliamentary Group in the Bundestag, WELT, said:
What did the traffic light planned? According to a report by the Frankfurter Allgemeine, all backlogged mandates should be abolished in the future. Additional mandates are those which a party receives if it can send more directly elected representatives to the Bundestag than it is actually entitled to based on the result of the second vote. Because the first vote of the direct candidates and the second vote of a party are parallel to each other in the Federal Republic. However, at the same time, the rule applies that every directly elected candidate can enter the Bundestag.
It often happens that a party in a federal state has more direct candidates than it is entitled to. These are cumulative mandates. Because this puts the other parties at a disadvantage, they are compensated, and so the others also get additional deputies – from their lists. And that’s until the relationship becomes “correct” again. A complicated procedure that hardly anyone understands, but the result that everyone understands: the Bundestag will be huge. It currently has 736 seats. This is after the reform that came into effect shortly before the elections.
The traffic light now wants to be less than 600 seats. By doing this without excessive delegations and compensating delegations, this will be relatively easy. Only the districts with the most votes will be counted. If, say, the CDU received a large mandate in a constituency, it would have been dropped. However, the circuit should not remain an orphan, which is why the traffic light proposes to allocate the affected circuits to another party, including the so-called alternative sounds.
This means that in this example it would not be the CDU, which actually got the most first votes, that would benefit, but the SPD, the Greens, whatever. Alternative voting will be new, in which the voter will be able to determine his or her second preference for a direct candidate.
In the future, the ballot papers will not say: You have a total of two votes. Instead, you have three votes. You have to understand everything first.
Union sees a ‘fatal signal’
One thing is certain: no voter in any district can be sure in the future that the candidate with the most votes will also join the Bundestag. This and much more sparked criticism of the proposal. “Belittling directly elected representatives would be a fatal signal. The traffic light proposal violates both recognized principles of election law and the principle of democracy,” said Thorsten Frey (CDU), Parliamentary Director of the Union bloc, WELT.
It shouldn’t be that voters cannot appreciate the success of their vote. Frieser’s colleague sees it similarly: “This ultimately means devaluing the idea of constituency and thus of the immediate elements of democracy. The introduction of alternative voting only exacerbates this problem because the person already elected is excluded from that vote.”
In the last legislative period, the Union had already rejected a reform that would abolish direct mandates on a large scale. This idea was supported mainly by the Green Party. In the Black and Red Alliance at the time, a mini-fix was agreed upon that would no longer compensate for the three backlogged states, but all the others would. Additionally, constituencies should be reduced from 299 to 280 from 2025. This is pending.
But the traffic light does not want to wait any longer. Of course, those parties that find it difficult to pass direct candidates in many parts of the country will benefit from the new election law. These will be the Greens, the FDP, the AfD above all else. The CDU would certainly have its drawbacks, especially the Christian Social Union, which often produces backlogged states in Bavaria.
Only a simple majority is required to pass electoral reform. Thus, the coalition alone can push for change with its votes. But the alliance could be bigger. Because the AfD applauds the traffic light proposal and says it has already asked for it.
“We are pleased that the Traffic Lights Alliance has finally largely adopted our proposal, which we have already made in the last legislative period,” said right-wing Alternative for Germany politician Stefan Brandner. In any case, the Bundestag can be reduced in size quickly, easily and with legal certainty.
But that is exactly what the smallest opposition party suspects. Ironically, the main objections come from the left, which in recent times has had to lose many feathers in the direct mandate, especially in the east. Vice-President of the Bundestag Petra Bau told WELT: “I will study the proposals carefully, and the responsible committee will meet for the first time on this topic today. According to a ruling of the Federal Constitutional Court in 2012, the proposal to abolish direct mandates is unconstitutional.”
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