Next German federal election
All 598 seats in the Bundestag (overhang and leveling seats possible)
300+ seats needed for a majority
Jamaica coalition talks
The 2017 federal elections were held after a four-year grand coalition between the CDU/CSU and SPD. Though the CDU/CSU was returned with more seats than any other party, both it and the SPD suffered significant losses. The SPD leadership, recognizing the party's unsatisfactory performance after four years in government, announced that it would go into opposition. With the CDU/CSU having pledged not to work with either the AfD nor The Left before the elections, the only remaining option for a majority government is a Jamaica coalition consisting of the CDU/CSU, FDP, and the Greens. Incumbent Chancellor Angela Merkel announced that she would pursue coalition talks with the FDP and the Greens, both of which are open to the possibility of a Jamaica coalition. On 9 October, Merkel announced that exploratory talks for a Jamaica coalition with the CDU, CSU, FDP, and Greens would begin on 18 October 2017.
By the final days of the preliminary talks, the four parties had not arrived at an agreement on migration and climate issues. Preliminary talks between the Jamaica parties collapsed past midnight on 20 November after the FDP withdrew, arguing that the talks had failed to produce a common vision or trust. Following the FDP's withdrawal, Merkel expressed regret, with the Union parties having believed that they were on the way to achieving an agreement, saying that the CDU/CSU would in the next week "continue to assume responsibility", the Greens criticized the FDP for having shirked its responsibility, and the SPD continued to reject the possibility of a grand coalition. Merkel stated that she would consult with President Frank-Walter Steinmeier. In the afternoon, Steinmeier implored the parties to reconsider, speaking with the leaders of the parties, including the SPD, hoping to avoid new elections by ensuring the formation of a coalition government.
Grand coalition talks
Steinmeier invited Merkel, Seehofer, and Schulz to meet on 30 November, after the SPD indicated that it would no longer rule out a grand coalition following a meeting between Schulz and Steinmeier on 23 November. After internal disagreements, the SPD leadership eventually voted on 15 December to support exploratory talks with the CDU/CSU for a renewed grand coalition. After seven hours of talks on 20 December, the CDU/CSU and SPD agreed to conduct exploratory talks from 7 to 12 January 2018. The talks concluded successfully with a 28-page exploratory paper drawn up. SPD members will vote at a party congress in Bonn on 21 January on whether to open formal coalition talks.
Before the congress, the SPD state associations of Lower Saxony, Hesse, Saarland, Hamburg, and Brandenburg voted in support of a renewed grand coalition, those of Berlin, Thuringia, and Saxony-Anhalt voted against (although the votes on the latter two resolutions were non-binding), while eight other state associations did not vote on a resolution before the congress. A total of 600 delegates were present at the party congress; North Rhine-Westphalia, with 144 delegates, sent the most. In addition, the 45 members of the party's presidium also had the right to participate in the vote. At the party congress, the SPD voted in favor of coalition talks, with 362 delegates in favor, 279 against, and 1 abstention. On 7 February, the parties arrived at a coalition agreement for the new cabinet. The 463,723 members of the SPD voted on whether to approve the deal from 20 February to 2 March, with the result announced on 4 March. A total of 78.39% of members cast valid votes, of which 66.02% voted in favor of another grand coalition. Merkel was voted in by the Bundestag for a fourth term as Chancellor on 14 March, with 364 votes for, 315 against, 9 abstentions, and 4 invalid votes – 9 more votes than the 355 needed for a majority.
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 vote (first vote) and a party list vote (second vote). Based solely on the first votes, 299 members are elected in single-member constituencies by first-past-the-post voting. The second votes are used to produce a proportional number of seats for parties, first 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 its second votes would entitle it to, it receives additional seats from the relevant state list. Parties can file lists in every 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 filed a state list.
If a party, by winning single-member constituencies in one state, receives 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. Owing to this provision, the Bundestag usually has more than 598 members. The 19th and current Bundestag, for example, has 709 seats: 598 regular seats and 111 overhang and compensation seats. Overhang seats are calculated at the state level, so many more seats are added to balance this out among the different states, adding more seats than would be needed to compensate for overhang at the national level in order to avoid negative vote weight.
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 other parties that accomplish at least one of the two threshold conditions receive compensation seats. In the most recent example of this, during the 2002 election, the PDS won only 4.0% of the second 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 the 1949 election.
If a voter cast a first vote for a successful independent candidate or a successful candidate whose party failed to qualify for proportional representation, his or her second vote does not count toward proportional representation. However, it does count toward whether the elected party exceeds the 5% threshold.
The Basic Law and the federal election code provide that federal elections must be held on a Sunday or on a national holiday no earlier than 46 and no later than 48 months after the first sitting of a Bundestag, unless the Bundestag is dissolved earlier. The 19th Bundestag held its first sitting on 24 October 2017. Therefore, the next election may be held on one of the following possible dates:
- 29 August 2021 (Sunday)
- 5 September 2021 (Sunday)
- 12 September 2021 (Sunday)
- 19 September 2021 (Sunday)
- 26 September 2021 (Sunday)
- 3 October 2021 (Sunday and German Unity Day)
- 10 October 2021 (Sunday)
- 17 October 2021 (Sunday)
- 24 October 2021 (Sunday)
Federal elections can be held earlier if the President of Germany dissolves the Bundestag. They may only do so under two possible scenarios described by the Basic Law.
- If the Bundestag fails to elect a Chancellor with an absolute majority of its members on the 15th day after the first ballot of a Chancellor's election, the President is free to either appoint the candidate who received a plurality of votes as Chancellor or dissolve the Bundestag (in accordance with Article 63, Section 4 of the Basic Law).
- If the Chancellor loses a confidence motion, they may ask the President to dissolve the Bundestag. The President is free to grant or to deny the Chancellor's request (in accordance with Article 68 of the Basic Law).
In both cases, federal elections would have to take place on a Sunday or national holiday no later than 60 days after the dissolution. Possibility 1 has never yet happened since 1949; possibility 2 has been used a total of three times by the respective Chancellor to force new elections (in 1972, 1982 and 2005).
The table below lists parties currently represented in the 19th Bundestag.
- The election date can only be earlier in the case of an early dissolution, or later if a State of Defence is declared.
- CSU received 38.8% in Bavaria. It only fields candidates in Bavaria, where the CDU does not field candidates.
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