Elections in Germany

Elections in Germany include elections to the Bundestag (Germany's federal parliament), the Landtags of the various states, and local elections.

Several articles in several parts of the Basic Law for the Federal Republic of Germany govern elections and establish constitutional requirements such as the secret ballot, and requirement that all elections be conducted in a free and fair manner. The Basic Law also requires that the federal legislature enact detailed federal laws to govern elections; electoral law(s). One such article is Article 38 which is regarding the election of deputies in the federal Bundestag. Article 38.2 of the Basic Law establishes universal suffrage: "Any person who has attained the age of eighteen shall be entitled to vote; any person who has attained the age of majority may be elected."

German federal elections are for all members of the Bundestag, which in turn determines who is the Chancellor of Germany. Federal elections were held in 2009, 2013 and in 2017.

German elections 1871 to 1945

After the unification of Germany under Emperor Wilhelm I in 1871, elections were held to the German Reichstag or "Imperial Assembly", which supplanted its namesake, the Reichstag of the Norddeutscher Bund. The Reichstag could be dissolved by the Kaiser or, after the abdication of Wilhelm II in 1918, the Reichspräsident. With the Weimar Republic's Constitution of 1919, the voting system changed from single-member constituencies to proportional representation. The election age was reduced from 25 to 20 years of age.[1] Women's suffrage had already been established by a new electoral law in 1918 following the November Revolution of that year.

Following the Nazi seizure of power in January 1933, another national election was held on March 5. This was the last competitive election before World War II, although it was neither free nor fair. Violence and intimidation by the Sturmabteilung, SS and Stahlhelm had been underway for months against trade-unionists, communists, social democrats, and even centre-right Catholics.[2] On February 27th, just prior to the election, the Reichstag Fire Decree suspended freedom of the press and most civil liberties. Mass arrests followed, including all Communist (KPD) and several Social Democrat (SPD) delegates to the Reichstag. 50000 members of the Hilfspolizei (auxiliary Nazi police) "monitored" polling places on election day to further intimidate voters.[3] While the NSDAP performed better than it had in the elections of November 1932, it still won only 43% of the vote. By placing their rivals in jail and intimidating others not to take their seats, the Nazis went from a plurality to the majority. Just two weeks after election, the Enabling Act of 1933 effectively gave Hitler dictatorial power. Three more elections were held in Nazi Germany before the war. They all took the form of a one-question referendum, asking voters to approve a predetermined list of candidates composed exclusively of Nazis and nominally independent "guests" of the party.

Imperial elections

Weimar Republic elections

Elections in Nazi Germany

German elections since 1949

Federal Republic of Germany

Election system

German Political System 2
The German political system

Federal elections are conducted approximately every four years, resulting from the constitutional requirement for elections to be held 46 to 48 months after the assembly of the Bundestag.[4] Elections can be held earlier in exceptional constitutional circumstances: for example, were the Chancellor to lose a vote of confidence in the Bundestag, then, during a grace period before the Bundestag can vote in a replacement Chancellor, the Chancellor could request the Federal President to dissolve the Bundestag and hold elections. Should the Bundestag be dismissed before the four-year period has ended, elections must be held within 100 days. The exact date of the election is chosen by the President[5] and must be a Sunday or public holiday.

German nationals over the age of 18 who have resided in Germany for at least three months are eligible to vote. Eligibility for candidacy is essentially the same.

The federal legislature in Germany has a one chamber parliament—the Bundestag (Federal Diet); the Bundesrat (Federal Council) represents the regions and is not considered a chamber as its members are not elected. The Bundestag is elected using a mixed member proportional system. The Bundestag has 598 nominal members, elected for a four-year term. Half, 299 members, are elected in single-member constituencies by first-past-the-post voting, while a further 299 members are allocated from party lists to achieve a proportional distribution in the legislature, conducted according to a form of proportional representation called the Mixed member proportional representation system (MMP). Voters vote once for a constituency representative, and a second time for a party, and the lists are used to make the party balances match the distribution of second votes. Overhang seats may add to the nominal number of 598 members: for example, in the 2009 federal election there were 24 overhang seats, giving a total of 622 seats. This is caused by larger parties winning additional single-member constituencies above the totals determined by their proportional party vote.

Germany has a multi-party system with two strong political parties and some other third parties also represented in the Bundestag. Since 1990, five parties (counting the CDU and CSU as one) have been represented in the Bundestag.

In 2008, some modifications to the electoral system were required under an order of the Federal Constitutional Court. The court had found that a provision in the Federal Election Law by which it was possible for a party to experience a negative vote weight, thus losing seats due to more votes, violated the constitutional guarantee of the electoral system being equal and direct.[6]

The court allowed three years to amend the law. Accordingly, the 2009 federal election was allowed to proceed under the previous system. The changes were due by 30 June 2011, but appropriate legislation was not completed by that deadline. A new electoral law was enacted in late 2011, but declared unconstitutional once again by the Federal Constitutional Court upon lawsuits from the opposition parties and a group of some 4,000 private citizens.[7]

Finally, four of the five factions in the Bundestag agreed on an electoral reform whereby the number of seats in the Bundestag will be increased as much as necessary to ensure that any overhang seats are compensated through apportioned leveling seats, to ensure full proportionality according to the political party's share of party votes at the national level.[8] The Bundestag approved and enacted the new electoral reform in February 2013.[9]

List of federal election results

German parliamentary elections diagram de
German parliamentary election results
Wahlbeteiligung Bundestagswahlen Deutschland
Voter turnout in German federal elections (percentage)

State elections in the Federal Republic of Germany

State elections are conducted under various rules set by the Länder (states). In general they are conducted according to some form of party-list proportional representation, either the same as the federal system or some simplified version. The election period is generally four to five years, and the dates of elections vary from state to state.

Baden-Württemberg state election results

Bavaria state election results

Berlin state election results

Brandenburg state election results

Bremen state election results

Hesse state election results

Lower Saxony state election results

Mecklenburg-Vorpommern state election results

North Rhine-Westphalia state election results

Rhineland-Palatinate state election results

Saarland state election results

Saxony state election results

Saxony-Anhalt state election results

Schleswig-Holstein state election results

Thuringia state election results

German Democratic Republic

In the German Democratic Republic, elections to the Volkskammer were effectively controlled by the Socialist Unity Party of Germany (SED) and state hierarchy, even though multiple pro forma parties existed. The 18 March 1990 election were the first free ones held in the GDR, producing a government whose major mandate was to negotiate an end to itself and its state.

Prior to the Fall of the Berlin Wall, East Germany did not have free elections. Polling places were under surveillance by the state security apparatuses and the ruling party, the SED, presented voters with a slate of proposed candidates. Voters could optionally enter a booth to strike any candidates the voter did not want; a voter who agreed with the SED's full list simply folded the unmarked ballot in half and placed it into the ballot box. Entering a voting booth was considered suspicious and was noted by the state security apparatuses, which could lead to consequences later for the voter. East German voters commonly referred to the act of voting as "folding" (German: falten). Election outcomes prior to 1990 commonly saw 99% of voters in favor of the suggested slate of candidates. On top of this, the government engaged in electoral fraud and commonly falsified both results and voter turnout percentages, even as late as the May 1989 municipal elections.[10][11]

Local elections

See: Local elections in Germany

Local elections in Germany (German: Kommunalwahlen) include elections for most regional and local subdivisions, unless their representatives are appointed or elected by another assembly or office. Such local elections are conducted for representatives in districts, cities, towns, villages and various other administrative regional organizations. In cities and towns local elections usually include voting for a lord mayor or mayor. Smaller villages and settlements may elect a representative (German: Ortsvorsteher) with limited administrative power. Local elections are also often combined with polls about important local matters and questions of general public interest (i.e. the construction of local roads or other infrastructure facilities). While such polls are not legally binding in most cases, their results have considerable influence on local political decisions.

After the Maastricht Treaty of 1992 to strengthen the European integration, Germany and other EU member states implemented legislative changes to grant foreigners of other EU countries the right to vote in local elections in their host country. Foreign EU citizens can vote in elections on district and municipal level in Germany, after the German states adapted their regulations between 1995 and 1998.

See also


  1. ^ Peter Marschalck: Bevölkerungsgeschichte Deutschlands im 19. und 20. Jahrhundert, Frankfurt am Main 1984, S. 173.
  2. ^ Evans, Richard J., The Coming of the Third Reich, Penguin Press, New York, 2004.
  3. ^ von Götz, Irene. "Violence Unleashed". Berlin.de. Retrieved March 18, 2017.
  4. ^ "Art. 39 Grundgesetz". Grundgesetz Bundesrepublik Deutschland. Bundesministerium der Justiz. 19 March 2009. Retrieved 5 June 2009.
  5. ^ "§16 Bundeswahlgesetz". Bundeswahlgesetz Bundesrepublik Deutschland. Bundesministerium der Justiz. 3 June 2008. Retrieved 5 June 2009.
  6. ^ "Federal Constitutional Court decision on the Federal Election Law". Bverfg.de. Retrieved 20 September 2013.
  7. ^ Decision of the Federal Constitutional Court. 25 July 2012. Retrieved 13 August 2012.
  8. ^ Bill amending the Federal Election Law. 11 December 2012. Retrieved 25 December 2012.
  9. ^ "Bundestag: Deutschland hat ein neues Wahlrecht". Die Zeit (in German). 22 February 2013. ISSN 0044-2070. Retrieved 26 January 2017.
  10. ^ Richter, Hedwig (February 2012), "Mass Obedience: Practices and Functions of Elections in the German Democratic Republic", in Jessen, Ralph; Richter, Hedwig, Voting for Hitler and Stalin. Elections under 20th Century Dictatorships, Frankfurt am Main: Campus Verlag, p. 103–124, ISBN 9783593394893
  11. ^ Weber, Hermann (2012). "Oldenbourg Grundriss der Geschichte". Die DDR 1945–1990 (in German). Band 20 (5 ed.). München: Oldenbourg. p. 32. ISBN 9783486523638.

Further reading

External links

1930 German federal election

The German federal election occurred on 14 September 1930. Despite losing 10 seats, the Social Democratic Party of Germany (SPD) remained the largest party in the Reichstag, winning 143 of the 577 seats, while the Nazi Party (NSDAP) dramatically increased its number of seats from 12 to 107.

The two major parties of the Weimar Coalition, the SPD and Zentrum (Centre Party), had no high gains or losses, in contrast to their partner, the DVP. The two results of the elections seen as dramatic were the NSDAP's reaching more than 100 seats, and large gains for the Communists (KPD)an additional 23 seats.

1979 European Parliament election in West Germany

The European Parliament election of 1979 in West Germany was the election of the delegation from West Germany to the European Parliament in 1979.

1983 West German federal election

Federal elections were held in West Germany on 6 March 1983 to elect the members of the 10th Bundestag. The CDU/CSU alliance led by Helmut Kohl remained the largest faction in parliament, with Kohl remaining Chancellor.

1984 European Parliament election in West Germany

The European Parliament election of 1984 in West Germany was the election of the delegation from West Germany to the European Parliament in 1984.

1987 West German federal election

Federal elections were held in West Germany on 25 January 1987 to elect the members of the 11th Bundestag. This was the last federal election held in West Germany prior to German reunification.

1989 European Parliament election in West Germany

The European Parliament election of 1989 in West Germany was the election of the delegation from West Germany to the European Parliament in 1989.

1990 German federal election

Federal elections were held in Germany on 2 December 1990 to elect the members of the 12th Bundestag. This was the first multi-party all-German election since that of March 1933, which was held after the Nazi seizure of power and was subject to widespread suppression, and the first free and fair all-German election since November 1932. The result was a comprehensive victory for the governing coalition of the Christian Democratic Union/Christian Social Union and the Free Democratic Party, which was reelected to a third term.

1994 European Parliament election in Germany

The European Parliament election of 1994 in Germany was the election of the delegation from Germany to the European Parliament in 1994.

1994 German federal election

Federal elections were held in Germany on 16 October 1994 to elect the members of the 13th Bundestag. The CDU/CSU alliance led by Helmut Kohl remained the largest faction in parliament, with Kohl remaining Chancellor. This elected Bundestag was largest in history until 2017, numbering 672 members.

1999 European Parliament election in Germany

The European Parliament election of 1999 in Germany was the election of MEP representing Germany constituency for the 1999-2004 term of the European Parliament.

2002 German federal election

Federal elections were held in Germany on 22 September 2002 to elect the members of the 15th Bundestag. Chancellor Gerhard Schröder's centre-left "red-green" governing coalition retained a narrow majority.

2004 European Parliament election in Germany

The European Parliament election of 2004 in Germany was the election of MEP representing Germany constituency for the 2004-2009 term of the European Parliament. The vote was held on 13 June 2004.

The elections saw a heavy defeat for the ruling Social Democratic Party, which polled its lowest share of the vote since World War II. More than half of this loss, however, went to other parties of the left, particularly the Greens. The votes of the opposition conservative parties, the Christian Democratic Union and the Christian Social Union, also fell, though not as sharply as the SPD's. The liberal Free Democratic Party improved its vote and gained representation.

2009 European Parliament election in Germany

The European Parliament election of 2009 in Germany was the German part of the European Parliament election, 2009. The voting was held on Sunday, 7 June. A total of 26 parties competed for the 99 seats reserved for Germany in the European Parliament. In the previous election of 2004, the six parties which were represented in the German national parliament (Bundestag) from 2005 to 2013, had entered the European Parliament by overcoming the 5% election threshold. The same parties entered the European Parliament this time. None of the other parties managed to gain more than 1.7%, but together the small parties exceeded 10% for the first time. At 43.3%, the voter turnout was just over the all-time low in the previous European election in Germany (43.0%).

2009 German federal election

Federal elections took place on 27 September 2009 to elect the members of the 17th Bundestag (parliament) of Germany. Preliminary results showed that the Christian Democratic Union (CDU), its Bavarian sister party, the Christian Social Union (CSU), and the Free Democratic Party (FDP) won the election, and the three parties announced their intention to form a new centre-right government with Angela Merkel as Chancellor. Their main opponent, Frank-Walter Steinmeier's Social Democratic Party (SPD), conceded defeat. The Christian Democrats previously governed in coalition with the FDP in most of the 1949–1966 governments of Konrad Adenauer and Ludwig Erhard and the 1982–1998 governments of Helmut Kohl.

2019 European Parliament election in Germany

The 2019 European Parliament election in Germany will be held on 26 May 2019, electing members of the national Germany constituency to the European Parliament.

It will be the first election to be held nationally since the 2017 federal election, in which Chancellor Angela Merkel's ruling coalition between the Christian Democrats and Social Democrats declined heavily in popularity, with the eurosceptic right-wing Alternative for Germany making significant gains and coming third. In 2018, the left leaning Greens and the AFD made large gains in regional elections in Bavaria and Hesse, whilst the traditional centre-left Social Democratic Party sustained heavy losses. The European election is therefore a major electoral test for the ruling coalition.

Elections in the Free State of Prussia

The Free State of Prussia held elections to its Landtag between 1918 and 1933. From 1919 through 1928, these elections gave a plurality to the SPD. In 1932 and 1933, the NSDAP (Nazi Party) won pluralities, generally in line with the rest of Germany.

July 1932 German federal election

Federal elections were held in Germany (Weimar Republic) on 31 July 1932, following the premature dissolution of the Reichstag. They saw great gains by the Nazi Party, which for the first time became the largest party in parliament but without winning a majority.

March 1933 German federal election

Federal elections were held in Germany on 5 March 1933, after the Nazi seizure of power on 30 January and just six days after the Reichstag fire. Nazi stormtroopers had unleashed a widespread campaign of violence against the Communist Party (KPD), left-wingers, trade unionists, the Social Democratic Party of Germany, and the Centre Party. They were the last multi-party elections in a unified Germany until 1990.

The 1933 election followed the previous year's two elections (July and November) and Hitler's appointment as Chancellor. In the months before the 1933 election, brownshirts and SS displayed "terror, repression and propaganda [...] across the land", and Nazi organizations "monitored" the vote process. In Prussia 50,000 members of the SS, SA and Stahlhelm were ordered to monitor the votes by acting Interior Minister Hermann Göring, as auxiliary police.The Nazis registered a large increase in votes in 1933. However, despite waging a campaign of terror against their opponents, the Nazis only tallied 43.9 percent of the vote, well short of a majority. They needed the votes of their coalition partner, the German National People's Party (DNVP), for a bare working majority in the Reichstag.

This would be the last contested election held in Germany before World War II. Two weeks after the election, Hitler was able to pass an Enabling Act on 23 March with the support of all non-socialist parties, which effectively gave Hitler dictatorial powers. Within months, the Nazis banned all other parties and turned the Reichstag into a rubberstamp legislature comprising only Nazis and pro-Nazi guests.

November 1932 German federal election

Federal elections were held in Germany on 6 November 1932. They saw a four percent drop in votes for the Nazi Party and slight increases for the Communists and the national conservative DNVP. It was the last free and fair all-German election before the Nazi seizure of power on 30 January 1933, as the following elections of March 1933 were already accompanied by massive suppression, especially against Communist and Social Democratic politicians. The next free election was not held until August 1949 in West Germany; the next free all-German elections took place in December 1990 after reunification.

The results of the November 1932 election were a great disappointment for the Nazis. Although they emerged once more as the largest party by far, they had fewer seats than before, and failed to form a government coalition in the Reichstag parliament. So far Chancellor Franz von Papen, a former member of the Catholic Centre Party, had governed without parliamentary support relying on legislative decrees promulgated by Reich President Paul von Hindenburg according to Article 48 of the Weimar Constitution. However, on 12 September 1932 Papen had to ask Hindenburg to dissolve the parliament in order to preempt a motion of no confidence tabled by the Communist Party, which was expected to pass (since the Nazis were expected to vote in favour, as they also desired new elections). Thus, the election of November 1932 was held following this dissolution of parliament in September. The DNVP, which had backed Papen, gained 15 seats as a result.

After the election, Chancellor Papen urged Hindenburg to continue to govern by emergency decrees. Nevertheless, on 3 December he was superseded by his Defence Minister Kurt von Schleicher who in talks with the left wing of the Nazi Party led by Gregor Strasser tried to build up a Third Position (Querfront) strategy. These plans failed when in turn Hitler disempowered Strasser and approached Papen for coalition talks. Papen obtained Hindenburg's consent to form the Hitler Cabinet on 30 January 1933.

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