German federal election, 2017
All 598 seats in the Bundestag, as well as 111 overhang and leveling seats
355 seats needed for a majority
The left side shows constituency winners of the election by their party colours. The right side shows Party list winners of the election for the additional members by their party colours.
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politics and government of
Federal elections were held in Germany on Sunday, 24 September 2017, to elect the members of the 19th Bundestag. The new Bundestag will in turn elect a Chancellor, who must ordinarily command the support of an absolute majority of its members in order to 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 election saw the CDU/CSU win 33% of the vote, a drop of more than 8% and its lowest share of the vote since 1949, while the SPD achieved its worst result since the Second World War with just 20% of the vote. Alternative for Germany (AfD)—which was previously unrepresented in the Bundestag—became the third party in the Bundestag with 12.6% of the vote and a plurality of the vote in Saxony.
In the 709 member Bundestag, the CDU/CSU won 246 seats (200 CDU and CSU 46), SPD 153, AfD 94, FDP 80, the Left (Linke) 69, and the Greens 67. A majority is 355. No party won an outright majority in any state, including Bavaria, where the CSU had always won a majority of the vote until 2002.
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)—had failed to maintain a majority of seats. The FDP failed to get over 5% of the vote in 2013, 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 then 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.
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 remain in office (Basic Law Article 39 Section 1 and 2).
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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 its second votes would entitle it 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 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 18th and current Bundestag, for example, started with 631 seats: 598 regular and 33 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 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 the 2013 election, the FDP only won 4.8% of party-list votes; this cost it all of its 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.
Parties and leaders
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) were:
|CDU/CSU||CDU||Christian Democratic Union of Germany
Christlich Demokratische Union Deutschlands
|Christian democracy||Angela Merkel[b]||34.1%||
255 / 631
|CSU||Christian Social Union in Bavaria
Christlich-Soziale Union in Bayern
56 / 631
|SPD||Social Democratic Party of Germany
Sozialdemokratische Partei Deutschlands
|Social democracy||Martin Schulz||25.7%||
193 / 631
|Democratic socialism||Dietmar Bartsch
64 / 631
|Grüne||Alliance 90/The Greens
Bündnis 90/Die Grünen
|Green politics||Cem Özdemir
63 / 631
|FDP||Free Democratic Party
Freie Demokratische Partei
0 / 631
|AfD||Alternative for Germany
Alternative für Deutschland
|National conservatism||Alexander Gauland
0 / 631
Traditionally, 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 only contests elections in Bavaria, while the CDU contests elections in the other fifteen states. Although these parties have some differences, such as the CSU's opposition to the previous government's immigration policies; the CDU and CSU share the same basic political aims and are allowed by the Regulations of the Bundestag to join into one parliamentary Fraktion (a parliamentary group composed of at least 5% of the members of the Bundestag, entitled to specific rights in parliament) after the elections, as they do in the form of the CDU/CSU group.
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 not, however, mean that the new Bundestag is legally bound to elect one of them as Chancellor.
The AfD received enough votes to enter the Bundestag for the first time, taking 12.6 percent of the vote—more than double the five percent threshold required to qualify for full parliamentary status. It also won three constituency seats, which would have qualified it for proportionally-elected seats in any event.
The FDP returned to the Bundestag with 10.7 percent of the vote. Despite improving their results slightly and thus gaining a few more seats, the Left and the Greens remained the two smallest parties in parliament.
|Christian Democratic Union (CDU)[c]||14,030,751||30.2||185||12,447,656||26.8||15||200||−55|
|Social Democratic Party (SPD)||11,429,231||24.6||59||9,539,381||20.5||94||153||−40|
|Alternative for Germany (AfD)[d]||5,317,499||11.5||3||5,878,115||12.6||91||94||+94|
|Free Democratic Party (FDP)||3,249,238||7.0||0||4,999,449||10.7||80||80||+80|
|The Left (DIE LINKE)||3,966,637||8.6||5||4,297,270||9.2||64||69||+5|
|Alliance 90/The Greens (GRÜNE)||3,717,922||8.0||1||4,158,400||8.9||66||67||+4|
|Christian Social Union in Bavaria (CSU)[c]||3,255,487||7.0||46||2,869,688||6.2||0||46||−10|
|Human Environment Animal Protection||22,917||0.0||0||374,179||0.8||0||0||0|
|National Democratic Party||45,169||0.1||0||176,020||0.4||0||0||0|
|Pirate Party Germany||93,196||0.2||0||173,476||0.4||0||0||0|
|Ecological Democratic Party||166,228||0.4||0||144,809||0.3||0||0||0|
|Basic Income Alliance||–||–||–||97,539||0.2||0||0||New|
|Democracy in Motion||–||–||–||60,914||0.1||0||0||New|
|Animal Protection Alliance||6,114||0.0||0||32,221||0.1||0||0||New|
|Party for Health Research||1,537||0.0||0||23,404||0.1||0||0||New|
|German Communist Party||7,517||0.0||0||11,558||0.0||0||0||New|
|Magdeburger Garden Party||2,570||0.0||0||5,617||0.0||0||0||New|
|Alliance for Germany||6,316||0.0||0||9,631||0.0||0||0||0|
|Socialist Equality Party||903||0.0||0||1,291||0.0||0||0||0|
|Bergpartei, die "ÜberPartei"||672||0.0||0||911||0.0||0||0||New|
|Party of Reason||242||0.0||0||533||0.0||0||0||0|
|The Violets – for Spiritual Politics||2,176||0.0||0||–||–||–||0||0|
Results by state
Second Vote ("Zweitstimme", or votes for party list)
|State results in %||CDU/CSU||SPD||AfD||FDP||LINKE||GRÜNE||all others|
Additional member seats by state
Second Vote ("Zweitstimme", or votes for party list) seats allocated by each of the 16 states by party.
Constitution of the 19th Bundestag
On 24 October 2017 the 19th Bundestag held its opening session, during which the Bundestag-members elected the Presidium of the Bundestag, i.e. the President and the Vice Presidents of the Bundestag. By tradition the biggest parliamentary group (in this case the CDU/CSU-group) has the right to propose a candidate for President of the Bundestag and following the rules of order every group has the right to be represented by at least one Vice President in the presidium. However, the Bundestag may decide to elect additional Vice Presidents. Every member of the presidium had to be elected by an absolute majority of the members of the Bundestag (in this case 355 votes). Until the election of the President of the Bundestag, the father of the house, the member of parliament with the longest membership, presided over the opening session.
- Since he had been a member of the Bundestag for 45 years (since 1972), current Federal Minister of Finance Wolfgang Schäuble would have been the father of the house. However, since Schäuble was also a candidate for President of the Bundestag and would therefore likely have had to declare his own election, he refused the office. Hermann Otto Solms, who had been a member of the Bundestag for 33 years (1980–2013 and since 2017), stood in for him.
- The CDU/CSU group proposed Wolfgang Schäuble to be President of the Bundestag. Schäuble was elected on the first ballot (501 yes votes, 173 no votes, 30 abstentions, 1 invalid vote).
- The CDU/CSU group proposed Hans-Peter Friedrich to be a Vice President of the Bundestag. Friedrich was elected on the first ballot (507 yes votes, 112 no votes, 82 abstentions, 2 invalid votes).
- The SPD group proposed Thomas Oppermann to be a Vice President of the Bundestag. Oppermann was elected on the first ballot (396 yes votes, 220 no votes, 81 abstentions, 6 invalid votes).
- The AfD group proposed Albrecht Glaser to be a Vice President of the Bundestag. On 2 October 2017 the groups of the SPD, the FDP, The Left and Alliance 90/The Greens criticised the nomination because of controversial remarks about Islam and the basic right of religious freedom made by Glaser during the AfD's election campaign and asked the AfD group to nominate someone else to the post. The AfD group declined to accede to the request and nominate someone else. Glaser failed to get a majority on three ballots, although even a plurality would have been sufficient on the third (first ballot: 115 yes votes, 550 no votes, 26 abstentions, 12 invalid votes, second ballot: 123 yes votes, 549 no votes, 24 abstentions, 1 invalid vote, third ballot: 114 yes votes, 545 no votes, 26 abstentions).
- The FDP group proposed Wolfgang Kubicki to be a Vice President of the Bundestag. Kubicki was elected on the first ballot (489 yes votes, 100 no votes, 111 abstentions, 3 invalid votes).
- The Left group proposed Petra Pau, who has held this position since 2006, to be a Vice President of the Bundestag. Pau was elected on the first ballot (456 yes votes, 187 no votes, 54 abstentions, 6 invalid votes).
- The Alliance 90/Greens group proposed Claudia Roth, who already held this position in the previous legislative session, to be a Vice President of the Bundestag. Roth was elected on the first ballot (489 yes votes, 166 no votes, 45 abstentions, 3 invalid votes).
The AfD's seat in the Presidium will remain vacant until the group proposes a candidate who is able to secure a majority.
The SPD's leader and Chancellor candidate Martin Schulz and other party leaders stated that the SPD would not continue the current grand coalition government after unsatisfactory election results. Following the SPD's announcement that it would return to the opposition, the media speculated that Chancellor Angela Merkel might need to form a Jamaica coalition (black-yellow-green) with the Free Democrats and the Greens as that is the only viable coalition without the AfD or The Left, both of which had been ruled out by Merkel as coalition partners before the election. On 9 October 2017 Merkel officially announced that she would invite the Free Democrats and the Greens for talks about building a coalition government starting on 18 October 2017.
In the final days of the preliminary talks, the four parties had still failed to come to agreement on migration and climate issues. Preliminary talks between the parties collapsed on 20 November after the FDP withdrew, arguing that the talks had failed to produce a common vision or trust.
After the collapse of these coalition talks, the German President appealed to the SPD to change their hard stance and to consider a grand coalition with the CDU/CSU. On 24 November, Schulz said he wants party members to be polled on whether to form another grand coalition with CDU/CSU after a meeting with President Frank-Walter Steinmeier the day before. According to CDU deputy leader Julia Klöckner, talks were unlikely to begin until early 2018. On 6 December the SPD held a party congress in which a majority of the 600 party delegates voted to start preliminary coalition talks with the CDU/CSU. This decision was met with reluctance by the party's youth wing, which organised protests outside the convention hall. Martin Schulz's backing of the coalition talks was interpreted by media organisations as a u-turn, as he had previously ruled out considering a grand coalition. On 12 January, the CDU/CSU and the SPD announced that they had reached a breakthrough in the preliminary talks and agreed upon an outline document to begin formal negotiations for the grand coalition.
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- Second votes (party list)
- As current Chancellor and leader of the CDU; Horst Seehofer is the current leader of the CSU.
- The Christian Democratic Union and the Christian Social Union of Bavaria call themselves sister parties. They do not compete against each other in the same states and they form one group within the Bundestag.
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