With the votes of the SPD, Greens and FDP, the Bundestag passed the reform of the electoral law after years of dispute. According to the law of the traffic light coalition, the Bundestag will have 630 seats in the future. An increase beyond this number is thus largely ruled out. Parliament currently has 736 MPs.
After the traffic light reform, direct mandates for winners in the constituencies are no longer guaranteed. This is to avoid overhangs. The aim of the reform is to implement the party relationship undistorted in the allocation of seats in the Bundestag.
In the heated debate on Friday morning, however, the focus was on a measure that the traffic light had only announced last Monday and tabled in an amendment to the Interior Committee on Wednesday: the deletion of the basic mandate clause from the electoral law.
So far, this has made it possible for parties that fail at the five percent hurdle to get into the Bundestag if they win at least three direct mandates. 2021 used this clause of the left. The CSU had 5.2 percent of the votes nationwide in the election, so it is also interested in maintaining the clause.
Complaints in Karlsruhe
Mainly because of this, but also because of the omission of the direct mandate guarantee, Union parliamentary group leader Friedrich Merz and CSU regional group leader Alexander Dobrindt announced that they would submit a legal action to the Federal Constitutional Court against the new election law. They accused the traffic light coalition of “manipulation of the electoral law”. The SPD, Greens and FDP wanted to cement their power in the Bundestag. Dobrindt confirmed that the Bavarian state government also wanted to take legal action against the law. The left also announced a lawsuit.
But Merz and Dobrindt went one step further. Apparently, in the event that going to Karlsruhe was unsuccessful, they announced that they wanted to reverse the law the next time the federal government took part. You will “take every opportunity to correct Friday’s decision,” said Merz.
With regard to the CSU, the deletion of the basic mandate clause would mean that if less than five percent of the second votes were achieved nationwide, all direct mandates won would also be forfeited. In 2021, the CSU was ahead in 45 of the 46 Bavarian constituencies.
The SPD, Greens and FDP in particular would have benefited from an exit from the CSU, but also the AfD. Bavaria would only have been represented by these four parties. “The traffic light carves out a right to vote that is exclusively in its favour,” said Dobrindt, who, with regard to the amendment, also spoke of “crash changes” and an “electoral rights manipulation botch”.
This electoral manipulation must not be used in an election.
Alexander DobrindtCSU regional group leader
SPD parliamentary group leader Rolf Mützenich, however, hinted in the Bundestag debate that the traffic light’s decision to delete the clause was based on a hint from the Union in internal talks. Accordingly, the CDU and CSU planned to justify their lawsuit in Karlsruhe by adhering to the basic mandate clause. According to Mützenich, the coalition wanted to make its own law more constitutional by deleting the clause.
Mutzenich rejected Merz’s request to postpone the vote by two weeks, since the changes presented at short notice were significant and had triggered a great deal of advice. The leader of the Greens parliamentary group, Britta Haßelmann, and the FDP deputy, Konstantin Kuhle, offered the Union to talk after the law was passed about whether and how the possibility of a list connection could solve the CSU’s problem.
Offer a list connection
According to a Karlsruhe decision, census groups of competing parties for the purpose of circumventing the five percent hurdle are unconstitutional. But a way could probably be found that would be constitutional in view of the special situation in the CDU and CSU. Both parties do not compete in elections, the CSU has limited itself to Bavaria, and there has been a faction community in the Bundestag for decades.
In fact, the basic mandate clause in the traffic light model can be seen as a “system break”. Experts who had been invited by the Union had also expressed their views in the hearing on the draft law.
A core element of the traffic light law is that the first votes should no longer have any influence on the distribution of seats in the Bundestag. This could be contradicted by the fact that parties who have no right to representation after second votes because of the five percent hurdle can nevertheless move in via three direct mandates won (which are based on first votes).
400 MPs voted in favor of the reform on Friday. As the Deputy President of the Bundestag Aydan Özoguz (SPD) announced, 261 MPs voted against the bill. 23 MPs abstained. In the debate, SPD electoral law chairman Sebastian Hartmann described the “overdue” reform as clear and understandable.
The parliamentary manager of the left-wing faction, Jan Korte, accused the traffic light of “arrogance”. You just “spit out” the change shortly before the vote. The Federal Council still has to deal with the draft law, but cannot stop it.
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