The Phileas Club 136 – The Brexit Saga, episode 2

On this episode we talk about:

  • The saga continues, with a vote being passed but with a delay, and general elections…
  • And more!

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  1. Matthias Keller says:

    I’m a bit late to the party but I just came around to listening to this episode of the continuing saga.

    To answer your question about the voting system in Germany: It depends on which level you look at, because the way we vote differs from level to level (e.g. the votes on the federal level for the Bundestag (which you were probably thinking about) are cast different than the ones on the communal level etc.)
    But for the federal level we have a mixed member system, more specifically a mixed-member proportional system (personalisiertes Verhältniswahlrecht). This means we get to cast 2 votes: the first vote is a personalized vote and is designed to determine who will represent your voting district in parliament. There is only one seat per district (and a total of 299 districts), so it is a simple first past the post system. The second vote on the other hand is the “party vote” and is meant to give a proportional distribution of the seats in parliament.
    There are restrictions that apply to prevent extreme fracturing of the parliament (as it happened during the Weimar Republic between the World Wars), so any party needs at least 5 percent of the votes to get in. There are certain exceptions to this rule, for example the representation for certain minority groups are exempt (but such groups usually only compete in state elections and not on a federal level) and if a party wins at least 3 district seats they also get in even if they have less than 5 percent of the votes.

    I’m not going to bore you with the complicated process on how the distribution is exactly calculated and which method is used because no one except Bart will probably care about this. 😛

    The only thing I would mention is the problem of overhang seats (Überhangmandate): Since you can’t deny a party a direct seat they have won in a voting district, it can happen that a party should have more seats then they would get solely on the proportional distribution. In this case the total number of parliament seats is increased: The party in question gets their additional seat and all other parties get leveling seats (Ausgleichsmandate) to keep the proportional distribution intact. This has lead to a steady growth of the Bundestag, which has currently a total of 709 seats of which 111 are Überhang- and Ausgleichsmandate. This makes the Bundestag one of the largest parliaments worldwide.

    This is not a new phenomenon and there have been numerous calls over the years to reform this process to get rid of those additional seats. But especially the conservative parties (CDU/CSU) have delayed and blocked these attempts, because they are the ones that profit most from these additional seats: They often win a large amount of district votes, especial in the case of the CSU, which can only be voted for in Bavaria. They can get so many direct seats that they can’t send someone from their list in addition anymore. Meaning if you would get rid of the Überhangmandate, they would permanently lose a good amount of seats they could never gain by simple party votes.

    Voting systems and the different ideas behind the methods is indeed a fascinating topic. I took a course in university on this topic and spend an entire semester learning which system is used in which country and what they advantages and disadvantages are. It was all fun and games until we had the final exam and had to actually calculate different seat distributions with different systems from memory and by hand. But I guess Bart would have liked that as well… ;P

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