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Germany acts to shrink its massive parliament

Germany acts to shrink its massive parliament

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BERLIN — Germany’s parliament is bulging at the seams — and the coalition government wants to put it on a diet.

A new draft law seen by POLITICO would fix the number of lawmakers in the Bundestag at 630 (down from 736), as Pioneer first reported.

“If we don’t change anything, the Bundestag will continue to grow,” Till Steffen, a Green Party lawmaker, told journalists Tuesday in Berlin. “We want to safeguard the parliament’s ability to act.”

The German parliament has been growing for years due to the country’s complex voting system.

Every German voter has two votes in the parliamentary elections. With the first vote, a candidate from the voter’s regional district is elected. In total there are 299 districts. Whoever receives a majority vote in a district enters the Bundestag.

Another 299 lawmakers enter the Bundestag via a secondary vote for party lists in Germany’s 16 states. The second vote determines the relative strengths of the parties represented in the Bundestag. Votes are converted into seats in parliament.

As some parties win more seats via the first vote than they are entitled to via the second vote, further lawmakers are then added in order to maintain the correct ratio of party seats won in the second ballot, which has led to the Bundestag ballooning in size.

The new draft law would end this. Instead, not all candidates elected in the first vote would actually enter the Bundestag, if their party is entitled to fewer seats through the second vote.

The CSU, the Bavarian sister party of the conservative CDU, often benefits from the existing system — so they’re not happy about the change. “We actually see it as an attack on democracy,” CSU leader Markus Söder, who is also chief minister of the large southern state, said on Monday.

“The first vote ensures that each region is represented in the Bundestag. With the new draft, that would no longer be guaranteed,” echoed Alexander Hoffmann, Söder’s CSU colleague. “If this draft passes we will have to have the law reviewed by the Federal Constitutional Court.”

Both the conservative CDU/CSU alliance and the left-wing party will vote against the law on Friday.

But it will likely pass anyway, as the governing parties — center-left Social Democrats, liberal Free Democrats and Greens — only need a simple majority to win.

Gabriel Rinaldi contributed reporting.

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