BERLIN – Germany's governing parties have proposed a reform to the country's electoral system to prevent its parliament, already one of the world's biggest, from expanding further. Opposition parties dismissed the plan Wednesday as a half-hearted measure that won't solve the problem.
Germany's complex system is meant to ensure that election results accurately reflect voters' choices and also produce lawmakers with strong ties to their local area.
However, it has an inconvenient side-effect: The Bundestag, or lower house, varies in size and can be much larger than the minimum 598 lawmakers. It currently has a record 709, slightly more than the European Parliament. Germany's increasingly fractured political landscape risks making it bigger still, causing more expense and creating space issues.
The issue has become increasingly pressing as the next election is due in a year, with parties long deadlocked over how to resolve it. Leaders of the governing parties, Chancellor Angela Merkel's center-right Union bloc and the center-left Social Democrats, agreed Tuesday night on a plan that's meant to prevent a more bloated Bundestag next year but kicks a more substantial change to the 2025 election.
Every German voter gets two votes: One for a directly elected candidate, the other for a party list. Half the seats go to directly elected lawmakers, one for each of the 299 constituencies, who are elected by a simple majority.
The other 299 seats, at least, go to candidates elected on party lists. That vote is critical because it determines the percentage of seats each party wins in the lower house, which in turn elects the chancellor.
If a party wins more seats via the direct vote than it would get under the party vote, it keeps the extra seats — but the system also adds seats for other parties to ensure the proportional vote is reflected properly.
The current governing parties won most of the directly elected seats. They are traditionally Germany's biggest but have seen their support sink in recent years, which effectively has required more seats to be added to parliament.