voting 101

Germany 101: German Federal Elections

On September 24th 61.5 million German voters will decide on the central decision in their democracy: who should represent them in Parliament and eventually govern the country? Elections to the German Bundestag (like our House of Representatives) are held about every four years, with the last election having been held in fall of 2013.

The Basics

In grade school, most Germans are taught about the five principles in the Basic Law which stipulate that the members of the Bundestag be elected in “general, direct, free, equal and secret elections”. “General” means that all German citizens are able to vote once they have reached the age of 18. The elections are “direct” because citizens vote for their representatives directly without the mediation of delegates to an electoral college. “Free” means that no pressure of any kind may be exerted on voters. “Equal” means that each vote cast carries the same weight with respect to the composition of the Bundestag. “Secret” means that each individual must be able to vote without others learning which party or candidate he or she has chosen to support.

Where Do You Vote?

Germans have the options of voting at polling stations for example in community centers or schools, or sending in their vote by mail.

So. Many. Parties.

Germany has a lot more political parties than the United States. This is due to the fact that the German electoral system uses a proportional system, which means that all parties get a share of the available seats that reflect their share of the popular vote. However, not to have too many political factions which would make the decision making process nearly impossible – and Parties can get pretty specific as to what they stand for – Germany implemented the “five per cent clause” which means a party needs at least five percent of the votes cast to be represented in the Bundestag.

According to the German Research Institute the following parties are likely to be represented in the next German Bundestag, as they are expected to satisfy the five per cent clause:

  • CDU/CSU (the Union parties): a political alliance of the two parties representing conservative Christian-democratic policies, political home of the current Chancellor Angela Merkel and part of the governing “grand coalition”
  • SPD: the center-left social democratic party promoting “socially just” policies, the other member of the currently governing “grand coalition”
  • Die Linke: “the left” party – a democratic socialist and left-wing populist party
  • BÜNDNIS 90/DIE GRÜNEN: the green party which traditionally focuses on topics such as environmental protection
  • FDP: the “free democratic” party - a (classical) liberal political party
  • AfD: a right-wing populist and Eurosceptic party newly founded in 2013

First and Second Vote

Voters actually have two decisions to make when they go to their polling booth.  This part can get tricky.

The first vote is for the representative of your district. There are 299 electoral districts in Germany and the winner of each district gets a seat in the Bundestag.

The second vote is debatably the more important vote, which is cast not for a person but for a party. The number of seats a party gets in the Bundestag is based on what proportion they get of the second votes. Since the first votes for district representatives take up 299 seats of the Bundestag, the remaining 299 seats are filled up by representatives of each party until each party is proportionally represented.

And now it’s going to get really complicated (also for Germans, believe it or not): In case a party gets more directly elected candidates by the first votes than proportional seats by the second votes, these candidates nonetheless remain part of the new Bundestag. This is called an “Überhangmandat”. The other parties then get seats added proportionally which makes the Bundestag even bigger. The last four years, because of this phenomenon there were in total 631 Members of the German Bundestag instead of the legally foreseen 598.


“Coalition” is not a word used in American politics. Coalitions are alliances formed by different parties in the Bundestag to end up with a group that makes up more than 50% of the seats. Traditionally the party with the most votes tries to form a coalition first. Typically coalitions have been comprised by two parties in the past, but in the future coalitions of three or more parties could be a reality. Why do this? Due to the voting system which is a proportional and not a majority one, this is in most cases the only way to create a majority in the Bundestag which is necessary to pass laws. The coalition parties tend to negotiate a coalition agreement at the start of their cooperation which lays out their policy goals for the coming legislative period. Though the majority party within the coalition typically has more sway in what stance the coalition will take on certain issues – such as who the Chancellor will be – the smaller party benefits from the coalition by typically receiving several Minister positions (think Secretary of State, Secretary of Defense, etc.) which are filled with members of their party. They might also enforce some stances on their core political issues as long as they can get the “bigger” coalition partner to agree in the negotiations.

Wrap Up

  • German elections are general, direct, free, equal, and secret
  • Germans vote in person or via mail
  • There are a bunch of parties to choose from representing the full political spectrum from far left to far right
  • Two votes: a first vote for a specific candidate representing your district and a second vote for your party determining the number of seats per party
  • A Coalition is formed after all votes are in to create a group that holds more than 50% of the Bundestag seats

Got more questions? Shoot them to us in the comments below!

am i the only one whos gotten over the fact that jonghyun and samuel didnt make it

its been three days and some of y'all need to chill.

like saying you’re not gonna stan wanna one just because your fave isnt in the final 11 is really immature. sure its not fair but the deed is done. the voting is over. yes, i too was angry when samuel and jonghyun didn’t make it, but the show has helped both of the two out greatly. nu'est’s fancafe has doubled in size from 25K to 50K, their albums ranked really high on MelOn Chart yesterday, and their youtube account recently gained a HUGE amount of subscribers.

and for samuel, a lot of people have realized what he can bring to the table talent wise. he’s improved a lot since the first episode. he’s even getting a debut pretty soon so calm down, he’s gonna be on the stage on day.

and saying that you won’t stan wanna one because your fave is in their is really immature (like I said before), everyone worked hard, those 11 deserve those spots. saying everyone on the lineup is talentless unlike samuel and jonghyun, is very rude. the vocalists in wanna one are very stable, the dancers are very talented, and the rappers can keep a good flow.

if samuel was mixed and that was the reason why knetz did not vote for him, then he would not have made it into the top 20. and it all depends on who catches your eye. at first i thought youngmin wasn’t that good of a rapper, but now he’s one of my favorites since the show ended. Korean fans and International fans have different tastes. when somi won season 1, International fans didn’t see what the hype was all about with somi. saying knetz are “blind to talent, or worship the hell out of white people” is prejudicing them. some knetz voted for samuel, and he made it to the top 20 because they liked either his charms, his talent, or his appearance (charms and looks are two different things).

getting mad about the fact that international fans didn’t get to vote is silly in my opinion. the voting system has always been “national producers”, meaning Korean fans can vote and that has been established since the first season, and international fans didn’t complain about that the first time. yes, they get a world tour, but you don’t even know the countries they’re going to. maybe it’s all going to be in Asia, who knows.

the lineup itself is really good in my opinion. i’m anticipating their debut album. and also that petition (it’s not written well in my opinion) thats going around with like 10K signatures needs to stop its cringy and don’t ever go that far ever again.

[Spoiler Alert - Episode 2 rankings]
  1. Park Jihoon 
  2. Kim Samuel 
  3. Lee Daehwi 
  4. Ong Seongwu 
  5. Jang Moonbok 
  6. Lai Kuan Lin 
  7. Ahn Hyeongseop
  8. Joo Haknyeon 
  9. Hwang Minhyun 
  10. Lee Euiwoong 
  11. Kim Jonghyeon 
  12. Bae Jinyoung 
  13. Park Sungwoo
  14. Kang Dongho 
  15. Choi Mingi
  16. Yoo Seonho 
  17. Jung Sewoon 
  18. Kim Jaehwan 
  19. Yoon Jisung 
  20. Kwon Hyunbin 
  21. Justin 
  22. Lee Woojin 
  23. Kang Daniel 
  24. Lee Keonhee 
  25. Takada Kenta 
  26. Yoon Heeseok
  27. Im Youngmin 
  28. Ha Sungwoon 
  29. Zhu Zheng Ting 
  30. Lee Insoo 
  31. Hong Eunki 
  32. Yeo Hwanung 
  33. Kim Taemin 
  34. Kim Taewoo 
  35. Choi Dongha 
  36. Lee Junwoo 
  37. Kim Dongbin
  38. Kim Sangkyun
  39. Yoo Hoeseung 
  40. Kim Chan 
  41. Lee Youjin 
  42. Keon Hyeop 
  43. Lee Seokyu 
  44. Jung Hyojun 
  45. Kim Taedong
  46. Kim Donghyun 
  47. Lee Gwanghyun 
  48. Roh Taehyun
  49. Jin Longguo 
  50. Woo Jinyoung
  51. Kim Sangbeen 
  52. Jeong Dongsu 
  53. Im Woohyuk
  54. Jang Daehyeon
  55. Yoon Jaechan 
  56. Jeong Sihyun 
  57. Park Woodam
  58. Kim Namhyung 
  59. Jo Yonggeun 
  60. Kim Seonglee 
  61. Son Dongmyeong
  62. Yoo Kyoungmok 
  63. Ha Minho 
  64. Kim Jaehan
  65. Lee Kiwon
  66. Park Heeseok 
  67. Seong Hyunwoo 
  68. Lee Hoolim 
  69. Kim Dohyun 
  70. Byun Hyunmin 
  71. Choi Taewoong 
  72. Jung Woncheol 
  73. Yoon Yongbin 
  74. Lee Jihan 
  75. Park Woojin
  76. Choi Seunghyeok 
  77. Jung Joongji 
  78. Kim Donghan 
  79. Choi Heesoo 
  80. Joo Jinwoo 
  81. Lee Keonhee 
  82. Kim Hyeonwoo 
  83. Ju Wontak 
  84. Kim Yongjin 
  85. Hwang Minhyeok 
  86. Choi Hadon 
  87. Yoo Jinwon 
  88. Seo Sunghyuk 
  89. Jo Gyumin 
  90. Kim Chanyul 
  91. Kim Yeongguk 
  92. Jo Jinhyung
  93. Kim Yehyeon 
  94. Choi Jaewoo 
  95. Ryu Hoyeon
  96. Han Minho 
  97. Jo Sungwook 
  98. Choi Junyoung 

And those who left already: 

Nam Yoonsung 
Kim Shihyun 
Han Jongyeon