It took some time, but now the stoplight coalition is taking the first step to change the electoral law. The SPD, the Greens and the FDP have agreed to create a commission to present concrete proposals. The commission “in addition to issues such as the equal representation of women and men and the reduction of the active voting age to 16 years, will develop recommendations on how an effective reduction of the Bundestag in the direction of the statutory standard size can be ensured,” said the SPD. parliamentary group Vice Dirk Wiese der Süddeutsche Zeitung. Above all, the CSU “stubbornly refused for years to effectively reform the electoral law with us” – the stoplight coalition is now addressing this.
The issues that the commission is supposed to deal with are quickly outlined. The Bundestag is bigger than ever in its history: there are currently 736 deputies, with a standard size of 598. The proportion of women is less than 35 percent. And there are hardly any young deputies: the proportion of those under 25 years of age is a meager 0.7 percent.
The commission must also “deal with a possible extension of the duration of the legislative period, the limitation of terms and terms and the grouping of election dates in the federal and state governments” – that is what the request says, in which the traffic light groups have now agreed. And it should come up with proposals to modernize parliamentary work, for example how the Bundestag can function more transparently and digitally.
Since the CDU and CSU are now in opposition, they can no longer block a new electoral law that would significantly reduce the size of the Bundestag. The FDP, the Greens and the Left had already proposed reducing the number of directly elected deputies from the current 299 to 250 in the last legislature. Because this would also result in fewer excess and compensation mandates, the Bundestag would be significantly smaller.
Equal number of men and women? This is going to be hard
The CDU and the CSU had spoken out against such a deep reduction in the number of direct mandates. At the time, more than 90 percent of the Union faction was made up of directly elected MPs, which is why the CDU and CSU found it particularly difficult to make cuts at this point.
The Greens and the FDP are now in government. Together with the SPD, which also pledged in the coalition agreement to reduce the Bundestag “effectively in the direction of the statutory standard size” of 598 deputies, they now have the necessary majority.
Parity rules and lowering the voting age to 16 will be much harder to enforce. In Thuringia and Brandenburg, parity laws have been rejected by state constitutional courts. And changing the voting age requires an amendment to the Basic Law; therefore, the CDU and CSU can prevent it.
According to representative electoral statistics, 24 percent of those under the age of 25 voted for the Greens in federal elections, 20.5 percent for the FDP, 15.6 percent for the SPD, but only 10, 8 percent for the two Union parties. No precise conclusions can be drawn from this about the electoral behavior of 16- and 17-year-olds. However, it shows that lowering the voting age would hurt the CDU and CSU.
CDU and CSU likely lock voting age at 16
Thorsten Frei, the first parliamentary director of the Union parliamentary group, told SZ that the traffic light coalition has not yet officially approached the Union with its proposals for the appointment of the electoral law commission. It is “not a good omen if the very claim to gain the widest possible support for changes to the electoral law is undermined right at the beginning of a discussion process.”
Some things are also seen differently in the matter, “especially with the reduction of the voting age to 16 years provided for by the traffic light,” said Frei. And “on the issue of parity” – also because of the decisions in Thuringia and Brandenburg – there are “considerable constitutional concerns”.