How do German elections work? | CNBC Explains


Germany’s voting system is complicated. So complicated that some Germans don’t even understand it. But its advocates argue that complexity actually makes Germany’s elections some of the fairest in the world. Like the U.S. government, the German federal government is made up of three main parts: the judiciary, the executive branch and the legislative branch. The legislative branch includes two chambers of parliament: the Bundesrat and the Bundestag. But Germans only vote directly for members of the Bundestag in federal elections. So that’s what we’ll focus on today. The Bundestag is the legislative branch of the German government, based here in Berlin. Think of it like the U.S. House of Representatives or the U.K. House of Commons. Every four years Germans vote to elect members of the Bundestag in parliamentary elections. There’s a base number of 598 seats up for election in the Bundestag. Here’s where it gets confusing. Germans are asked to cast not one, but two votes. On the left side of the ballot, Germans choose a member of parliament from their own constituency. Think of this like Americans voting for a congressperson in their district. There are 299 districts in Germany, so directly-elected representatives make up about half of the Bundestag. So if I’m a voter here in Cologne and I’ve got my ballot I get one vote for one candidate, here in my district. The second vote, on the right side of the ballot, is for a political party. This vote determines how the remaining 299 seats will be divided up among Germany’s various political parties. So back in Cologne I also get a second vote. This one goes towards one of Germany’s political parties, like the Social Democratic Party or the Christian Democratic Union. Political parties in Germany’s 16 states put together lists of candidates. The results from the second vote determine how many of these candidates will get off the list and get a seat in parliament. A party has to receive at least 5% of the second votes in a state to qualify for a seat. Cologne is in Germany’s most populous state, called North Rhine-Westphalia. About 18 million Germans live here. Because of that they get to fill the largest share of seats remaining in the Bundestag. Are you with me? Because here’s where it gets even more complicated. The number of seats in the Bundestag often actually exceeds 598. Sometimes Germans split their ballots, meaning they vote for a candidate from one party in their first vote and for a different political party in their second vote. This can throw off the balance of seats in parliament, so that one party is more strongly represented than they should be based on the results of the proportionate second votes. To make up for this Germans created something called “overhang” and “balance seats.” Basically these are extra seats in the Bundestag to make sure every candidate who was directly elected gets a seat, while at the same time making sure political parties are still proportionally represented, based on the number of votes they got. So right after the 2013 elections there were actually 631 seats in the Bundestag, including 33 overhang and balance seats. One of the first tasks of the newly-elected Bundestag is to vote for the most powerful person in Germany, the federal chancellor. But that’s easier said than done. To form a government, the chancellor needs to receive an absolute majority in parliament. That means getting more than half the votes of the members of the Bundestag. But Germany has a bunch of political parties so receiving more than half the seats in parliament is uncommon. That’s where a coalition comes in, where the biggest party teams up with other smaller political parties to get the votes they need. So after the 2013 elections, the CDU, Angela Merkel’s party, and the CSU, formed a coalition government with the Social Democrats. Once a coalition is formed members of parliament vote to elect the chancellor. It’s the chancellor who chooses members of his or her cabinet, which includes federal ministers similar to secretaries in the U.S. presidential cabinet. Chancellors serve four-year terms and don’t have term limits. Helmut Kohl is the longest-serving chancellor to-date. He was in office for 16 years. Okay, I know that was a lot, so why even bother with all of this complexity? To understand why, well, we have to look to the history books. Many Germans saw the failure of the Weimar Republic as the failure of the country’s fragmented parliamentary system. After World War II, the Federal Republic of Germany transferred power from the president toward the Bundestag and encouraged political majorities to pass legislation. Today the role of the German president is mostly ceremonial. And it’s harder for extremist parties to get in power with that 5% vote threshold. The German election structure has resulted in a stable government for more than 60 years. But stable definitely doesn’t mean simple. Hey guys, it’s Elizabeth, thanks for watching. You can check out more of our videos over here, including one about how Europe is responding to President Trump. We’re also taking your ideas for future CNBC Explains, so leave your suggestions in the comments section. And while you’re at it, subscribe to our channel. Auf wiedersehen.




Comments
  1. No it's Impossible for extreme Partys because every Party who wante to Change the political system to became the single Powers or wants to Breaks the ground rights gets banned

  2. It was not that Complicated, Similar to Indian System – A Parliamentary Democracy, which are known to be more stable. US on the other hand has a presidential democracy !

  3. What are you talking there? I am a german and our system is really simple. And better than the american system ,we can vote our own gouverment and doesent need voters that vote for us . So we will never a strange guy like Trump.

  4. Ob ihr dumm seid hab ich gefragt?!? Habt ihr euch mal euer eigens Wahlsystem angeschaut?! 😂😂😂😂 Einfacher als das deutsche gehts fast nicht mehr 😂😂😂

  5. I wonder what would the world would be like if the Wiemar Republic hadn't failed. Probably no WWII, my country (the US) probably wouldn't have become so disproportionately powerful, no cold war, etc.
    Maybe one of the most consequential periods of history.

  6. Well, that wasn't even a passable job of explaining the relevance of the first and second vote. The second vote is the more important one. It determines the proportional split of seats in the Federal Diet. These seats are then filled up with the directly elected members first according to the amount available from the individual federal states. Should there be more directly elected candidates than the party has title to according to the second vote, the ones that are "too many" are "overhang mandates". The other parties are allowed to send more candidates to the Federal Diet to compensate for these overhang mandates until the proportional distribution as set in the second vote is reached. Should a party have less direct candidates than seats they have title to, they fill those seats from their federal state lists.

    A simplified example. Suppose there were 100 seats in the Diet. The CDU receives 40% of the second vote and 50 direct mandates from the first vote, while all other parties get less direct mandates than available for them. The number of seats must now be scaled up so that these 50 mandates represent 40% of the seats in the Diet, meaning there will be 125 seats in total instead of 100. If there were only two parties in the Diet, the second party with 60% of the second vote would then get 75 seats (60% of 125) instead of 60 (60% of the base 100).

  7. If you are too lazy to watch: By leftist Parties manipulating votes just so parties that habe a different opinion get less votes.

    You're welcome.

  8. Ministers in the german government arent similar to secretaries in the american system at all. They actually get to do something instead of just giving the head of state advice.

  9. Nice video but it is no necessary to have a majority in the "Bundestag" to build a Gouvernement. In the theory it is also possible to build a Gouvernement with an minoryt. In Germany we would call that minderheitenregierun

  10. It's so funny to hear her say again and again how complicated the German is agsjsks it's so easy. We start learning about it in 8th grade

  11. The German election is useless… Because in order for Merkel to be the Bundeskanzlerin her party the CDU needs to have the most seats in the Bundestag and like they said they need to have more than half the votes so the CDU chooses other party's to go with them and than pretty much everything that the CDU wants will go through the Bundestag as they'll almost every time will have the most votes so the partys don't really need to argue

  12. Bin mir sicher das mindestens 75% der Views Deutsche sind 15% Rest der Welt und vllt die restlichen 10% sind Amerikaner weil es die gar nicht juckt…

  13. Well, I just think that European democracy works a lot better than the US system. I can’t understand why the US is so full of itself and boasting about its democracy system globally. Ridiculous.

  14. If it's so than how come i:'m able to understand it.I'm even not a German! And how do they vote the president if the Chancellor vote are like that?

  15. What happens if theoretically the sum total of independent candidates and direct mandates from unqualified parties, form a majority, say 400?

    And by unqualified parties, I mean those that didn't get the minimum 5% vote share or 3 direct mandates.

    Which means that the qualified parties are left to fill the rest 198 seats. Then no coalition, even the one with all parties combined, could form a government as they won't be having a simple majority.

  16. Seid nicht dumm. Lasst extremistische Islamisten Deutschland nicht in ein Land verwandeln in denen die Demokratie mit der Todesstrafe bestraft wird.
    Haltet den Islam aus Deutschland. Wählt AFD. Wählt die Zukunft.

  17. Pretty straight forward … stop using silly click bait tactics… sure some people are stupid and don’t know what 2×2 is….

  18. Lol first of all I wouldn’t trust CNBC with a piece of paper and secondly look at Angela Merkel clearly its not working very well.

  19. The elections are manipulated here! And the only real 'extreme' parties are the established anti-German high-traitor parties.
    A genuine opposition party is not allowed at all.
    If so, then everything is sham opposition, because realpolitik is not made in parliament, but in the undemocratic Masonic lodges.
    We have a parliamentary dictatorship with us !!!

  20. The main issue is poportional representation vs. distorted misrepresentation.

    It's not that complicated: hockey season scores are more complicated and a whole lot less important.

  21. Too simple definitely means unstable. The US has an undemocratic single-winner-district two party distorted voting system with single party rule. It's dangerously unstable, unfair to voters and decidedly undemocratic. It's fallout is far from simple: gerrymandering, strategic voting, policy lurch and scorched earth… and now another shutdown.

  22. Mixed-member proportional representation. Bolivia, Lesotho, New Zealand, and the devolved parliaments of Scotland and Wales use it, too. It isn't that complicated. 😂

  23. As many have stated in the comments, it doesn't seem too complicated to Germans. For me, it's the conclusion to the rather logical sound that you can agree with the ideas of a single person, but might prefer the general goals of another party more than the first person's party. It's not all A or B here, we get a few more choices, which I'd suggest leads to parties less likely to (successfully) run on mere populist ideas, as they will have to form coalitions with contrasting ideas anyway, and no one can simply not care what the others are doing.

  24. Isn't that called the proportional party representation? We also have it, we vote for a candidate for a district and a party… After the election, the votes the party got will represent how much seats they will have in Congress…

  25. I expected this to be complicated, then I realised she basically explained a form of proportional representation similar to what we use in New Zealand…so not really complicated at all😅

  26. Here Germans praising there system of Democracy, I don't know why, Trump got 47% of votes in USA, that's how he is the president, Angela Merkel got only 33% and now she is running the Germany. The US presidential system is working since medival times,and because in one election a candidate got elected whom you don't like and now you are bashing that system. Literally you are showing your stupidity. Angela Merkel has to woo only 33% of the voting population and she can be the Chancellor of Germany till her death. Donald Trump has to woo 47-53% of US voting population despite of that he can only be a President only for 8 years. So definitely the US system is best.

  27. Preaching to the viewers that they don’t understand their own electoral system and then call it complicated is some pure America bs arrogance that will never go away. They didn’t even research the model Is called. Here in NZ, it’s called the mixed member proportional and the threshold is 7%.

  28. Kiwi here. We have MMP here as well. It's not that complicated. It actually makes your parliament or house of representatives more indicative of the population of your country. Here's the kicker. MMP was thought up by two americans.

  29. ALLEGEDLY: "LET MY LIFE, HAVE ONE REPLY, TO GERMANY' S IGNORANCES: "THE AMERICAS HAVE NOT SUPPORTED GERMANY' S GROWTH, "AT ALL", TO KNOW THE TRITE AMERICAN GERMAN GROWTH, IS DESIGNED, TO BE MUNCHED, VIA, THE AMERICAS. FROM THIS, WISDOM, OF AFRICA' S MUNCH, TO LURE THE LITTLE POPULATION, VIA, TRADE, EVEN, THE BRITISH EMPIRE FELL. THUS, INFLUENCING THE "BEVERAGES& FOODS", OF THE AMERICAS IS THE BEST WAY, TO HAVE IT GERMANY' S WAY. BANANA PRODUCTIONS ARE THE AMERICAS PRIME TRADING INFLUENCES."

  30. It is not that hard. Maybe only the general mass of US finds it complicated and CNBC has them as target audience. Hence the confusion.

  31. Very good video. I tell people this in America. The two part system isn’t the problem; it’s just a symptom of the real problem, a bad voting system.

    This system, the alternative vote and many others exist. It’s time for a change.

  32. politicaleas in romanian distroi tu Romania people an Natura ek hellp Stey to eis to Romania country 😉

  33. Basically, if the vote does not give a majority to the popularly votes party, extra overhang members are appointed until they have a popular majority as well as constituency seats. These overhang members are drawn from a list made by each party. The Overhang members are not only from the most popular party, but they also have to be appointed proportionally to the popular vote per each party.

  34. The report has wrong data 2:17. The population of whole Germany as per 2017 consensus is approx 83 million. How can 80 million can live in Cologne?
    P.S : I study here in Cologne.

  35. Wer denkt, dass das Wahlsystem in Deutschland besser ist als das in den USA?

    Who think that the votesystem in Germany better is as that in the USA?

  36. The reason you think it is complicated is the way you explain it.

    The Federal Election is decided by the party vote. It finally determins the percentage a party gets in the Bundestag. These seats are filled from the directly elected candidates parties got, and the rest is filled up from the party lists.

    This explains 99% you have to know. The rest are details.

    So, what about the "overhanging" and "compensation mandates? If a party gets more directly elected candidates then she should get from the party vote, the parliament is simply increased so that the percentages fit again. And while you increase the number of seats, the other parties get additional members as well. These are called compensation mandates.

    Is this a fair system? Yes, we do not have a president that got 4 million voters less than his competitor, like the uS, and we also do not have a primeminister like Britain who nearly got an absolute majority of seats from 42% of the votes.

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  38. We have this very similar with Germans here in the Czech Republic. You can prior one man/woman on the ballot from a party you´re voting for. By this system, you can get someone a from 10th place on the ballot while his party has only 8 seats in parliament. Also, our president is for gods will just for representation but that idiot cannot do it at all well, so…

  39. Elections are a 1 man 1 vote system. It puts power in the hands of the people so every man has some power to vote a corrupt government out. However, population numbers matter. Take in too many refugees n they could outnumber and outvote you. They reproduce too. Worse if they are terrorists disguised as refugees… They can infiltrate your government by voting themselves in. Deport refugees, force their home nation to care for their own.

  40. "Overhang and balance"?? Sorry, but that translation is so bad, you have to ask yourself if somebody at CNBC was trying to stack the deck about this system being complicated and confusing. "Überhang" in this context means surplus or excess, obviously, and "Ausgleich" in this context means compensation or offset, obviously. So, why not translate it as the Surplus-Offset Measure? And why doesn't CNBC have someone on the ground in Germany who has a clue about the country and its language?

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