Elections in Germany

Speaking of elections.

Speaking of elections, they are currently tallying votes in Germany’s Bundestag (lower house) elections. These elections will see the exit of Angela Merkel, who is retiring (see NPR: Germans Will Choose A New Government As Angela Merkel Steps Down As Chancellor).

Here’s a good rundown on the elections via WaPo: German Election 2021.

See also, EuroNews: German election: Live updates as voters choose a new Bundestag.

For those keeping comparative notes as home, Germany is federal, a republic, has moderate symmerty in its bicameral legislature, and has a parliamentary system. They use MMP (mixed-members proportional represenation) that uses single-seat districts, but also a national vote that determines the overall distribution of seats in the country. New Zealand also uses MMP.

FWIW, if I had to pick a system to replace the US’s, Germany’s would be at the top of my list.

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Steven L. Taylor
About Steven L. Taylor
Steven L. Taylor is a Professor of Political Science and a College of Arts and Sciences Dean. His main areas of expertise include parties, elections, and the institutional design of democracies. His most recent book is the co-authored A Different Democracy: American Government in a 31-Country Perspective. He earned his Ph.D. from the University of Texas and his BA from the University of California, Irvine. He has been blogging since 2003 (originally at the now defunct Poliblog). Follow Steven on Twitter


  1. Ebenezer_Arvigenius says:

    An unexpected development that may be of interest to you:

    While usually the biggest winner leads the search for a ruling coalition, this year apparently the two “kingmaker” parties (Greens and Libertarians) decided to hold coordination meetings before meeting with the big parties. If that reaches an equilibrium (unlikely) they can decide who becomes Kanzler “under them”.

  2. Mikey says:

    You’d think I would be paying more attention to this, and my wife even more so, given she’s actually from there.

    But she gained American citizenship a while ago and can’t vote in the German election, so we haven’t spoken of it much. She thinks the CDU/CSU might have done better had they put up Söder rather than Laschet as their candidate to replace Merkel, and if polling leading up to the election is any indication, she’s right.

    But otherwise, it doesn’t affect us much and her family pretty much all support the SPD anyway.

  3. Mikey says:

    FWIW, if I had to pick a system to replace the US’s, Germany’s would be at the top of my list.

    Can we have their health care system too?

  4. @Ebenezer_Arvigenius: Interesting–thanks for noting that.

  5. MarkedMan says:

    Steven, can you elaborate on why you think the German system is good? Specifically about how it results in actual better outcomes?

  6. JohnSF says:

    Looks like SPD (narrowly) take first place: 25.7 %
    CDU/CSU 24.1
    Greens 14.8
    FDP 11.5
    AfD 10.3
    Left 4.9
    One again the much talked about “advance of the extremes” in Germany fails to actually advance to the polling stations.
    Though, the near 40% of total going to “non Big 2” parties makes for a lot less stability that the usual post war 45/45/10 average split.

    What might be amusing would be if the FDP and Greens coordinate, pitch their price too high, and the big two say “screw ’em” and set up a Red-Black coalition (aka Grosse Koalitionen/Grand Coalition) shutting out the small parties.
    It’s happened before: under Kiesinger 1966-69; and under Merkel: 2005-9, 2013-18.

  7. @MarkedMan: Obviously, this would require a lot of writing, but in simple terms:

    1. I have come to prefer parliamentary systems over presidential ones (as I prefer the notion of party-centric government as well as the idea that the chief executive always has to maintain the confidence of the majority of parliament).

    2. I think that the balance of power in German federalism is more reasonable than in the US.

    3. MMP maintains the notion of local representation while guaranteeing a proportional allocation of seats in the legislature.

  8. Scott F. says:

    FWIW, if I had to pick a system to replace the US’s, Germany’s would be at the top of my list.

    Honest question: is there any scenario that could lead a change in the US election system?

    I recognize the difficulty, but is reform completely impossible or merely nearly impossible? Say, if Texas and Florida could be flipped to consistently blue, would that force negotiation on single-member districts? Is there any way the experiments in ranked-choice voting expand?

    I’m just wondering if there is any course of action for which I could advocate or if it would be better to spend my time building a bunker for when the country collapses?

  9. @Scott F.:

    Honest question: is there any scenario that could lead a change in the US election system?

    The most likely scenario, which is not on the radar, is a third party emerging that starts to erode the position of one or both of the main parties.

    At the moment, electoral reform threatens both parties, so neither is interested in change.

    I do think that the continued threat of minority rule will incentive democrats to engage in some level of reform, but nothing truly transformative.

    If Texas goes blue, I do think that could lead to Electoral College reform, but not change to House elections.

  10. Scott F. says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:
    Thank you for your reply.

    Looks like Democratic GOTV in TX will be where I focus my political contributions. And since I believe IRV is the most likely catalyst for getting a viable third party, I’ll see what I can do to promote ME’s use of that method.

  11. Kathy says:

    @Scott F.:

    To get a parliamentary system, you’d need a new constitution, as the current ones defines and outlines the powers and duties of both the Congress and the Executive branch.

    You’d also need a massive change in political culture. I don’t mean the obvious fundamental and constitutional changes, but the simple point that even days after the election results are tallied, there is still no defined chief of the executive branch.

  12. Scott F. says:

    I understand the difficulties, but I’m not expecting the US to replace our system with Germany’s. Instead, what I was trying to illuminate with my initial question was a distinction between doing nothing because there is NOTHING to be done (because change is impossible) and doing something (anything) that could move the needle in a positive direction (because change is extremely hard).