Parliament & Parties
The German Bundestag is elected every four years by free, secret, and direct ballot by citizens aged 18 and over who are eligible to vote. The Bundestag is the German parliament. Half of the at least 598 seats in the Bundestag are allocated through the election of candidates put up by the parties on state lists (second votes), the other half through the election of persons in 299 constituencies (first votes). The German electoral system makes it difficult for any one party to form a government on its own – meaning that a coalition tends to be the rule. In order to prevent complications in the formation of majorities by the presence of small and very small parties, a threshold known as “the five percent hurdle” excludes parties that poll less than that being represented in the Bundestag.
Seven parties with 709 members of parliament are represented in the 19th Bundestag: CDU, CSU, SPD, AfD, FDP, The Left party, and Alliance 90/The Greens. Ever since the first Bundestag election in 1949, the CDU and its sister party CSU, which only stands in Bavaria, have formed a single parliamentary party. Alternative for Germany (AfD) entered parliament for the first time in this legislative period; the FDP is once again represented in the Bundestag after a four-year break.
The current Federal Government is made up of a coalition of CDU/CSU and SPD, with Dr. Angela Merkel (CDU) as the Federal Chancellor, Olaf Scholz (SPD) as Deputy Chancellor and Heiko Maas (SPD) as Federal Foreign Minister. AfD, FDP, The Left party and the Greens form the parliamentary opposition.