Upheaval in electoral law

German electoral law unconstitutional, court says

The German electoral law must be revised. According to a decision made by the Bundesverfassungsgericht (Federal Constitutional Court), the current electoral law which, apart from a few minor changes, has been valid since 1949, is "unconstitutional". The court said the complex system needs to be revised because its current version could create Überhangmandate ("overhang" parliamentary seats) that benefit the bigger parties. Furthermore, the court said the current law "breaches citizens' rights to take part in direct, free and equal elections as enshrined in the constitution". The Bundestag now has to come up with a new electoral law only twelve months before the next vote is due.

A spokesman for Chancellor Angela Merkel's CDU/CSU party said the government respected the court's decision and will now work on a new version "in a quick and constructive way". The ruling is widely regarded as an embarrassment for Ms. Merkel. Whereas usually on such matters a cross-party consensus is reached, Merkel's centre-right government decided to go ahead with the changes despite objections from opposition parties. Spokesmen for SPD and Green Party described the court's decision as a "major victory".


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