A.General, direct, free, equal and secret – since the Basic Law came into force in 1949, these have been the central criteria that must be met when electing members of the German Bundestag. The Federal Election Act does not add one to the provisions of Article 38 of the Basic Law – except that it stipulates in Paragraph 1 that the German Bundestag consists of 598 members – “subject to the deviations resulting from this law”.
In addition, since the Federal Republic of Germany came into existence, the law has stipulated the principles according to which the composition of the legislature is to be determined.
A “proportional representation connected with a person election” is intended to ensure that, on the one hand, each individual constituency is represented by a directly elected member of the Bundestag. The proportional representation in turn should result in the fact that the strength of the parties and thus the majority ratios are not measured according to their performance in the constituencies, but according to the support that the individual parties receive nationwide in the form of the so-called second vote.
In comparison, an island of the blessed
To remember all of this a few days before the election of the 20th German Bundestag may seem to some as if the proverbial owls were being carried to Athens. However, many events and developments in the past four years have shown that it would be negligent to consider democratic achievements such as electoral principles, but also an electoral law that complies with the principles of clarity and truth, as given once and for all. Both the increasing imbalance in the ratio of postal and ballot box voting as well as the recent reform of the federal electoral law, pushed through by the CDU, CSU and SPD against the votes of the opposition, have what it takes to at least not promote confidence in the election process or in its results.
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Nevertheless, a restriction must be made at this point: Measured against the sometimes successful efforts even in democratically constituted communities such as the United States, Poland or Hungary, that parties restrict constitutionally guaranteed civil rights or make the judiciary compliant, live we in the Federal Republic of Germany are almost on an island of the blessed.
Right goals, wrong paths
But it is very lively, for example in the dispute over the lowering of the voting age in federal elections from 18 to 16 years. It is up to the citizens whether the parties who write this in their programs get a chance. And not everything that parliaments consider right can also become law. The state constitutional courts of Thuringia and Brandenburg have unanimously rejected the “left” projects to use parity laws to help women gain more representation in parliaments. As correct as the goal is, the path is just as wrong when several electoral principles are overturned in the name of higher morality.
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Nevertheless, it is questionable when courts have to settle disputes over electoral principles that could not be settled across parliamentary groups. This is how it is in the case of the federal election law, the constitutionality of which was doubted by almost all experts in the hearing procedure – without the Union and the SPD drawing any conclusions from it. The Federal Constitutional Court could not bring itself to an injunction shortly before the election. But after the election is before the election.