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German Electoral Politics$

Geoffrey K. Roberts

Print publication date: 2006

Print ISBN-13: 9780719069901

Published to Manchester Scholarship Online: July 2012

DOI: 10.7228/manchester/9780719069901.001.0001

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(p.133) Appendix 3 The ‘three-seat’ alternative to the 5 per cent requirement

(p.133) Appendix 3 The ‘three-seat’ alternative to the 5 per cent requirement

Source:
German Electoral Politics
Publisher:
Manchester University Press

There is a ‘three-seat’ alternative to the requirement that parties must obtain 5 per cent of list votes to qualify for an allocation of list seats. This dates back to the 1949 Bundestag election, where winning one constituency was sufficient to by-pass the 5 per cent requirement (which then operated in each Land separately). The justification for this alternative qualification was that a party which showed local or regional strength, sufficient to win a constituency, should be given proportional representation in the Bundestag. In 1956 the law changed, so that parties from then on required three seats within the FRG to by-pass the 5 per cent requirement. However, critics point to the fact that a party need not win three seats in the same region: they could be in Hamburg, Saxony and Saarland, so the justification on the grounds of regional strength is demonstrably invalid. Critics claim that there is no justification for a party with 4 per cent of list votes (but three constituency victories) being awarded list seats, yet a party with 4.9 per cent of list votes (but maybe no constituency seats) being denied list seats.

The only parties to benefit from the three-seat alternative were the DP in 1956 – though only thanks to an electoral pact with the CDU which gave the DP ‘safe’ constituency seats without CDU competition – and the PDS in 1994. In 1998 the PDS won sufficient second votes to qualify without needing this alternative qualification. In 2002 it only won two seats, but as it received below 5 per cent of list votes had no additional seats awarded to it. Under the one-seat rule in 1949 and 1953 some small parties benefited, but again sometimes electoral pacts with the CDU played a role.