• After April 24, just under half of the state lists will have been drawn up.
  • These will largely determine the composition of the parliamentary groups
  • Particularly in the CDU, these are contested this year, as direct mandates are becoming increasingly uncertain.

The “Super Tuesday” of the 2021 German federal election is a “Super Saturday”. On Saturday, April 24th, 12 of the 96 state lists will be drawn up for the election on September 26th. Of course, the comparison is somewhat misleading: Super Tuesday is the most important day of the primary elections in the USA. On no other day do more states cast their votes for the nomination of the presidential candidates of the two major parties. In Germany, however, Super Saturday is not about top candidates, but about the state lists of candidates for seats in the Bundestag. Nonetheless, this year’s April 24th should be given special attention. Why?

In 2017, 58 percent of the 709 Bundestag mandates were filled by list candidates. Which state list “draws” and who is on which place on a state list decides to a large extent how a Bundestag faction is composed. While the election results in the individual federal states determine the strength of the influential state groups, the list decides which people (and expertise!) enter parliament. A striking example: SPD Corona expert Karl Lauterbach is currently only 23rd on the planned NRW state list. If he does not win his direct mandate, his return to the Bundestag would be highly uncertain – and the SPD parliamentary group would have to do without a prominent member.

Which list position can actually count on a move into the Bundestag is determined by three factors: the population of the state, the party’s expected share of the “second vote” and the number of direct mandates won. The population of the federal state determines the mandates to be allocated. These range (before equalization calculations) from five in Bremen to 128 in North Rhine-Westphalia. How many of these are allocated to an individual party is determined by its share of the second votes in the state. This share usually varies considerably between the federal states, which is why there are also the aforementioned differences in the strength of the state groups in the parliamentary parties. In the 2017 federal election, for example, the Greens achieved 8 to 14 percent in the western German states, while in the eastern states they only achieved around 5 percent. This results in a currently disproportionately “western” Green parliamentary group. This phenomenon is reversed for the Left Party and the AfD, for example.

According to the Federal Election Act ( § 21) and subsidiary regulations, a state party congress (or similarly legitimized events) has to make the decision on this. This process is running somewhat slower this year due to the pandemic. Not only are Corona-compliant party conventions for the list itself problematic, but also the election of delegates for these party conventions. To facilitate digital and face-to-face events, the COVID-19 Election Candidate Lineup Ordinance was specially enacted in January and is valid until Dec. 31, 2021.

Thus, not just 12 state party congresses will take place on “Super Saturday”. Important preliminary decisions will be made about the future composition of the parliamentary groups in the Bundestag, with implications for legislation in the coming years. It will be particularly exciting in Saxony, where half of the lists will be drawn up, and for the FDP, which is drawing up four list


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