When the Bundestag debates the electoral law reform in the first reading, it is roughly estimated that around a hundred MPs are present.

That is a seventh of the 736 parliamentarians, the back nine rows of chairs in the plenum were empty.

For around ten years there has been a broad consensus that the Bundestag must be prevented from ever growing.

Helen Bubrowski

Political correspondent in Berlin.

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Opinions differ as to what the right way might be.

It is a good tradition that the right to vote comes from the middle of the Bundestag, but the debate on Friday left little room for hope that traffic lights and the Union will still come together here.

According to the traffic light draft law, the Bundestag should have a fixed size of 598 MPs in the future, and there should no longer be overhang mandates.

A constituency winner is only elected if the party's mandate is also due to the result of the second vote, which is to be called the main vote in future.

If a party wins more constituencies in a federal state than it is entitled to based on the results of the main votes, the relatively weakest constituency winners should not move into the Bundestag.

In the parliamentary group meetings, the SPD and FDP passed the bill with a large majority, and the Greens even unanimously.

Sebastian Hartmann, the chairman of the SPD in the electoral law commission, spoke of a "big hit".

Till Steffen from the Greens called the proposal "simple and fair".

Care was taken to ensure that the parties' competitive opportunities were equal, he said, pointing out that under current law, the CDU's overhang mandates in Baden-Württemberg mean that fewer CDU MPs from other countries are moving into the Bundestag.

That is why there is definite approval for the traffic light proposal from the ranks of the CDU.

But that was not shown in the debate.

Instead, Ansgar Heveling, chairman of the CDU in the electoral law commission, was outraged that the reform contradicted "fundamental feelings of fairness".

From the point of view of citizens, it is not clear that a candidate wins a constituency and still does not move into the Bundestag.

Konstantin Kuhle, deputy chairman of the FDP parliamentary group, pointed out that there are various expectations of the electorate that cannot all be met "logically".

With the current legal situation, the expectation that the size of the Bundestag is predictable, as in most other countries, is being disappointed.

“Organized electoral fraud”?

Regarding the accusation from the ranks of the CSU that constituencies no longer played a role and were sacrificed to the idea of ​​proportional representation of the “Berlin bubble” (Michael Frieser), Kuhle pointed out that it was quite common in Germany for an election to be linked to more than one condition be.

"Nobody would think of calling states rogue states where mayors are elected not with a relative majority but with an absolute one," he said.

The CSU General Secretary Martin Huber had described the traffic light proposal as "organized election fraud", something similar was only known from "rogue states".

Kuhle reminded that the successors of directly elected MPs who leave the Bundestag are not determined by by-election in the constituency, but via the list.

The winner in Kuhle's Göttingen constituency, Andreas Philippi from the SPD, is now Minister for Social Affairs in Hanover, the successor on the SPD list comes from Celle.

"Do you know where Celle is?

150 kilometers from Goettingen.

Almost as far as from Munich to Nuremberg,” shouted Kuhle, laughter in the rows of traffic lights.

"Shift in Majority Relations"?

The Union faction has not presented its own bill, but last week proposed reducing the 299 constituencies to 270 and leaving up to 15 overhang mandates unbalanced.

Steffen von den Grünen criticized that the lack of compensation for the overhang mandates led to a "dramatic shift in the majority".

As in the United States, the majority of voters can find themselves in the minority in Parliament.

"People turn away from that," says Steffen.

Left faction and AfD want to vote for the traffic light bill.

The AfD claims the idea for itself, had already proposed something similar in 2020, said MP Albrecht Glaser.

"We are pleased that the AfD is getting a majority on an important issue for the first time in history."