In its federal election, Germany uses mixed-member proportional representation, where a voter makes two votes: one picks a particular candidate in local constituency, second for a party. In short, a constituency seat is won by candidate who reached plurality of votes. Parties, that have achieved 5% votes on party lists are allocated extra seats so that at the end of the day percentage of their seats roughly corresponds percentage of votes they had received.

As a result, major parties get most of their seats from constituencies, while smaller non-regionalist parties rely on party lists. For example, in last Sunday's election CDU won 185 constituencies and 15 party list seats, with FDP 0 and 80, respectively.

Therefore, a major party might be tempted to have no candidates run in the first list and endorse independent candidates that are close to their ideology. Assuming most voters know who is endorsed by his/her favourite party, independents in question will win their races and the major party will still win a bunch of "compensation" seats, since it didn't technically win any constituency race.

Taking recent election as an example, we could have 185 CDU-leaning and -endorsed independents, but CDU would also win an insane number of party list seats (about 200, not sure about precise algorithm calculating "compensations"). That would easily give them majority.

Is there any system in place to avoid such shenanigans?

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    Trying this would almost certainly introduce confusion with voters. A German ballot shows party affiliations on both sides, and it's not a stretch to imagine most voters picking their favorite party on both sides. Sep 27, 2017 at 3:41
  • No time for a full answer and I am not sure what you are proposing exactly, the system does not work quite as you describe. The main potential for distortions result from the so-called Overhang seat but since 2013, other parties are awarded “compensation seats” to balance those out.
    – Relaxed
    Sep 27, 2017 at 6:08
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    Maybe some form of strategic voting could come close (first vote for a major party like the CDU and SPD, second vote for their “natural” coalition partner like the FDP or the Greens). That's already possible but voters don't use that so much.
    – Relaxed
    Sep 27, 2017 at 6:11
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    In theory, this might work. In practice, I can't imagine it. The German democracy is much less black-and-white than, say, the US one and the large majority of voters value adherence to democratic principles much higher than having their party win at all costs. They simply won't cooperate with this plan.
    – Annatar
    Sep 27, 2017 at 8:31
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    Why is this question downvoted? It seems to be interesting and unorthodox question, and fully ontopic.
    – user4012
    Sep 27, 2017 at 14:52

1 Answer 1


This scheme doesn’t work out because there is a rule specifically made to frustrate it (§ 6 BWahlG, subsection 1, second sentence; in German): If a constituency is won by an independent candidate, the party votes (Zweitstimmen) of all voters who supported this candidate are discarded.

  • 1
    Wow, German legislators' attention to solve edge cases like this doesn't seem to amaze me. Its system is truly fair and proportional, though at a cost of complexity.
    – Szymon
    Sep 27, 2017 at 20:52
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    But what if CDU creates a "child" party instead and does the same trick by encouraging their voters to vote for that party? Jul 26, 2018 at 18:36
  • @Szymon: Though the Bundestag is growing over the years because this compensation mechanism leads to more people in total as the large parties lose their shares. From a pedestrian perspective with the factions usually voting all the same I feel that we could do with far less candidates there. Feb 10, 2020 at 10:52
  • @Martin Uerding: That has nothing to do with this particular edge case; as evidenced by the fact that there haven’t been any independent candidates elected in the last few elections. Different question about the growing Bundestag: politics.stackexchange.com/questions/25493/…
    – chirlu
    Feb 10, 2020 at 12:34
  • With the new Bundeswahlgesetz of 2023, this regulation has not changed, but was moved to § 4 (2).
    – ccprog
    Mar 18, 2023 at 14:59

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