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The 20th Bundestag: what is to be expected?

Between election and a new government

Just over six weeks since election day and the coalition negotiations for a new German government are in full swing. While a coalition agreement is not expected before the end of November at the earliest, it is worth looking at the new and old members of the German parliament, the Bundestag. Who are the winners among the parties, and what are the developments from which a trend for the future becomes apparent? For the first time in post-war Germany, a new government will be formed by more than two parties: Social Democrats (SPD), Greens (Bündnis 90/Die Grünen) and Liberals (FDP) are in negotiations, demonstrating a new style with expressed unity and also bringing along many new and young parliamentarians. It is the youngest Bundestag ever, with an average of 47 years and more than half of the newcomers in Parliament being under 40 years of age.

A three-party coalition

Since the 1950s, Germany has never had a government consisting of more than two coalition parties. This is about to change. Although the SPD emerged as the winner of the federal election at 25.7%, they were only slightly ahead of the Union of CDU and sister party CSU at 24.1%. Compared to federal elections up to the early 2000s, this is a rather weak performance of both parties, as they usually achieved results each around 35% or even higher. At the same time, the Greens and the FDP made some important gains landing at 14.8% and 11.5% respectively, while the AfD suffered losses but could still achieve a double-digit result of 10.3% (for the election results, see here). The results show that the political party landscape in Germany is becoming more diverse. The traditionally strong parties SPD and CDU/CSU increasingly need the smaller parties to be able to form a government. For the former peoples’ parties SPD and CDU/CSU, this means more need for compromises in the future, and a struggle for the favor of the smaller parties as partners. More political parties in government mean that more positions have to be reconciled, which presumably also means that political decision-making is likely to take longer in the future.

Many new faces

There are also some novelties regarding the members of parliament. Because here, too, an old record is being scratched. Since the 1950s there have never been as many new members of parliament as in this legislation. This means a change for the Bundestag and points to a transformation in society and politics. The largest share of new entrants is made up of those under 40 years of age, with 143 out of 280 new MPs. 100 of them come from either the SPD (58) or the Greens (42). Meanwhile, parties whose new MPs are older – such as the CDU/CSU and the AfD – suffered losses in the election. This points to the conclusion that lack of rejuvenation was one of the reasons for the CDU/CSU’s poor performance in this election. However, for the new parliamentary term, this development does not necessarily mean that young members will set the tone in parliament. Older and re-elected, experienced politicians are traditionally deemed more politically powerful and influential. In the long-term, however, a younger Bundestag is most likely to have an impact. Old structures could be broken up more easily and, above all, younger politicians increasingly stir up the debate.

A younger, more female and more diverse Bundestag

The social structure of this new Bundestag has also changed, confirming an ongoing trend of recent years. After the proportion of women in the Bundestag declined in the last election for the first time since 2005, it has now increased again. The SPD and the Greens had a particularly great impact on this, as together they count for 155 out of 255 female members of parliament. In addition, two factions have more female than male MPs: The Greens and the Left. The average age of all MPs in total is also getting younger, with the SPD and the Greens having the youngest and the AfD and the Left the oldest MPs. Another novelty concerns diversity in the Bundestag: For the first time, two transgender people gained parliamentary seats. The proportion of people from migrant background has also increased. All aspects combined, the German parliament now better reflects German society which it is to represent. This can be decisive, especially in the case of parliamentary voting without the so-called party constraint (“Fraktionszwang”), since characteristics such as gender, religion or age can have an impact on the voting behavior of members of parliament and thus influence the result. The Bundestag can only benefit from an increase in diversity, especially since even more people can now feel represented in it.

Political Change in Germany

While a governing coalition, the cabinet of ministers, parliamentary committees and councils have yet to be formed, decisive changes in the German political landscape are already visible. Especially for companies that are active in the German market or plan to be in the future it is necessary to have planning security. That’s why it’s important to take a close look at the direction in which these changes are pointing. The results of this federal election not only confirm changes in the political landscape, but also reflect an ongoing trend in Germany. Voters’ interests are becoming increasingly diverse, as evidenced by the results of the parties in the election. More members of social minorities are being elected to parliament. As a result, the social structure of the Bundestag is becoming increasingly similar to that of German society. Also, more new MPs are entering parliament, resulting in a fluid generational change that now seems to be gaining speed. The German political landscape will not change overnight. But there is a clear trend showing that it will become more complex, with an increasing number of different interest groups that will have to be involved in political decision making. In any case, be prepared for a new atmosphere and possibly some more exciting debates in this 20th Bundestag.

 

The views expressed herein are those of the author(s) and not necessarily the views of FTI Consulting, Inc., its management, its subsidiaries, its affiliates, or its other professionals.

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