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POLITICS

German parliament votes to make itself smaller in disputed reform

The German parliament on Friday voted to cut the number of MPs sharply, in a reform blasted by the leader of Angela Merkel's conservative sister party as an "attack on democracy".

German Bundestag debating chamber
The debating chamber of the German Bundestag in Berlin. Fax machines are still used throughout the Bundestag. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Michael Kappeler

Under the reform, the number of seats in parliament would be slashed at the next elections to 630 from 736.

The plan, put forward by Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s Social Democrats as well as coalition partners Greens and the liberal FDP, was adopted with 399 votes in favour, 261 against and 23 abstentions.

The German parliament has been expanding at each election because of a complex voting system which awards seats for direct mandates while also proportionally allocating seats according to the score of the parties.

In Germany, each person gets to cast a vote for a candidate directly, and another vote for a party.

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: How Germany’s complex electoral system works

A five-percent threshold has to be cleared for a party to send MPs to parliament.

That threshold can only be waived if a party wins three seats directly — a clause that the reform has removed.

Smaller parties like the far-left Linke and former chancellor Merkel’s Bavarian sister party CSU were up in arms, as both risk missing the five percent hurdle.

“This voting rights reform is an attack on our democracy,” charged CSU party leader Markus Söder, adding that Scholz’s coalition was therefore “distorting the will of voters”.

Leader of Merkel’s CDU, Friedrich Merz, also said his party would “not accept such damage to confidence in our democracy”.

Like the conservatives, Linke parliamentary chief Jan Korte said his party will take the case to the constitutional court.

The reform was the “biggest attack” on voting rights “in decades,” he charged.

According to the calculations of the federation of German taxpayers, the reform would help the state save €340 million per election cycle.

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POLITICS

Scholz calls on coalition to ‘pull ourselves together’

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz on Saturday called on his fractious governing coalition to "pull ourselves together" following a dismal showing in EU parliament elections last week.

Scholz calls on coalition to 'pull ourselves together'

In power since the end of 2021, the three parties in government — Scholz’s Social Democrats (SPD), the Greens and the liberal FDP — have been at loggerheads on a wide range of issues including climate measures and budget spending.

“I think that this is one of the entirely justified criticisms of many citizens, namely that there is too much debate” within the coalition, Scholz told German television channel ZDF on the sidelines of the G7 summit in Italy.

“We need to pull ourselves together and stick together to reach agreements,” he added.

“The people have the right to demand that things change,” Scholz told public broadcaster ARD.

The three parties in the coalition suffered a severe defeat in the European elections, with the SPD achieving its worst result in a national election since 1949.

Subsequently, Scholz has faced mounting criticism within his own party.

On Saturday, however, Scholz told ZDF and ARD that he was “sure” that he would be the SPD’s next candidate for the chancellorship in the parliamentary elections scheduled for autumn 2025.

In the very short term, a new test awaits the coalition, which must reach an agreement on the 2025 budget by the beginning of July.

The FDP’s finance minister is opposed to any exceptions to the rules limiting debt and to any tax increases.

On the other hand, the SPD and the Greens are opposed to cuts in social welfare or climate protection.

The debate is also focused on increasing the resources allocated to the German army.

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