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Polling locations were open from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Today the citizens of the Federal Republic of Germany elected the 18th Bundestag, Germany’s parliament. About 60 million Germans were entitled to vote.
Every German citizen who has turned 18 is allowed to vote. But also Germans living abroad may vote, on condition that they have lived in Germany for 3 months non-stop after 23 May 1949 when the Federal Republic of Germany was founded.
Disabled people who are in overall foster care are not allowed to vote. People who committed political crime, such as high treason, anti-constitutional sabotage or bribe of parliamentarians can be disenfranchised between two and five years.
Germany is a parliamentary democracy, that is, German citizens contribute to the formation of the Bundestag. In other words, the primary function of the election is to decide how many seats the respective political party obtains in parliament. In order to do so, each voter has got two votes.
The first vote serves to elect a candidate from the local election district. That is, local or community politicians run for one seat in parliament, the Bundestag. The candidate who achieves the bare majority of votes gets this single seat in parliament. All other candidates are left out in the cold. There are 299 election districts in Germany and each district can delegate one candidate.
The second vote serves to form the Bundestag with regard to the distribution on a percentage basis. That is, the party that receives the most votes (second vote on the ballot paper) obtains the most seats in parliament.
In order to obtain the percentage share of seats a party needs to get at least 5 percent of all valid votes or at least three direct mandates. If a party does not achieve these 5 percent votes cast will decay.
There are several political parties in Germany. The CDU (Christlich Demokratisch Union – Christian Democratic Union) and the SPD (Sozialdemokratische Partei Deutschlands – Social Democratic Party of Germany) are the two major political parties. Further more or less important parties are:
die FDP (Freie Demokratische Partei) – the Free Democratic Party
Die Linke – The Left
Die Grünen – The Greens
die PDS (Partei des Demokratischen Sozialismus) – the Party of Democratic Socialism
http://www.bundestagswahl-bw.de/werkannwaehlen.html (Landeszentrale für politische Bildung Baden Württemberg)