The German Electoral system is based on slightly modified, i.e., so-called personalized, proportional representation. Each voter has two votes, the first of which is for a candidate in his or her constituency, the second for a state list of candidates put up by a particular party. The number of seats a party holds in the Bundestag is determined by the number of valid second votes it receives.
The German Electoral system makes it very difficult for any one party to form a government on its own. This has only happened once in 56 years. An alliance of parties is the general rule. So that voters know which partner the party they voted for is considering governing with, the parties issue Coalition statements before embarking on the election campaign. By voting for a particular party citizens thus express on the one hand a preference for a specific party alliance, and on the other determine the balance of power between the desired future partners in government.
According to the Basic Law it is the task of the political parties to participate in political will formation by the people. As such, putting forward candidates for political office and the organization of election campaigns both have the status of constitutional tasks. For this reason the parties are reimbursed the costs they incur in their respective election campaign. The Reimbursement of election campaign costs, a feature Germany was the first country to introduce, is now commonplace in most democracies. According to the Basic Law, a political party’s internal organization must conform to democratic principles (member democracy). And all parties are expected to acknowledge the values and structure of the democratic state.
(Copyright: Tatsachen über Deutschland, 2005)