There have been discussions on adopting the German electoral system in Thailand. A German electoral system will reduce the possibility of one party gaining control of the parliament. The German electoral was created to prevent another dictatorship after the electoral system of the Weimar Republic led to the rise of Hitler.
According to the Thai constitution from 1997, taking into account the constitutional amendments in 2011, the lower house in Thailand is divided into 375 single-member districts, in which voters can cast a single constituency vote for their preferred candidate. The elected candidates will directly get a seat in the parliament. In addition, there are 125 party list seats to be elected from a single nationwide district. Voters get to choose one party from the party list. Each party ranks their own candidates. The number of all party-list votes is then added up and divided by 125 in order to get the figure of the number of votes required per party-list MP.
The German electoral right is similar to this. It is based on a mix of two electoral systems consisting of a plurality voting system and system for proportional representation. The German parliament (the Bundestag) has 598 seats. Every person with a right to vote has two votes: One is the constituency vote for the direct mandate (List A) and one is the party vote (List B).
In order to be eligible for list seats, a party has to earn at least 5% of the total party vote. This is to ensure the functionality of the parliament to ensure that there are not too many small parties that block action in the parliament. The only exception from this percentage are parties that have won three direct mandates on List A. The 598 seats of the Bundestag are split into half: 299 seats are eligible over List A, the other 299 seats are eligible over List B.
With the first vote, List A, the voter can directly elect a politician from the list. The person in an electoral district who won most of the votes, will directly get one seat in the Bundestag. The first vote also serves to personalize the election. The electoral districts have to consist of nearly the same population to ensure that every vote has the same power.
With the second vote, List B, the voter can vote for a party. The second vote is the essential vote for the assembly of the parliament. All votes on List B are added up and allocated seats according to the percentage of votes they receive. By setting up lists, the parties’ influence who they want to send to the parliament over the second vote. Those on the party list who have already won seats in the first vote are removed from the list and then the representatives are selected from the remaining members on the party list.
Unlike Thailand, the two votes in Germany are linked. A party`s seat in one tier is dependent to the number of seats it has in the second tier. This is to reduce the disparity between a party`s share from the direct vote and its share of the parliamentary seats. The percentage of party votes shall determine the share of all seats a party wins. If a party wins 20 percent of the votes, it should also gain 20 percent of the seats in the parliament.
Another difference between Thailand and Germany is that Thailand allocates party list seats on a national level while in Germany the party lists are allocated to a local level. So in Germany, voters will select from party list members that reside in their own district. This is for the reason that the voter is able to determine an identifiable representative of his district. The link between the representatives and the voters shall not be destroyed.
The combination of the two electoral systems in Germany is supposed to ensure that every vote counts the same. While the vote of a citizen, who directly voted for a representative on List A, is not counted if the representative loses the direct election, every vote on List B is being considered. However, the first vote ensures that every part of Germany is represented in the Parliament.
The German electoral system ensures a link between the elected representatives and the regions they represent. It reduces the disparity in representation that can occur because of the two possible votes, one for the direct mandate and one for the party.
If Thailand were to adopt the German electoral system, large national political parties will be weakened in favor of political parties that are favored by the local constituents. This increases the possibility that a minor parties will gain seats in an election. These changes to the electoral system with the addition of a partially unelected senate makes it nearly impossible for one party to dominate the government.
Mr. Ulrich Schmitt is currently a legal intern at Siam Legal International in Bangkok. He is a graduate of the University of Trier, Germany with a state examination in German Law. He is currently in the process of completing his second state exam at the Judicial District of the Provincial High Court and Court of Appeals in Koblenz, Germany.