How do parties get onto the Bundestag election ballot? | Germany| News and in-depth reporting from Berlin and beyond | DW | 01.05.2017
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How do parties get onto the Bundestag election ballot?

CDU and SPD will appear on the list automatically. But for small parties, qualifying for the German federal election ballot is harder. Step one: mail a letter of intent on time. Step two: prove you're actually a party.

When Germans vote for their new government on September 24, many of them will choose one of the larger, well-known parties like the conservative CDU or the Green Party. A number of people is also going to vote for the right-wing nationalist Alternative for Germany (AfD), which has stirred up Germany's political landscape for a few years now and is worrying politicians from all other established parties.

But there are also many, many smaller parties that most Germans first notice when they unfold their ballot on Election Day. In the last nationwide elections in 2013, voters could choose between more than 30 parties. Only five of them made it into the Bundestag: The CDU, its Bavarian sister party CSU, the Social Democrats (SPD), the Left Party and the Green Party.

Bundestagswahl (picture-alliance/dpa)

German voters can choose from a wide array of parties

The economically liberal FDP didn't get enough votes to cross the 5 percent threshold required to make it into parliament, and neither did the AfD. Both parties missed the cut-off point by a narrow margin.

And then there are the Animal Protection Party, the Marxist-Leninist Party and other small parties, which received between 18,000 and 140,000 votes each.

Letter of intent

A party that has not had at least five members represented in the Bundestag or a state parliament since the last election is called a non-established party. These parties have to send a formal letter to the "Bundeswahlleiter," or federal election manager, saying that they want to be on the ballot. The deadline for this letter is 97 days before the election.

This declaration of intent, signed by the party leader and two deputies, has to include the party's name, its program and - most crucially - proof of the group's status as a political party. The election manager and his team decide whether a faction qualifies as a party based on the German Law About Political Parties ("Parteiengesetz").

The initial requirements are simple: a group qualifies as a political party if their headquarters are based in Germany and if the majority of the executive committee are German citizens. But then it gets more complicated.

Serious about doing political work

To prove that the group you founded isn't just a fun club you organized with a bunch of friends but actually a party, you have to convince the election manager you are serious about "influencing political opinion making" in Germany, according to the Political Party Law. Factors that are taken into consideration include the way the group presents itself to the public, for how long it has existed and how many members it has across Germany.

If those criteria are fulfilled to the election manager's satisfaction, the group is recognized as a party and its wish to be included on the nationwide election ballot is granted. Check out our gallery above to learn about some of the small parties that managed this feat!

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