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EACEA National Policies Platform: Youthwiki
Germany

Germany

5. Participation

5.2 Youth participation in representative democracy

On this page
  1. Young people as voters
  2. Young people as political representatives

Young people as voters

Active right to vote: age of eligibility (who can vote)
  • European elections: 18 years
  • German parliament (Deutscher Bundestag) elections: 18 years
  • State (Landtag) elections: 18 years; 16 years (Brandenburg: adopted in 2012, Bremen: age limit reduced for the state election in 2011, Hamburg: adopted in 2013, Schleswig-Holstein: adopted in 2013
  • Local elections (Kommunalwahlen): Citizens have the right to vote from the age of 16 in Brandenburg, Bremen, Hamburg, Schleswig-Holstein, Lower Saxony, Baden-Württemberg, Berlin, Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, North Rhine-Westphalia, Saxony-Anhalt and Thuringia. In all other federal states, citizens must be 18 to vote. 
 

All persons aged 18 and over who are eligible to vote on the polling day and who have lived at a registered address within the constituency for at least three months (in the case of multiple residences the primary place of residence applies) or who otherwise live in the constituency are entitled to vote in national referenda and popular initiatives in accordance with Article 29(6) of the Basic Law for the Federal Republic of Germany (Grundgesetz). In Germany, the only referenda and popular initiatives held at national level relate to the restructuring of federal territory, i.e. the aggregation or division of federal states. Citizens are not permitted to petition for referenda on matters of federal policy.

By contrast, citizens can vote on topical issues at state (Länder) level in all 16 federal states. State laws govern the voting processes. These laws are different in each state. The voting age for participation in popular initiatives (Volksinitiativen; known as Volksanträge in Saxony) and referenda is different in each state. For example, in Brandenburg and Berlin the minimum voting age is 16, while in Bavaria and North Rhine-Westphalia the minimum age is 18.

 
Voter turnout in the European elections in 2019

 

Voter turnout in Germany broken down by age group, in %*

 

Total

18-20 age group

21-24 age group

25-29 age group

Germany

61.4

58.6

56.0

54.0

 

Voter turnout in the German parliament (Deutscher Bundestag) elections in 2017

 

Voter turnout in Germany broken down by age group, in %*

 

Total

18-20 age group

21-24 age group

25-29 age group

Germany

76.2

69.9

67.0

68.8

 
Voter turnout in the state parliament (Landtag) elections

The intervals between each state parliament election – and therefore the legislative period of the respective state government – vary from federal state to federal state in Germany. Therefore it is not possible to provide any aggregate-level figures.

Voter turnout in the local elections

As of the end of 2018, Germany had approx. 11,000 boroughs (Gemeinden). The frequency of local elections in Germany varies from federal state to federal state, as does the term of office of the elected individuals. It is therefore impossible to contrast voter turnout in local elections with national turnout in a German parliament (Deutscher Bundestag) election.

Exclusion from voting

Section 13 no. 1 of the Federal Elections Act (Bundeswahlgesetz, BWahlG) says who is excluded from the right to vote. This includes persons excluded from the right to vote on the basis of a judge's ruling, persons who require permanent care, and persons in psychiatric hospitals as a result of illegal activity (Section 63 German Criminal Code [Strafgesetzbuch, StGB].

Young people as political representatives

Members of political parties

Section 21 of the Basic Law for the Federal Republic of Germany (Grundgesetz für die Bundesrepublik Deutschland, GG) provides the basis for the law on political parties (Gesetz über die politischen Parteien). Section 21 says that parties participate in the formation of the political will of the people.

Each party or party political youth organisation has articles of association that lay down the specific rules on membership (including the minimum age). Examples:

  • Christian Democratic Union of Germany (Christlich-Demokratische Union Deutschlands, CDU): The minimum age for party membership in Germany is 16 years.
    • Young Christian Democrats of Germany (JUNGE UNION Deutschlands, JU): JU members must be at least 14; membership lapses automatically upon turning 35.
  • Social Democratic Party of Germany (Sozialdemokratische Partei Deutschlands, SPD): The minimum age for party membership is 14 years.
    • Party of Young Socialists in the Social Democratic Party of Germany (Arbeitsgemeinschaft der Jungsozialistinnen und Jungsozialisten in der SPD, Jusos): Jusos engages young people aged 14 to 35.

Article 83(1) Sentence 2 of Book VIII of the Social Code (Sozialgesetzbuch, SGB VIII) addresses funding for the youth organisations of political parties that carry out supra-regional youth work.

Passive right to vote: age of eligibility (who can be elected)
  • European elections: 18 years (regulated in the European Elections Act [Europawahlgesetz])
  • German parliament (Deutscher Bundestag) elections: 18 years (regulated in the German Basic Law [Grundgesetz, GG])
  • State parliament elections: 18 years (regulated in the state electoral regulations (Landeswahlordnungen) and state electoral laws (Landeswahlgesetze)
  • Local elections: 18 years (regulated in the local electoral regulations [Kommunalwahlordnungen] and local electoral laws [Kommunalwahlgesetze])

Young people cannot stand for election as Federal President (Bundespräsident). Candidates must be at least 40 years of age.

Representatives elected in the 2017 German Parliament (Deutscher Bundestag) elections -  age distribution as at July 2019

Year of birth

Total mandates

WomenMen
19402-2
1941-1945716
1946-195014113
1951-1955682147
1956-1960953363
1961-19651274883
1966-19701243882
1971-19751092779
1976-1980832658
1981-1985491732
1986-199028920
1991-19923-3
Total709221488
Representatives elected in the state parliament (Landtag) elections

Federal state (Land) (election year)

Totalmandates

Ø age

Mandates18-29 age group

Baden-Wurttemberg (2016)

143

approx. 55 yrs.

5

Bavaria (2018)

205

approx. 51 yrs.

7

Berlin (2016)

160

approx. 47 yrs.

2

Brandenburg (2019)

88

approx. 49 yrs.

1

Bremen (2019) 

84

approx. 48 yrs.

3

Hamburg (2015)

123

approx. 54 yrs.

11

Hesse (2019)

137

approx. 50 yrs.

2

Mecklenburg-West Pomerania (2016)

71

approx. 49 yrs.

6

Lower Saxony (2017)

137

approx. 51 yrs.

3

North Rhine-Westphalia (2017)

237

approx. 48 yrs.

6

Rhineland-Palatinate (2016)

101

approx. 51 yrs.

3

Saarland (2017)

51

approx. 50 yrs.

2

Saxony (2019)

126

approx. 50 yrs.

3

Saxony-Anhalt (2016)

87

approx. 47 yrs.

6

Schleswig-Holstein (2017)

69

approx. 51 yrs.1

Thuringia (2019)

90

approx. 47 yrs.

6

 
Local elections

As of the end of 2018, Germany had approx. 11,000 boroughs (Gemeinden). It is therefore impossible to give an overview of all of the young borough representatives elected.