Since the adoption of candidate gender quotas, women have always fared better in the “second” or PR tier of Bundestag elections than in the “first” or plurality tier, where quotas do not apply. This gap, however, has been closing. In the 2009 Bundestag election, 27 percent of the major parties' direct mandate candidates were women compared to almost 30 percent in 2013. All parties experienced an increase in the percentage of women among their nominees for direct mandates between 2009 and 2013. Why have the numbers of female candidates for the 299 directly elected Bundestag constituencies been increasing? This increase is puzzling because gender quotas have not been extended to this tier of the electoral system and candidate selection rules have not changed. This article explores five potential mechanisms that may be driving the observed rise in women nominated as constituency candidates. I argue that the main reasons for these increases lie in the advantages female incumbents incur, the openings presented when male incumbents retire, and the diffusion of female candidates across parties and neighboring Wahlkreise after one woman manages to win a direct mandate. I develop these conclusions by comparing candidate nominations and direct mandate winners in the 2009 and 2013 Bundestag elections.
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