Abstract. The existence of two, differentiated, votes for constituency candidates and for party lists in the electoral system of the Federal Republic of Germany offers parties the opportunity of campaigning for ‘second’ (party list) votes in certain situations. The small Free Democratic party, almost invariably in the role of ‘pivotal party’ determining which of the two major parties will lead a coalition with the FDP as junior partner, has increasingly in recent elections campaigned explicitly for such ‘split’ votes. Its success with this strategy has enabled it to overcome the crucial five per cent hurdle, the qualification for party-list representation in the Bundestag, as well as to increase its influence within coalitions in Bonn. The strategy does seem to have affected voting patterns, but relies to an extent upon ignorance among voters of the real relative importance of the constituency ‘first’ vote and the party list ‘second’ vote.