Englischsprachige Abstracts der aktuellen Ausgabe der ZParl

Patzelt, Werner J.: The first generation of East German Members of Parliament. Part 2: Profile of MPs’ activities and their linkage with society.
How did the first post‐socialist generation of East German parliamentarians fulfill their functions, both on the state and federal level? How effective were the “parliamentary novices” at building linkage structures between parliaments and society, structures on which the proper working of representative democracy depends? Based on surveys among East German MPs in the early 1990ies, this article will profile MPs’ activities, the difficulties they met, their work in the legislature and in their voting districts as well as with journalists and media. In addition, the interaction structures between representatives and those repre sented are analyzed along with the contents circulated there, with a particular look at interest groups. Finally, there is a short discussion of whether the new East German MPs missed a chance to create a “new form of parliamentarism”. [ZParl, vol. 51 (2020), no. 4, pp. 741 – 763]

Behnke, Joachim: The new electoral law passed by the Grand Coalition in 2020. A risk analysis.
For the first time, in 2013 the electoral law introduced adjustment seats to compensate for surplus seats at the federal level. For the last two elections, this led to a considerable increase of the Bundestag’s size. The reform debate to shrink the Bundestag back to its original size of 598 seats that began in 2013, came to a preliminary end when in October 2020 the new electoral law was passed by the Grand Coalition. The law includes three mechanisms to contain the Bundestag’s size: First, half of the list mandates of the party that has surplus seats can be used for the compensation of surplus seats. Second, up to three surplus seats can be left untouched by adjustment seats. Third, the number of constituencies is reduced from 299 to 280. Simulations demonstrate that these mechanisms most likely will not be sufficient to prevent a considerable augmentation of the Bundestag. Furthermore, the new law includes elements which could prove to be unconstitutional. [ZParl, vol. 51 (2020), no. 4, pp. 764 – 784]

Decker, Frank and Eckhard Jesse: The reform of the electoral law. An agenda with 12 topics.
The Grand Coalition in Germany struggled with achieving a substantial reform of the electoral law. The measures it has introduced will presumably fail to prevent an additional increase in the number of Bundestag members after the next election. It is highly probable that the forthcoming electoral commission will once again make suggestions for changing the system. The article discusses 12 topics that the commission should address: extending the legislative period and introducing a deadline for the investiture of the government – maintaining the original size of parliament, the proportional system and the mandates won in the electoral districts – codifying the central elements of electoral procedures in Germany’s Basic Law – reducing the number of electoral districts to 200 or 150 – increasing financial support for the constituency work of members of parliament – returning to the one vote‐system of 1949 – introducing a preferential vote – abolishing the basic mandate clause – abandoning the idea of a quota for female candidates – facilitating postal voting – lowering the voting age to 16 – setting up a citizens’ assembly to propose reform measures. [ZParl, vol. 51 (2020), no. 4, pp. 785 – 801]

Behnke, Joachim: A rank-oriented personalized proportional electoral system without (or nearly without) “orphaned” constituencies.
The reform of the electoral law in 2013 introduced adjustment seats that compensate for surplus mandates, resulting in the Bundestag increasing in size. The new electoral law passed by the Grand Coalition in October 2020 will not provide an effective cure to this problem. The “usual suspects” that have been proposed as possible remedies, especially reducing the number of constituencies, but also accounting for list mandates with surplus mandates and capping “excess” direct mandates, all imply problematic effects. Against this background, forms of rank‐oriented personalized proportional electoral systems, which adhere to the logic of Baden‐Wuerttemberg’s state electoral system, seem to be promising reform perspectives. They preserve the element of the personal vote and could even strengthen this. Not only can they guarantee that the Bundestag will not exceed its regular size, but they also secure proportionality between the parties at the federal level as well as proportionality between the several state lists of one party. [ZParl, vol. 51 (2020), no. 4, pp. 802 – 824]

Pappi, Franz Urban: The plurality system with additional personalized proportional representation. An alternative proposal to lower the Bundestag’s size.
The Federal German Electoral Law allots 299 constituency and 299 party list parliamentary seats or more. The personalized proportional representation (PR) system prescribes party list votes as the dominant principle of seat distribution. In this article a plurality system with additional PR seats is advocated. It would, for instance, fix the number of PR seats to 299. Here three rules that are actually used in mixed‐member proportional systems are discussed: (1) Total negative vote transfer from candidate to party votes (scorporo totale in Italy), (2) partial negative vote transfer of only candidate votes that assured constituency victory (votes of first loser plus one), (3) applying d’Hondt to party votes for gaining PR seats by adding the number of gained constituency seats to the denominator of the sequen‐ tial divisions (Scottish Parliament). Contrafactual seat distributions based on the 2017 election results are computed. The thesis is that voters are guided primarily by their policy preferences when choosing parties and by leadership competence when choosing their local representative and indirectly the future chancellor. [ZParl, vol. 51 (2020), no. 4, pp. 825 – 843]

Linhart, Eric and Oke Bahnsen: The public discourse on the German federal electoral law reforms 2011 and 2013.
The German electoral law to the federal parliament was reformed in 2011 and in 2013. While political scientists have extensively evaluated consequences of these reforms, the role of the public discourse has been largely neglected. We analyze articles from three leading German newspapers (FAZ, SZ, Welt) on this topic and find the debate around the reforms to be dominated by parties and political institutions. Scientists, interest groups, and journalists have only played minor roles. Regarding content, the discourse largely focused on surplus seats, reform speed, and a proposal by the CDU/CSU‐FDP coalition government in 2011. A broad public debate in which multiple social groups could participate has not taken place. From a normative perspective this is problematic since the lack of a public debate might have contributed to the poor quality of the reform’s result. [ZParl, vol. 51 (2020), no. 4, pp. 844 – 864]

Kleih, Björn-Christian: The verbal explanation of vote under Paragraph 31 (1) GOBT – a parliamentary grab bag with potential?
According to the Rules of Procedure of the German Bundestag (”GOBT”), every Member of Parliament is granted a five minutes’ verbal explanation of vote . It is granted for nearly every kind of vote in the House. The verbal explanation is often considered a privilege to MPs going against the position taken by their group. Yet, it is also used to confirm the party position and it is abused to continue already closed debates. In either case, they can be a grab bag for both parliament’s plenum and its president; the verbal explanation’s content is only revealed when the explanation is given. A quantitative and qualitative analysis of the explanations given in the Bundestag shows that explanations from dissenters contribute quantitatively, but not to a large extent. While members of the coalition more often declare to go against their parliamentary party group, members of the opposition tend to confirm the line of their respective party. When used to reveal personal implications in the decision‐making process, the verbal explanation is meaningful and widely accepted. [ZParl, vol. 51 (2020), no. 4, pp. 865 – 887]

Singer, Jens Peter: Question after question – the legal framework of the parliamentary right of interpellation and the executive’s obligation to respond.
The legal framework of the parliamentary right of interpellation and the executive’s obligation to respond to these questions has traditionally been a field of contention between the government and the opposition. The Federal Constitutional Court has recently issued several decisions that have again concretized and expanded this framework. The number of parliamentary questions, which has been high for decades, has once more reached a new dimension in the current Bundestag’s legislative period and has led to demands for a legal limitation. Its feasibility is constitutionally controversial. The right to information under press law competes with the parliamentary right to ask questions and the executive’s obligation to respond. There is no legal claim of the questioner to be the first to use the answer in the media. However, it is good practice within a parliamentary system for the government not to thwart this practice. [ZParl, vol. 51 (2020), no. 4, pp. 888 – 908]

 de Ghantuz Cubbe, Giovanni: Continuity or radical turning point: The development of parties and the party system in Italy after the general elections in 2013 and 2018. The two general elections held in Italy in 2013 and 2018 were particularly significant: While the anti‐systemic Five Star Movement and the Lega were hugely successful, established parties such as Forza Italia and Partito Democratico fell behind. Numerous scholars regarded the election results as a signal of a radical turning point in Italian politics. However, such an interpretation seems to undervalue the persistence of a number of traditional features within the Italian political system. Taking into consideration the main systemic characteristics over the last 30 years, it is apparent that the rise of the Five Star Movement and the Lega did not radically modify Italian politics. Both parties are a consequence as well as a catalyst of the political crisis and of the Italian “infinite transition” that began in 1992. [ZParl, vol. 51 (2020), no. 4, pp. 909 – 926]

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