Michael F. Feldkamp: Annotations on the Original and Facsimile Copies of the Basic Law for the Federal Republic of Germany of May 23, 1949.
The original of the Basic Law of the Federal Republic of Germany has always been in the possession of the German Bundestag. As early as 1949, Konrad Adenauer, the first chancellor, ordered the printing of 310 facsimiles. More copies were made in 1956, 1969, 1974, 1989 and 1993. The facsimiles carry the aura of the original, and are a direct and vivid reminder of the spirit of the Federal Republic’s early years. The original and facsimiles are a significant part of the swearing-in ceremonies in the Bundestag, for instance of the Federal President or the Federal Chancellor. Furthermore, the original and facsimiles symbolize the democratic, constitutional and parliamentary state which has existed in Germany for more than five decades now. Presenting the original of the Basic Law publicly is a special expression of parliamentary culture and a reflection of Germany’s political and democratic self-image. (ZParl, vol. 35, No. 2, pp. 199 – 219)
Römmele, Andrea, Anja Hoffmann, Kim Jucknat, and Jochen Wackershauser: Journalists Ask, Politicians Answer? Formats, Topics, and Strategies of the TV Debates in the German Federal Election Campaign 2002.
For the first time in German election campaign history the two chancellor candidates took part in two live TV debates prior to the Bundestag election in 2002. Gerhard Schröder (SPD) and Edmund Stoiber (CDU/CSU) were interviewed by journalists on two occasions: first, by anchormen from the two major private channels in Germany, then by anchorwomen from the two major public channels. The analysis of formats, topics, and strategies of these debates shows that the journalists played their parts as hosts and investigators satisfactorily. They were good at posing and reposing questions and successfully serving as debate moderators. The candidates’ performance can also be assessed positively since both gave important information to the electorate and made clear where they differed in their political stands. (ZParl, vol. 35, No. 2, pp. 219 – 228)
Jacobs, Jörg: Against the Existing Order? PDS Voters in Comparative Perspective.
So far, the prediction that the PDS would not play a significant role in the political life of the unified Germany has not come true. Though the PDS did not win enough votes in the last federal election to get into the current Bundestag as a parliamentary party group, the party still holds seats in the state legislatures of all five new Bundesländer and Berlin. The empirical analysis of the party’s voters shows that about one-third of them can be identified as system opponents. Since the main social characteristic of this group is old age, the generational shift will automatically reduce the level of discontent with the political order in Germany. The consequences this will have for the PDS, together with the party’s ongoing political institutionalization are difficult to predict. (ZParl, vol. 35, No. 2, pp. 229 – 241)
Roth, Reinhold: The Election of the Bremen State Parliament of May 25, 2003: Triumph for Henning Scherf and Confirmation of the Grand Coalition.
The Bremen state election on May 25, 2003 took place in an atmosphere of regional stability which was in sharp contrast to the intense disputes over domestic and foreign policy issues on the national level. As a result, the party competition during the election campaign was almost entirely without rancor. The SPD, continuously in power in Bremen since 1947, received strong support from the electorate, capturing 42.3% of the vote. Moreover, it was an overwhelming victory for the popular Mayor and President of the Bremen Senate, Henning Scherf. The CDU, the junior partner of the grand coalition with the Social Democrats since 1995, won only 29.8%. The Green Party which had proposed a red-green coalition, scored 12.8%. Once again the Greens found themselves pushed by the two big parties into the unwanted role of parliamentary opposition. A majority of Bremen’s population voted for the continuation of the grand coalition in order to solve the enormous economic difficulties of the smallest German state. However, the alliance of SPD and CDU in Bremen has not proved to be a model for changing power relations between the parties at either the state or national levels. (ZParl, vol. 35, No. 2, pp. 241 – 252)
Horst, Patrick: The Election of the Hamburg State Parliament of February 29, 2004: The Hanseatics and Angela Merkel Find a political Hope.
Germany´s major federal opposition party, the Christian Democratic Union (CDU), started with an impressive victory in the „super election year“ 2004. For the first time after World War II, the CDU won an absolute majority of seats in the state legislature of Hamburg. The city that had been governed for half a century (1946-53, 1957-2001) by Social Democrats. The outcome of this election had mainly local reasons: the aversion of many voters to Hamburg’s former „Staatspartei“ SPD which had to accept its worst post-World War II election result in the city; the vanishing of the populist „Schill Party“ which had won 20 percent of the votes in 2001 and whose voters – after a series of political scandals – switched mostly to the CDU in 2004; and, finally, the overwhelming popularity of Mayor Ole von Beust (CDU). The stunning defeat of the SPD in Hamburg was aggravated by the negative image of the federal party which the voters held accountable for the unpopular political reforms of the federal government under the Social Democrat Gerhard Schröder. The leader of the opposition in Berlin, Angela Merkel (CDU), emerges from the Hamburg election stronger than ever. (ZParl, vol. 35, No. 2, pp. 252 – 270)
von Blumenthal, Julia: The Schill Party and its Influence on Governing in Hamburg.
From September 2002 to December 2003 the „Schill Party“, a new right-wing populist party, was part of a coalition government (together with the CDU and the FDP) in Hamburg. Once in office, some of the party’s characteristics which contributed to its electoral success turned into disadvantages. These, in turn, endangered the stability of the coalition and, ultimately, led to the disintegration of the party itself. Especially the decisive role of the party leader Ronald Schill and his personification of the party proved to be strong barriers to the development of a stable organization. The party struggled with two conflicting tendencies among its parliamentary members and its ministers: On the one hand, the party’s integration into the political institutions and the rules of the decision-making process caused it to develop a more consensus-oriented political style and more moderate political goals. On the other hand, the electoral success of the right-wing populist party remained dependent on its provocative style and its distinctiveness from the established parties. The fate of the Schill Party shows the domesticating potential of parliamentary systems. (ZParl, vol. 35, No. 2, pp. 271 – 287)
Müller, Markus M.: The Electoral System of Baden-Württemberg. Or: Party Democracy Paralysed?
Electoral system have a significant impact not only on party or candidate selection but also on intra-party and intra-factional relationships among successful candidates. The case of the electoral system of Baden-Württemberg, a German Land, illustrates how minor technical differences (compared to the federal electoral laws) create a whole new set of incentives for candidates, incumbents, party functionaries, and parliamentary parties. The specific combination of majority and proportional voting in Baden-Württemberg substantially „de-powers“ the party outside and the party inside parliament, i.e. they lose influence on candidate recruitment. At the same time, local candidates can act more independently from their party leaders and are bound to a higher degree to the will of the electoarte than known from members of the Bundestag.This is mainly caused by the lack of a split ticket option (you only vote for a candidate, not for a party list in a second vote) as well as by the regionalized mode of seat allocation according to the absolute number of votes cast for an individual candidate. Thus, competition within the regional group of the same party’s candidates is enormously intensified, and the party caucus is virtually deprived of its tools to influence the recruitment of candidates. (ZParl, vol. 35, No. 2, pp. 288 – 294)
Lang, Joachim: Are Members of the Bundesrat Bound by Rules of Procedure of the Bundestag Concerning Sanctions for the Maintenance of Order?
According to Article 43 II of the Basic Law the members of the Bundesrat as well as their representatives may attend all sessions of the Bundestag and its committees. They shall have the right to be heard at any time. In 2002, the former Senator of the Interior in Hamburg, Ronald Schill, in this capacity member of the Bundesrat, exceeded the given time for his speech. After several calls by the Speaker of the Bundestag (which Schill answered by insulting her), the Speaker demanded him to stop speaking. The question arises whether this sanction (for the maintenance of order) is compatible with the rights stipulated in the Basic Law. Looking at the relation between these legal regulations one can conclude that the Speaker was entitled to end the abuse of the right to speak in the Bundestag by turning off the microphone. (ZParl, vol. 35, No. 2, pp. 295 – 305)
Edinger, Florian: No Information about Hamburg’s Senator of the Interior Being Armed? A Questionable Decision of Hamburg’s Constitutional Court from May 4, 2003.
When rumours occurred that Hamburg’s Senator of the Interior was carrying a handgun, a member of the state legislature tabled a question to the government, asking whether this was true and if so, whether it was legal. The government refused to answer. Although the State Constitution compels the government to reply to parliamentary questions, the Constitutional Court ruled that the refusal was in line with the constitution because the disclosure of security details would endanger the Minister’s safety. This decision is questionable because it neglects the parliamentary function of exercising control of the government. The answer could have been given, for example, in a confidential committee meeting. In this case the security interests of the government and the need for parliamentary control would both have been respected. Indeed, questions about the legality of Ministers wearing weapons could even have been answered in public. A general reply would not have had to disclose whether the Senator actually wore a weapon nor any information about other security details. (ZParl, vol. 35, No. 2, pp. 305 – 310)
Bachmaier, Hermann: Boundaries for Criminal Investigation Agencies in Parliament. The Ruling of the Federal Constitutional Court from July 30, 2003.
Under Article 47 of the Basic Law, Members of the Bundestag (MdB) may refuse to give evidence concerning persons who have confided information to them in their capacity as members of Parliament, or to whom they have confided information in this capacity, as well as evidence concerning this information itself. To the extent that this right to refuse to give evidence applies, the seizure of documents is unlawful. The ruling of the Federal Constitutional Court was the first to examine fundamentally the scope of the ban on seizure. It was prompted by a search carried out by the Public Prosecutor’s Office in the office of a staff member who worked for an MdB and who was suspected of a crime. The Speaker of the Bundestag had authorised the search and seizure procedure, resulting from a court order, on the basis of article 40 of the Basic Law. The ruling of the Federal Constitutional Court overturned this court order and ruled that, if the Member was able to satisfy the court that the documents concerned had been entrusted to him in connection with his parliamentary work, they were protected from seizure. (ZParl, vol. 35, No. 2, pp. 310 – 314)
Reimer, Franz: Sustainability by Way of Suffrage? Constitutional Chances and Limitations to Voting Rights of Children.
According to some, children’s votes would lead to more justice across the generations as well as more sustainability in politics. Discussions about the constitutionality of children’s voting rights, however, usually remain on a very abstract level. Therefore it is first of all necessary to distinguish (genuine) votes for children, (genuine) votes for parents, and votes for parents as proxy-holders and trustees of their children. The draft of a possible example of the latter model (‘fiduciary model’) shows the difficulty. Legislation for this purpose would be unconstitutional by virtue of Article 38 of the Basic Law. However, an amendment to the constitution itself would only be limited by Article 79. With the stipulation that every custodial caretaker is able to make separate voting decisions for each of the votes assigned to him (rather than enforcing a single decision), a parental proxy voting would, with certain restrictions, be compatible with the democratic principles by Article 79 and could therefore be introduced – at least from a juridical point of view. (ZParl, vol. 35, No. 2, pp. 322 – 339)
Lösche, Peter: Do Electoral Systems Matter? Reflections with New Zealand’s New Electoral System as an Example.
New Zealand is a fascinating case for examining the relevance of electoral systems. In November 1993, the country shifted from a first-past-the-post to a mixed-member proportional (MMP) system. This represents the greatest change to New Zealand’s constitution in the 20th century. So far, the New Zealanders voted three times – in 1996, 1999 and 2002 – under the new rules which show some similarities to the German model. By examining the impact of proportional representation on the party system, the social and political heterogeneity of the parties in Parliament and the stability of cabinet government it can be illustrated that MMP has not caused but accelerated certain developments which had already been unfolding under the old system: the fragmentation of the party system; the consolidation of a multi-party system; increased representation of women and minorities (Maori, Pacific Islanders, Asians) in the legislature and the cabinet ; and coalition minority governments. (ZParl, vol. 35, No. 2, pp. 340 – 358)