Abstracts 4/2005 englisch

Schmidt-Jortzig, Edzard: Procedural questions for the reform of federalism. Lessons from its preliminary failure.
After the failure of reforming the German system of federalism, lessons should be drawn from it. Special attention needs to be given to the organization form and even more so to the procedure. Since the commission form used in the 2003 and 2004 round did not prove successful a different setting should be employed for the next reform attempt. However, independent from the setting, reforming Germany’s federal system cannot be accomplished in a single round but will take a number of individual steps. [ZParl, vol. 36, no. 4, pp. 731 – 740]

Benz, Stefan: Active participation, conflictual interests. An analysis of the letters and statements sent to the Commission on Modernizing Federalism.
The Commission on Modernizing Federalism received several letters and statements from associations and individuals. They dealt with the principle of federalism in general but also with specific topics of the reform agenda, in particular the legislative competences on national and state levels. It is remarkable how conflictual these demands were: several letters argued in favour of a general strengthening of the Länder and local governments whereas others strongly preferred the centralisation of specific legislative competences. In general, it can be stated that associations tend to prefer the status quo, whereas far-reaching reform proposals are regarded with scepticism. [ZParl, vol. 36, no. 4, pp. 741 – 747]

Ernst, Christian and Lars Johnsen: Rule of equal representation or rule of majority? The allocation of Bundestag seats in the mediation committee – seen from perspectives of the sciences of law and politics.
On December 8, 2004 the German Federal Constitutional Court decided that the Bundestag’s resolution of October 30, 2002 was unconstitutional. This resolution originally introduced a correction factor for the benefit of the strongest parliamentary party if the common procedures of allocation led to a stalemate between government and opposition parliamentary party groups when trying to allocate the Bundestag seats in the mediation committee. For finding an appropriate solution for such a constitutional problem, it is necessary to apply the two academic disciplines of law and political science at the same time and to relate them to each other. Both disciplines depend on each other thematically anyhow, in particular in regards to parliamentary law and parliamentary decision processes. When applying such an interdisciplinary approach the representation of the parliamentary majority of the Bundestag in the mediation committee becomes a legitimate intention and the introduction of a correction factor aiming towards that intention is consistent with existing constitutional principles. [ZParl, vol. 36, no. 4, pp. 748 – 763]

Pukelsheim, Friedrich
and Sebastian Maier: A gentle majority clause for allocating committee seats.
In order to generally map a government majority of the Bundestag into a seat majority in a committee, the divisor method with standard rounding (Webster/Sainte-Laguë) is complemented by a gentle majority clause. The clause is activated only if otherwise a tie would emerge, and preserves proportionality separately both within the government majority and within the opposition minority. With increasing committee sizes, the resulting seat apportionments turn out to be free of the Alabama paradox. The gentle majority clause is contrasted with other majority preserving apportionment schemes. [ZParl, vol. 36, no. 4, pp. 763 – 772]

Seils, Eric:
Budgetary policy: An international comparison of actors and institutions of Germany’s parliamentary system.
The recent literature on budgetary policy increasingly emphasizes the importance of the common pool resource (CPR) problem of public budgets. It is based on the simple idea that the benefits of public spending concentrate on some clientele while the costs are distributed among all tax payers. Ministers and parties will therefore make higher claims on the budget than can be reconciled with the common good. Unwarranted expenditure increases can only be avoided by institutions that restrict access to the budget. In order to assess the extent of the CPR problem and the institutional arrangements in Germany, the number of ministers in cabinet, of parties in parliament and the institutions of the budget process are compared with 13 other parliamentary democracies. It becomes apparent that Germany combines an average CPR problem with relatively strong budget institutions. [ZParl, vol. 36, no. 4, pp. 773 – 790]

Schöne, Helmar:
The staff of parliamentary party groups: Tasks, careers and role orientations.
The staff of parliamentary party groups plays a particular role in the parliamentary process of Germany’s legislatures. The question arises if they influence political decisions or if they mostly fulfill administrative tasks. In order to answer this question, two different staff positions are examined more closely: heads of administration of the parliamentary party groups and assistants of parliamentary party working groups (Arbeitskreise). As a result one can say that the principal administrator of a parliamentary party group is an important manager of the decision-making process in his parliamentary party and a close consultant of the floor leaders. He coordinates decision-making in the parliamentary party group as well as between the parties. Compared to him, an assistant of a parliamentary party working group is an expert for particular policy fields. He organizes the meetings of issue-related working groups and supports their members and, in particular, their speaker. Because of their know-how, assistants influence agenda settings and opinion-forming in respect to topics and bills relevant to their working groups. Both, the principal administrators and the assistants, strengthen the power of leadership positions versus backbenchers. [ZParl, vol. 36, no. 4, pp. 791 – 808]

Lee, Eun-Jeung: The internet and the development of an alternative public: Political mobilisation in Korea between 2000 and 2004.

The internet has become the “fifth power” in Korea and is successful in competing against the print media, the traditional gatekeepers. Thus, an alternative public has emerged, inducing a transformation of democracy itself. To a rather high degree, public discourse is now taking place online. This kind of public discourse has also led to very important offline activities, for example when president Roh Moo Hyunreceived a vote of non-confidence. As a result, the preponderance of the three large conservative newspapers, of professional journalists and of the political elites was significantly reduced. Public opinion formation is now based on millions of active net-citizens. Korea is moving rapidly from an often criticized delegative to a deliberative democracy. The recent Korean experience shows that the internet can play a positive role in democratic transformation and might help to consolidate democracy. In this sense, Korea may have set an interesting example for other countries in the area and elsewhere in the world. [ZParl, vol. 36, no. 4, pp. 808 – 823]

Lindner, Ralf: Reducing democratic deficits through internet communication? The example of parties and interest groups in Canada.

Communication activities of intermediary organisations can be grouped into three interdependent areas: organization, intermediation of interests and social integration. In order to get a deeper understanding of the transformative potential of the increased application of information and communication technologies in political communication, the net-based strategies of eight Canadian political parties and interest groups were systematically analysed in these three areas. The findings show that cost reduction and efficiency were important driving factors for the adoption of information and communication technologies applications in all case studies. Significant differences can be identified with regard to the organisations’ approaches to providing policy information, communication possibilities and participation opportunities. Since the observed patterns of utilizing information and communication technologies largely correlate with the respective ideological camps, the normative and cognitive factors appear to play a – so far underestimated – role in explaining the specific approaches of political actors to use information and communication technologies for their purposes. [ZParl, vol. 36, no. 4, pp. 823 – 838]

Schmitt-Beck, RüdigerFrank SchwarzCyrus Abbaszadehand Stephan Winter:Electoral communication on the internet. Exploring the usage of web-based non-partisan information resources in connection with the European Election 2004.
Analysing data from surveys and log files of the “WählerInformationsSystem (Voter Information System)” for the election of the European Parliament in 2004, it is explored how German voters use non-partisan information resources on the internet. Although internet access has spread enormously in recent years, attention to political web sites is still a clear minority phenomenon. Only a tiny “electronic information elite” makes use of the vast amount of web-based political information which nowadays is available in order to cast comprehensively informed votes. Members of this “information elite” are highly educated and belong to younger age groups but they are also highly politicized and partisan. Usage of web-based information resources is demand-driven rather than supply-driven. Accordingly, information costs are so high that only few voters are willing to carry them. Most voters instead prefer the pre-selected and pre-structured information menus provided by traditional media and the parties. [ZParl, vol. 36, no. 4, pp. 839 – 853]

Gärditz, Klaus Ferdinand: The system of legal protection of Germany’s Federal Parliamentary Investigative Committee Act.
Before the Federal Parliamentary Investigative Committee Act (Parlamentarisches Untersuchungsausschussgesetz) came into effect in 2001, Germany’s federal law had lacked a coherent and comprehensive system of remedies with regard to parliamentary enquiries. In discussing the procedural law of the act and the competences of the different courts, it is evident that the new act concentrates and systemizes existing remedies and establishes new ones. The Federal Constitutional Court is still responsible for body claims (Organstreitverfahren) between the highest state institutions, e. g. like the Federal Parliament, the Federal Government, or their partially independent sub-bodies. The Constitutional Court alone has the authority, too, to decline the establishment of a parliamentary committee. Furthermore, the act establishes independent rights and remedies of political minorities in a committee. The Federal Supreme Court of Justice (Bundesgerichtshof) is competent to make decisions on the legality of special investigative measures. Finally, some legal disputes, especially those between citizens and ‘lower’ administrative bodies, are within the competence of the decentralized administrative justice. [ZParl, vol. 36, no. 4, pp. 854 – 875]

Wolf, George Alexander:
Improving disclosure liabilities in parliamentary investigative committees.
During evidence hearings in front of the investigative committees of the 14th Bundestag nearly every fifth witness refused to give evidence. They referred to constitutional law which grants this right in case of parallel investigations through criminal justice. The efficiency of inquiries through parliamentary investigative committees suffered severe damage due to this restriction. During the debates on the Federal Parliamentary Investigative Committee Act (Parlamentarisches Untersuchungsausschussgesetz) it was debated whether to formulate the bill in a way that would enable the investigative committees to work more effectively. Such an act of parliament had been demanded for decades. Eventually it was passed on April 6, 2001. The passing of the bill is a remarkable success and shows the ability of parliament to compromise. However, the question remains whether it could be possible to find a way to design a more effective duty of disclosure that would (1) respect both the right of the witnesses and of the committee and (2) would take both the regulation given by German constitutional law and the experiments in the United States with “use immunity”-regulations into consideration. [ZParl, vol. 36, no. 4, pp. 876 – 887]

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