Abstracts 1/2006 englisch

Edinger, Florian: Who mistrusts whom? The decision of the German Federal Constitutional Court on the vote of confidence and the dissolution of the Bundestag 2005 – 2 BvE 4/05 and 7/05.
The German Federal Constitutional Court confirmed the constitutionality of the vote of confidence and the dissolution of the Bundestag in 2005. This ruling is in line with the 1983 reasoning in respect to Helmut Kohl’s vote of confidence. Although the 2005 ruling is more thoroughly argued than its precedent, the decision remains questionable: It favors the political staging of the chancellor’s loss of confidence between the chancellor and his majority. Furthermore, it does not effectively examine the conditions it laid down itself. At least, the court leaves the possibility open to act itself should the dissolution of the Bundestag by using article 68 of the Basic Law only serve to bring about new elections at a date favorable for the chancellor but unfavorable for the opposition. [ZParl, vol. 37, no. 1, pp. 28 – 39]

Niclauß, Karlheinz: Dissolution or self-dissolution? Annotations on the constitutional debate after the vote of confidence 2005.
The way the general election in Germany came about in 2005 aroused considerable controversy in the media and among experts on constitutional law. Finally, the Federal Constitutional Court decided that the election of the Bundestag could take place. Once the election campaign had started, the debate about the rules for dissolving the German parliament ceased. The only upshot of the discussion was the intention – uttered by many politicians – to add the Bundestag´s right of self-dissolution to the constitution. Self-dissolution, however, is not without risks and may even prolong governmental crises. The juridical and psychological problems of the vote of confidence could rather be solved by supplementing article 68 of the Basic Law. A new article 68a should enable the Chancellor to ask directly for the dissolution of parliament. Thus, the members of the Bundestag would no longer be urged to give a dishonest answer to a question both incorrect and wrong. [ZParl, vol. 37, no. 1, pp. 40 – 46]

Schmitt, Karl: Church membership amongst MPs in the new Länder after the system collapse of 1989/1990.
The proportion of East German representatives in the state parliaments as well as in the Bundestag who are church members contrasts sharply with the proportion of Christians in the population at large. A two-thirds majority of MPs are Protestants or Catholics, while only 25 percent of the East German population are followers of the Christian faith. Above and beyond church membership, surveys show that a high number of MPs found their way into politics via their church activities. The massive over-representation of Christians in political positions is not the result of a well-prepared attempt by the churches to reach out and grab power, rather an unintended side-effect of the conflict with party and state that was forced upon the churches during the GDR-era. The fact that an independent elite developed outside the ruling elite of the party cadres proved beneficial for the founding of a new, democratic system: After the collapse of the party dictatorship, a large reservoir of qualified leadership personnel was ready to be recruited. [ZParl, vol. 37, no. 1, pp. 47 – 63]

Best, Heinrich und Stefan Jahr: Politics as an awkward employment: Myth and reality of the social figure of the professional politician in reunited Germany.
The social figure of the professional politician describes a politician who makes a living from politics and is caught between democratization and professionalization. Career structure and interview data of German Members of the European Parliament, Members of the Bundestag and of selected parliaments at state level (Länder) since reunification 1990 make clear that politics can be depicted as an awkward employment. It cannot be characterized as profession from a profession-sociological view. It is rather unsafe, episodic, and vague in its field of profession, its necessary qualifications and in its career developments. Also it is true that despite comparable institutional frame conditions the profession follows different career logics in East and West Germany. [ZParl, vol. 37, no. 1, pp. 63 – 79]

Geißel, Brigitte: (Un-)Loved professionals? – Frustration with politicians and political professionalism. Data from the local level.
Little is known about the relationship between political professionalism and citizens’ political contentment. Are citizens more critical when politicians are more professional? Or does criticism of the citizens disappear when the political elite becomes more professional? Data from six municipalities in Germany indicate that professionalism of local politicians hardly influences citizens’ satisfaction with this elite. Furthermore, it can be shown that the relation between contentment with politicians and socio-demographic factors is rather minimal, whereas there is a clear relation between contentment with politicians and the perception of politicians’ accomplishments. [ZParl, vol. 37, no. 1, pp. 80 – 96]

Westle, Bettina: “Suffrage from birth on” – rescue of democracy or wrong track?

Members of the Bundestag brought forward a joint motion that advocates the introduction of a “suffrage by birth”, i.e. an expansion of suffrage, including children, by establishing a representative parent-suffrage (allowing parents to vote additionally in the name of their children). The pros and cons about the motion can be critically assessed with regard to their appropriateness and logic of argumentation. Firstly, there are arguments linked to a better policy-output of elections with representative parent-suffrage. Secondly, it is debatable whether certain necessities of a parent-suffrage would conform to central principles of electoral law like generality, equality, and strict personality. Thirdly, when comparing relevant political orientations of parents and childless people it becomes apparent that there are no strong signs that parents of under-aged children act with more political responsibility and that they actually really vote differently. All in all, justice and equality appear as mutually dependent basic principles of democratic franchise. [ZParl, vol. 37, no. 1, pp. 96 – 114]

Tiefenbach, Paul: Cumulating, cross-voting, multi seat constituencies – more democracy in electoral law?
In many states of Germany (Länder), voters can cumulate and cross-vote in local elections. That means that they have several votes to distribute amongst parties and candidates. The experiences with these voting systems are quite positive. Many voters use the possibilities which the voting system offers – in small villages up to 90 per cent. Although the voting systems are quite complicated the number of invalid votes increases only slightly. Female candidates have disadvantages in small communities but in cities they normally win more personal votes than competing men. In addition, there are no significant changes in the voter turnout. [ZParl, vol. 37, no. 1, pp. 115 – 125]

Schmitt, Karl: The election of the Thuringian State Parliament of June 13, 2004: Felicitous confirmation of a successful change-over.
The primary question of the fourth Thuringian State Parliament election was whether the CDU would be able to defend its dominant party role, which it had achieved successfully under the leadership of the then Prime Minister Bernhard Vogel, while being led by his successor, Dieter Althaus. The election results confirmed the existing political situation, albeit with some changes and with a narrowed majority margin for the CDU. Despite great losses, the CDU achieved again an absolute majority of the seats, this time with only 43 percent of the votes. The SPD experienced yet another debacle and, with 14.5 percent, a new low. In contrast, the PDS could raise its percentage of the votes to 26 percent, thereby relegating the SPD to third place even more clearly than in 1999. The Greens and the FDP again failed to reach the five-percent minimum of votes required in order to gain seats. A crucial deciding factor was the constellation of the top candidates. The popularity of the new Prime Minister Althaus could not be matched by his competitors. As the election date took place in the middle of the legislative period of the Bundestag, the federal political climate hurt the SPD and helped the CDU, as had been the case in 1999. [ZParl, vol. 37, no. 1, pp. 126 – 144]

Saretzki, Thomas
and Ralf Tils: The election of the Schleswig-Holstein State Parliament of February 20, 2005: Secret denial of support for Prime Minister Heide Simonis enforces grand coalition.
The election of the state parliament in February 2005 led Schleswig-Holstein into turbulent weeks of contested government formation. In spite of their popular Prime Minister, the Social Democrats (SPD) had to pocket heavy losses, while the Christian Democrats (CDU) became the strongest party. As the Liberals (FDP) lost one percentage point, CDU and FDP failed to get the majority needed to form the coalition they were striving for. On the other hand, the SPD and the Greens could build a government only with the help of the SSW, a party representing Danish and Frisian minorities in Schleswig-Holstein. When the SSW declared its willingness to support a minority government of SPD und the Greens, it faced strong warnings from Christian Democrats and Liberals. The latter sometimes even denied SSW MPs the right to take part in forming the government at all. In spite of such campaigns, SPD, the Greens and SSW negotiated a government program. Although the three parties had a one seat-majority in the state parliament, one MP did not cast his vote in the secret election of Heide Simonis as Prime Minister, thus forcing her party to join a grand coalition with the CDU under Peter Harry Carstensen. In retrospect, the post-electoral politics of Schleswig-Holstein appears as a first step on the way towards the early election of the Bundestag in autumn 2005. [ZParl, vol. 37, no. 1, pp. 145 – 163]

Feist, Ursula and Hans-Jürgen Hoffmann: The election of the North Rhine-Westphalian State Parliament of May 22, 2005: Black-yellow takes over from red-green.
At the election of the state parliament in North Rhine-Westphalia, the last red-green government on state (Länder) level fought for its survival. Under the impression of a double trend – nation-wide severe criticism of the poor political performance in Berlin and, state-wide, a “time-for-a-change” mood – CDU and FDP managed to mobilize the expected majority with their campaigns. The fact that the total number of voters increased considerably helped the CDU penetrating into segments previously closer to the SPD, i.e. into the camps of younger to middle-aged voters and workers. At the same time, traditional CDU voters – the self-employed, Catholics, the older generation – remained loyal and supported the CDU’s main candidateJürgen Rüttgers. Although he was not as popular as Prime Minister Peer Steinbrück, he managed successfully to associate his program and rhetoric with the Christian-social roots of his party and thus gained the voters’ confidence. The SPD, having governed for 39 years in North Rhine-Westphalia, lost almost all trust in its problem-solving competence and therefore its former dominant position to the CDU. Within the Christian-liberal electorate the CDU attracted most votes thus compensating for the great losses of the FDP, which, ranging even behind the Greens, were held responsible for the trouble around their former leader Jürgen W. Möllemann. [ZParl, vol. 37, no. 1, pp. 163 – 182]

Hilmer, Richard and Rita Müller-Hilmer: The election of the German Bundestag on September 18, 2005: A vote for change in continuity.
On September 18, 2005 the parties of the incumbent German government suffered considerable losses, the dissatisfaction with the second term of the red-green coalition had been too big. However, CDU/CSU and FDP also clearly missed the majority. Though the voters had confidence that these parties could promote economic development they did not trust them to solve the problems on the labor market. The far-reaching plans to reconstruct the social systems and the tax system raised serious doubts that the expected benefits from the longed for economic revival would be fairly distributed. The Social Democrats (SPD) were able to use these doubts for a successful mobilization of their voters in the final campaign period. Many voters who were strongly unsettled by the consequences of globalisation – especially workers and unemployed – did not trust the two big catch-all-parties but voted for the Left.PDS. Its gain finally resulted in a constellation where neither of the two political camps (neither CDU/CSU and FDP nor SPD and Greens) was able to achieve a majority. As a consequence the only sustainable majority turned out to be a grand coalition of CDU/CSU and SPD. In forcing such a coalition the voters did not rebuff further reforms. Instead their decision reflects that the majority is in favour of reforms within the existing system, as well as for retaining a society showing solidarity and for continuity in important social policy and foreign policy issues. Different from the two preceding national elections, political issues were clearly the focus in 2005 whereas the question who should be chancellor was less important. [ZParl, vol. 37, no. 1, pp. 183 – 218]

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