Vatter, Adrian, Rahel Freiburghaus and Ladina Triaca: The German “Council Model“ versus the Swiss “Senate Model“ in light of transforming party systems: representation and legitimacy of second chambers compared.
There are two possible models for second chambers, which differ in terms of institutional arrangements and actor behaviour. In the German “Council Model“, Bundesrat members are appointed by subnational governments and they act as instructed agents of their Länder. Following the “Senate Model”, Swiss Councillors of States are chosen by direct popular elections and, once in parliament, they vote independently as voting instructions are banned by the Federal Constitution. However, both design options make it necessary for MPs to cope with a “Divided Government” (or: “Divided Parliament”). When it comes to passing important legislation, German MPs organize in “informal grand coalitions”, Swiss Councillors of States engage in flexible, variable ad hoc coalitions. Parties and party strategies are at the heart of both adaption strategies. But the recent transformation of party systems challenges those very strategies and influences the second chambers’ main principles (i.e. representation and legitimacy). Compared to the representation of territorial interests and despite fundamentally different institutional arrangements, party logic has recently been gaining importance in both systems. Moreover, the second chambers’ legitimacy depends both in Germany and in Switzerland on transparent decision-making. [ZParl, vol. 48 (2017), no. 4, pp. 741 – 763]
Renzsch, Wolfgang: From “fraternal” to “paternal” federalism: The new system of intergovernmental fiscal relations from 2020 onwards.
In Germany, the Bundestag and the Bundesrat have adopted a new system of intergovernmental fiscal relations from 2020 onwards that will considerably change the underlying federal structure. The shift from a “fraternal” to a “paternal” system is owed in particular to the abolition of the horizontal equalisation among the Länder (“Länderfinanzausgleich”) and its replacement by an equalisation of fiscal power (“Finanzkraftausgleich”) within the distribution of the revenues of the sales taxes between the federation and the Länder. Instead of a Länder alliance, the federation will take on the role of a “paternal” guardian. The new legislation indicates a shift in the federal balance resulting in the federation taking over the sole responsibility for the construction of motorways and federal authorities gaining new powers in controlling the use of federal funds by the Länder. These shifts will replace the idea of a balance between the federation and the Länder by a dominance of the federation. [ZParl, vol. 48 (2017), no. 4, pp. 764 – 772]
Finke, Patrick and Antonios Souris: Are party politics in the German Bundesrat turning more commonplace? Introducing a novel dataset on its committee votes.
A caveat for any analysis dealing with party politics in the German Bundesrat has been the largely missing documentation of individual votes of federal states’ governments in the plenary sessions. By focusing on accessible, well-documented individual votes in Bundesrat committees this deficit can be overcome. A novel dataset allows for systematic, long-term investigations on how the federal states voted in the committees, and thereby on the influence of party politics. The data from the committees on economic and on environmental affairs show that party politics influence decision-making in both committees, yet that their impact varies. Moreover, the extent to which party politics influence committee decisions differs over time and by which coalition is ruling at the national level. The first empirical results indicate that while the dataset introduces a new approach to study party politics in the Bundesrat, it prompts new questions relating to the ways in which federal state governments and hence parties make use of the Bundesrat and its committees as an arena of political competition. [ZParl, vol. 48 (2017), no. 4, pp. 773 – 784]
Kempf, Udo: The French presidential elections on April 23 and May 7, 2017 in the shadow of terror.
None of the past presidential elections of the Fifth Republic has been shaped by such peculiarities as the last one. For one, President François Hollande did not run for a second term because of poor survey data. For another, the primary elections of the catch-all parties surprisingly produced only “second rank” candidates, Benoît Hamon for the Socialists and François Fillon for the Republicans. While Hamon could not even find the support among his own fellow party members due to his utopian programmatic positions, Fillon was deeply entangled in a swamp of affairs. As a result only the right populist Marine Le Pen and the independent candidate and shooting star Emmanuel Macron qualified for the run-off elections on May 7, 2017. The social liberal Macron had built a new movement out of nothing and thereby offered an alternative to the right-left dominated party state. For the first time neither a Socialist nor a Republican candidate were on the run-off ballot. Despite a high share of abstentions, Macron’s Social-Liberal and pro-European program convinced the majority of voters. About a third voted for the anti-European right-wing extremist Le Pen, who argued protectionist and state interventionist. This enabled her to double her voter share and establish her party nationwide. [ZParl, vol. 48 (2017), no. 4, pp. 785 – 804]
Kimmel, Adolf: The French parliamentary elections on June 11 and June 18, 2017: the end of bipolarity and the beginning of a profound change?
Before the French parliamentary elections in 2017, a pattern that had become expected since 2002 seemed endangered. Since the early 2000s, presidents had always managed to gain a majority at the parliamentary elections held shortly after their own election. Holding a majority in parliament is of great importance for the president in order to be able to enforce his governmental program. Keeping with this pattern seemed highly unlikely in 2017 since President Emmanuel Macron’s party La Republique en Marche (LRM) had only been founded a few months before the elections and was not really rooted in society. Seven parties are now represented in parliament, with – against all odds – Macron’s LRM holding the majority of seats and the conservative Republicans (LR) being the strongest opposition party. In a landslide loss, the formerly strongest party in parliament, the Socialist PS, lost 250 of 280 seats; the right populist Front National failed to reach parliamentary party status, despite its good presidential election result. The Assemblée Nationale, formerly characterised by a left-right antagonism can no longer be described along that cleavage. Whether the parliamentary reform announced by President Macron will pass and whether it will invigorate parliament remains to be seen. Regardless of that outcome, the president’s position will remain the dominant one. [ZParl, vol. 48 (2017), no. 4, pp. 805 – 823]
Sturm, Roland: Prime Minister May organizes her self-defeat. The British Parliamentary Elections of June 8, 2017.
The June 2017 British Parliamentary Election was meant to strengthen the hand of Prime Minister Theresa May in the Brexit negotiations. The opposite was the case. The Conservatives, who lost their parliamentary majority, now depend on the support of Northern Ireland’s DUP to survive in office. Not only did May’s opponents in her own party gain strength but contrary to the expectations, the Labour Party won more support, too. The smaller parties, however, were also among the losers of this election. The Liberal Democrats did not benefit from their anti-Brexit stance; the Scottish Nationalists SNP lost a considerable share of their parliament seats; UKIP, after the Brexit decision in the 2016 referendum, had forfeited its raison d’etre and failed to present a new convincing manifesto topic. That early elections were possible was owed alone to the fact that none of the parties represented in parliament was against holding them, even though the Fixed-term Parliaments Act enacted in 2011 rules out this option. [ZParl, vol. 48 (2017), no. 4, pp. 824 – 837]
Peterlini, Oskar: Italy – a move towards a majority democracy? Constitutional reforms, lectoral laws and constitutional court rulings.
In Italy the 1948 post-war constitution was inspired by a great democratic and social mission. But the establishment of the state was more centralistic. Power in Rome was shared by a multitude of parties centred around the Democrazia Cristiana (DC). Together with the purely proportional electoral system, this was a consensual democracy, albeit partly hidden. In 2001, the constitution was profoundly reformed. The regions were strengthened as legislative bodies, the state powers more vertically divided and the consensus extended to several governmental levels. Although not all changes had fully been put into place, the wind soon turned. After an unsuccessful attempt by Berlusconi in 2005, the Renzi government pushed through a constitutional reform project, which pointed in the opposite direction. The Italian state apparatus was to become more efficient, the power concentrated again in Rome and in a single political chamber. A new electoral system is meant to guarantee the majority for a single party. Both plans failed, the constitutional reform 2016 in a referendum, the electoral law Italicum in essential points by a ruling of the Constitutional Court. The general course, however, seems to be set. [ZParl, vol. 48 (2017), no. 4, pp. 838 – 860]
Adorf, Philip: Hostile takeover or continuation of a tried and tested approach? An analysis of Donald Trump’s victory within the context of the Republican Party’s transformation.
Donald Trump’s victory in the 2016 presidential election may have taken many analysts and even scholars by surprise. Taking on the entirety of the Republican establishment, the real estate billionaire nonetheless managed to secure his party’s nomination with a relatively comfortable majority. His victory did not come out of the blue though. Indeed, it is the result of a decades’ long strategic path pursued by the Republican Party and many of its leading officials. Trump was able to build on the success of previous generations of Republican politicians in their endeavour to bring racially resentful working-class whites into the party. This segment of the population saw President Obama’s time in office as additional evidence of the degradation of their own social status. It was on the backs of these voters in particular that Trump not only won the Republican primaries but was also able to secure over 300 electoral votes and conquer states that had voted Democratic for decades. [ZParl, vol. 48 (2017), no. 4, pp. 861 – 882]
Oswald, Michael: The Tea Party: How the Republican Party and the US-American conservatism were changed by a strategically developed movement.
In 2017, the Tea Party reached its goals when its ideology changed both American conservatism and the Republican Party. It also changed politics in Congress and in Donald Trump they found a president who implemented their deregulation goals. However, the Tea Party is anything but an organic civic movement – it seems to have been strategically developed by Action Groups, which implemented an ideology top down. In the end, the protest movement led to industrial magnates exerting an influence on politics like most lobbyists would never have dared to dream of. An ideological-strategic blueprint integrated the three largest sub-segments of the Republican clientele into one voice and generated anti-establishment resentments from all over the country. This voice has had an enormous impact on Washington D.C. and the Tea Party has continuously opposed all established policies and compromises. The result is today’s rigid and extreme conservative stance and deregulation. [ZParl, vol. 48 (2017), no. 4, pp. 882 – 898]
Schmedes, Hans-Jörg: Governing in a semi-sovereign federal party state. Administrative and political co-ordination structures in German federalism in practice.
In Germany, the legislative process is characterized by a balance of interests between the federation and the Länder as well as between the – potentially incongruent – political majorities at both state levels. It is in particular the Bundesrat that embodies the opposed relationship between parliamentary competition and federal negotiation. At the same time, the Bundesrat constitutes a key component of the mutual entanglement and balance of state power. Federal co-operation between the federation and the Länder interferes with both the structures and the principles of party competition. As a result of Germany’s highly integrated and centralized party system as well as of the party composition of the Bundesrat, there are many interdependencies between the behaviour of the Länder governments in the Bundesrat and the party competition at the federal and the Länder level. The opposed relationship between the logic of federal negotiation and the logic of party competition is clearly reflected in the Bundesrat’s decision-making processes, which are characterized by the interlocking of formal administrative and informal political co-ordination structures. To a considerable extent, the German party system is attributed influence in developing consensus-democratic practices, especially in times of divergent political majorities between the Bundestag and the Bundesrat. [ZParl, vol. 48 (2017), no. 4, pp. 899 – 921]