This book offers an overview of the principal features of the German political
system. It emphasises four important characteristics of the system: the way in
which twentieth-century history shaped the post-Second World War political
system; the stability and adaptability of that system; the unusual importance
within the political system of legal rules; and the significance of
Germany's association with European integration. The book surveys the
Basic Law, designed in 1948-1949 as a direct response to the failure of
Germany's first experiment with democracy: the regime of the Weimar
Republic. The book describes the events of the fateful years 1989 and 1990,
which led to reunification, in three phases: the downfall of the old regime in
the German Democratic Republic; the period of adjustment and transition to a
democratic regime in Germany; and the process and consequences of reunification
itself. The book also examines the principal influences which have shaped the
present-day political system, the electoral system and electoral behaviour of
the Federal Republic, and the features of the 'party state'.
It reviews the structure, operation and political effects of Germany's
particular version of federalism and analyses the core institutions of
government. The structure and powers of the legislative chambers, the
legislative process, and the role of the elected representative are also
discussed. Finally, the book charts the path taken by West Germany to develop
links to 'Europe', and explores the ways in which membership
of what has become the European Union impinges upon the domestic politics of the
The study of German electoral politics has been neglected of late, despite being one of the most pervasive elements of the German political process. This book argues that concentration on electoral politics facilitates deeper understanding and appreciation of the German political system. It provides explanations and analysis of the federal electoral system, its evolution and the challenges that have been made to its format; discusses the role of electoral politics in relation to political parties and to the public; and the influence of second-order elections in the German political system. The book goes on to evaluate the effectiveness of the German electoral system in relation to its functions, and challenges the premise that electoral politics makes a difference in Germany. Ultimately, it aims to reconcile the apparently limited role that elections have in determining the composition of governments with the notion that there is a ‘permanent election campaign’ in existence in German politics.
The political system of the Federal Republic is sometimes described as
'chancellor democracy', because of the dominant role
occupied by the chancellor in that political system. This chapter surveys
the way in which the Basic Law provides the political instruments that
permit the chancellor to play such a dominant role. It examines the
constraints on the chancellor's political authority, such as those
associated with the necessity to form governing coalitions, and discusses
the roles of the cabinet and civil service, and other agencies within
government. Compared to the chancellor, and in contrast to the situation in
the Weimar Republic, the status of the federal president is very limited.
The chapter presents a review of the office of federal president as a
prelude to closer examination of that of federal chancellor. A detailed
consideration of the process of forming coalition governments is also
This chapter discusses German politics, determining that the best way to start analysing German politics is to study the electoral system. It then studies the concept of ‘electoral politics’ and takes a look at the political parties and the party system, also considering the relevance of electoral politics in the political system of Germany and the dynamic aspects of German electoral politics.
This chapter re-examines the development of the current electoral system. It takes note of some of the serious attempts that have been made to alter the basic features of the system, as well as the importance of electoral systems. From there, the discussion studies the three main features and two complicating factors of the German electoral system, as well as the importance of formerly neglected details in recent Bundestag elections, such as excess seats. Finally, the chapter discusses features of the electoral system that were reviewed by the Constitutional Court in 1997.
This chapter takes a look at three aspects of party participation in electoral politics, the first of which is the legislative and constitutional context where the parties exist, shape their organisation and conduct their activities. The second aspect is the candidate selection for both Land party lists and single-member constituencies, while the third is campaign organisation and planning. The chapter concludes with a detailed discussion of the various facets of campaign strategy that a political party must consider.
This chapter discusses the role of the public in German electoral politics, starting with a section on the levels of non-participation and participation in electoral politics, which involves the public in many ways. It then presents an analysis of voting behaviour, such as choosing certain candidates or parties. The chapter then introduces the concepts of extremist voting, which is voting support for the extreme right, and split-voting, which is a special feature of German electoral behaviour. It concludes by determining the problems associated with the analysis of voting behaviour.
This chapter explores each Bundestag election campaign since 1949, looking at interesting and relevant features of the campaign, the operation of the electoral system and the result of the election. It analyses the election campaign in relation to the context in which it occurs, such as the state of the economy and the outcome of Land elections since the previous Bundestag election.
This chapter analyses the ‘second-order’ elections – which include the elections to local councils, to the European Parliament and to Land legislatures – and defines ‘second-order’ elections as elections that do not directly affect the passing of national legislation or the organisation of the national government. The discussion focuses on the inter-relationships between these ‘second-order’ elections and Bundestag elections, which emphasise the relevant differences in the various electoral systems that are used, and also takes a look at the effects such elections can have on national politics.
This chapter addresses the question of whether electoral politics matter or not. It studies the effectiveness of the German mixed-member electoral system and the relevance of an electoral politics system where governments rarely change as an immediate result of the Bundestag elections. The chapter identifies some of the controversial aspects of the ‘permanent election campaign’ in Germany and the neglected function of elections, as well as studying the support levels for the German political system.