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
is to be decided by the Federal Constitutional Court.
Details are provided in federal legislation.
Source: Deutsche Bundestag, 2010, p. 25.
Together, Article 21 and the Party Law of 1967 provide an unusually explicit legal context within which Germanpolitical parties must act. Few other West European democracies possess either such constitutional or legal regulation of parties. This context conveys privileges. 2 However, it also conveys responsibilities, and, in doing so, reinforces ‘party government’ in Germany, since parties can point to this legal
Berlin took place.
The easiest task was political integration. The party system remained relatively unchanged from that which already existed in the Federal Republic. The Bundestag election in December 1990 had shown that the only party from the GDR which had any chance of winning seats was the PDS: and it obtained seats in that election only because of the special, one-time-only rule whereby parties need win 5 per cent in either West Germany or East Germany to qualify for a proportional distribution of seats (see Chapter 4 ). Otherwise East Germanpolitical
the west. However, the relationship between Germany and Europe requires exploration in a textbook on Germanpolitics for three reasons. Post-war Germany was very much affected by its relationship with the rest of Europe, and the relationship between Germany and the EU in particular ‘has been at the core of Germany’s post-war development’ (Hough and Kirchner, 2010 , p. 5). Even the reunification of Germany was affected by – and perhaps only came about because of – the reassurance by Chancellor Kohl that an enlarged Germany would be a Europeanised Germany. Second
population of Europe. This material, this political, but especially this moral legacy of the war is the single most important factor which explains the historical course of politics in occupied, in divided and then in reunified Germany. It accounts for many of the special features of the institutions and processes of Germanpolitics in the Federal Republic, and for the difficulty which the Federal Republic itself and its neighbours have had with the achievement of the status of a ‘normal’ democracy in the Federal Republic, normal in the way that the democracies of France
the 1970s, there were suggestions that an Associations Law to regulate interest groups, similar to the Party Law which regulates political parties, should perhaps be introduced, but, apart from anything else, there are difficult problems of defining interest groups in such a way as to make them subject to a common set of rules and procedures.
Other commentators are concerned about the trend towards corporatism in the Germanpolitical process, such as led in anti-smoking regulations to a trend towards self-regulation by the industry (Grüning et al., 2008, p. 144
, nevertheless have been important in their own right, demonstrating that the constitution itself is supreme law within the Germanpolitical system, and affecting the rights of individuals, the scope of authority of institutions and the social and moral basis of the state. Here, too, a selection of such topics and cases is provided in Appendix I .
The Constitutional Court is organised into two senates, each responsible for particular types of cases which might come before the Court. In this way, it can handle more cases than if it were required to meet (as does the US
located east or west of the former German–German border. Such different patterns of interests find expression, for instance, in the way the Länder vote in the Bundesrat.
Nevertheless the system works, and, in many respects, works well. The existence of a Land level of politics and government may be a complicating and at times frustrating factor in the Germanpolitical system, but it is undoubtedly also a reinforcement of democracy.
1 Prussia was not revived as an administrative unit after the war (and anyway its former territory was then divided between
election day, and other surveys found very similar responses (Neu, 2012 , p. 158). 17 This volatility, combined with a party system with four or five significant parties, makes it less likely that voter preferences will be reflected in the choice of governing coalition (Poguntke, 2011 , pp. 223–4).
So electoral politics, and the electoral system, matter to the operation of the Germanpolitical system. The electoral system seems to have contributed to the stability, but also to the flexibility, of democratic politics in Germany. The fact that other electoral systems
their term of office, and many continue to hold high office within their parties even while serving as officers of the Bundestag, as did Thierse, for example, within the SPD during his period as Bundestag president.
A large part of the legislative activity of the Bundestag takes place in committees, which one leading Germanpolitical scientist has referred to as ‘the centre of decision-making’ (von Beyme, 2000 , p. 34). About 60 per cent of bills undergo change at the committee stage (Mickler, 2013 , p. 424). These committees are of various sizes, with membership