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Germany - GOVERNMENT
AS OF MID-1995, GERMANY was a country coming to terms with the recent unification of its western and eastern portions following four decades of Cold War division. Achieved in October 1990, German unification consisted, in effect, of the incorporation of the German Democratic Republic (GDR, or East Germany) into the Federal Republic of Germany (FRG, or West Germany). Thus, the unified country, rather than reflecting a mix of both states' systems, largely represented a continuation of the West German political and economic system. West German chancellor Helmut Kohl preferred this "fast track" to unification, outlined in Article 23 of the West German Basic Law, or constitution, because he feared that international circumstances might change and the chance for unification might be missed. The alternative path to unification, detailed in Article 146, would have required the replacement of the Basic Law with a constitution developed specifically for a unified Germany.
During the summer of 1990, the governments of the two German states drafted a 1,000-page treaty outlining the terms of political union. The document explained how the political structures and policies of West Germany would be extended to the east, how other institutions--such as the education system--would be coordinated, and which issues would be resolved later--for instance, abortion policy. The parliaments of both German states ratified the treaty, and the territory of East Germany joined the Federal Republic under Article 23 on October 3, 1990.
The West German system of government, outlined in the Basic Law, reflects in particular a desire to transcend the interwar period of democratic instability and dictatorship. A federal system of government, considered vital to a stable, constitutional democracy, was put in place as a direct response to lessons learned from the Nazis' misuse of centralized structures. After four years of Allied occupation, the FRG was established in 1949. The country attained sovereignty in 1955 when the Allies transferred responsibility for national security to the newly formed armed forces, the Bundeswehr.
Creating a climate of political stability was a primary goal of the authors of West Germany's Basic Law. Among other things, the Basic Law established the supremacy of political parties in the system of government. In the resulting "party state," all major government policies emanated from the organizational structure of the political parties. In the decades since 1949, West Germany's parties have tended toward the middle of the political spectrum, largely because both the historical experience with fascism and the existence of communist East Germany greatly diminished the appeal of either extreme. This reigning political consensus, challenged briefly in the late 1960s by the student protest movement and in the early 1980s by economic recession, has led many observers to judge the "Bonn model" a success. However, it remains an open question whether the legal, economic, and political structures of the past will serve the unified Germany as well in the future.
The framers of the Federal Republic of Germany's 1949 constitution sought to create safeguards against the emergence of either an overly fragmented, multiparty democracy, similar to the Weimar Republic (1918-33), or authoritarian institutions characteristic of the Nazi dictatorship of the Third Reich (1933-45). Thus, negative historical experience played a major role in shaping the constitution.
Articles 1 through 19 delineate basic rights that apply to all German citizens, including equality before the law; freedom of speech, assembly, the news media, and worship; freedom from discrimination based on race, gender, religion, or political beliefs; and the right to conscientious objection to compulsory military service. In reaction to the experience of the Third Reich, the framers of the Basic Law did, however, place limits on extremist political activities that might threaten to subvert the democratic political order. Article 18 states: "Whoever abuses freedom of expression of opinion, in particular freedom of the press, freedom of teaching, freedom of assembly, freedom of association, privacy of posts and telecommunications, property, or the right of asylum in order to combat the free democratic basic order, shall forfeit these basic rights." Article 18 was employed twice in the 1950s to ban political parties of the extreme right and left. Article 18 is seen as an essential component of a wehrhafte Demokratie --a democracy that can defend itself, unlike the Weimar Republic.
Article 20 states that "the Federal Republic of Germany is a democratic and social federal state." The word "social" has been commonly interpreted to mean that the state has the responsibility to provide for the basic social welfare of its citizens. The Basic Law, however, does not enumerate specific social duties of the state. Further, according to Article 20, "All state authority emanates from the people. It shall be exercised by the people by means of elections and voting and by specific legislative, executive, and judicial organs."
Most of the Basic Law's 146 articles describe the composition and functions of various organs of government, as well as the intricate system of checks and balances governing their interaction. Other major issues addressed in the Basic Law include the distribution of power between the federal government and the state (Land ; pl., Länder ) governments, the administration of federal laws, government finance, and government administration under emergency conditions. The Basic Law is virtually silent on economic matters; only Article 14 guarantees "property and the right of inheritance" and states that "expropriation shall be permitted only in the public weal."
Any amendment to the Basic Law must receive the support of at least two-thirds of the members in both federal legislative chambers--the Bundestag (Federal Diet or lower house) and the Bundesrat (Federal Council or upper house). Certain provisions of the Basic Law cannot be amended: those relating to the essential structures of federalism; the division of powers; the principles of democracy, social welfare, and fundamental rights; and the principle of state power based on law. Of the many amendments to the Basic Law, among the most notable are the "defense addenda" of 1954-56, which regulate the constitutional position of the armed forces, and the "Emergency Constitution" of 1968, which delineates wider executive powers in the case of an internal or external emergency.
Germany has a strong tradition of regional government dating back to the founding of the German Empire in 1871. Since unification in 1990, the Federal Republic has consisted of sixteen Länder : the ten Länder of the former West Germany, the five new Länder of the former East Germany, and Berlin. (However, Berlin and the eastern Land of Brandenburg are slated to merge in either 1999 or 2002.) The Land governments are based on a parliamentary system. Most Länder have unicameral legislatures, whose members are elected directly by popular vote. The party or coalition of parties in control of the legislature chooses a minister president to lead the Land government. The minister president selects a cabinet to run Land agencies and carry out the executive functions of the Land government. Minister presidents are highly visible national figures and often progress to federal office, either the chancellorship or a position in the federal cabinet.
The Basic Law divides authority between the federal government and the Länder , with the general principle governing relations articulated in Article 30: "The exercise of governmental powers and the discharge of governmental functions shall be incumbent on the Länder insofar as this Basic Law does not otherwise prescribe or permit." Thus, the federal government can exercise authority only in those areas specified in the Basic Law. The federal government is assigned a greater legislative role and the Land governments a greater administrative role. The fact that more civil servants are employed by Land governments than by federal and local governments combined illustrates the central administrative function of the Länder .
The Basic Law divides the federal government's legislative responsibilities into exclusive powers (Articles 71 and 73), concurrent powers (Articles 72, 74, and 74a), and framework powers (Article 75). The exclusive legislative jurisdiction of the federal government extends to defense, foreign affairs, immigration, transportation, communications, and currency standards. The federal and Land governments share concurrent powers in several areas, including civil law, refugee and expellee matters, public welfare, land management, consumer protection, public health, and the collection of vital statistics (data on births, deaths, and marriages). In the areas of mass media, nature conservation, regional planning, and public service regulations, framework legislation limits the federal government's role to offering general policy guidelines, which the Länder then act upon by means of detailed legislation. The areas of shared responsibility for the Länder and the federal government were enlarged by an amendment to the Basic Law in 1969 (Articles 91a and 91b), which calls for joint action in areas of broad social concern such as higher education, regional economic development, and agricultural reform.
All policy areas not assigned to federal jurisdiction are within the legislative purview of the Länder . These areas include education, law enforcement, regulation of radio and television, church affairs, and cultural activities. The Länder retain significant powers of taxation. Most federal taxes are collected by Land officials.
The Land governments also exercise power at the national level through the Bundesrat, which is made up of representatives appointed by the Land governments. In this way, the Länder affect the federal legislative process (see The Legislature, this ch.). Half of the members of the Federal Convention, which elects a federal president, are Land officials, and the Land governments also take part in the selection of judges for the federal courts.
The Basic Law creates a dual executive but grants most executive authority to the federal chancellor, as head of government, rather than to the president, who acts as head of state (see fig. 13). The presidency is primarily a ceremonial post, and its occupant represents the Federal Republic in international relations. In that sphere, the president's duties include signing treaties, representing Germany abroad, and receiving foreign dignitaries. In the domestic sphere, the president has largely ceremonial functions. Although this official signs legislation into law, grants pardons, and appoints federal judges, federal civil servants, and military officers, each of these actions requires the countersignature of the chancellor or the relevant cabinet minister. The president formally proposes to the Bundestag a chancellor candidate and formally appoints the chancellor's cabinet members, but the president follows the choice of the Bundestag in the first case and of the chancellor in the second. If the government loses a simple no-confidence vote, the president dissolves the Bundestag, but here, too, the Basic Law limits the president's ability to act independently. In the event of a national crisis, the emergency law reforms of 1968 designate the president as a mediator who can declare a state of emergency.
There is disagreement about whether the president, in fact, has greater powers than the above description would suggest. Some argue that nothing in the Basic Law suggests that a president must follow government directives. For instance, the president could refuse to sign legislation, thus vetoing it, or refuse to approve certain cabinet appointments. As of mid-1995, no president had ever taken such action, and thus the constitutionality of these points had never been tested.
The president is selected by secret ballot at a Federal Convention that includes all Bundestag members and an equal number of delegates chosen by the Land legislatures. This assemblage, which totals more than 1,000 people, is convened every five years. It may select a president for a second, but not a third, five-year term. The authors of the Basic Law preferred this indirect form of presidential election because they believed it would produce a head of state who was widely acceptable and insulated from popular pressure. Candidates for the presidency must be at least forty years old.
The Basic Law did not create an office of vice president. If the president is outside the country or if the position is vacant, the president of the Bundesrat fills in as the temporary head of state. If the president dies in office, a successor is elected within thirty days.
Usually one of the senior leaders of the largest party in the Bundestag, the president nonetheless is expected to be nonpartisan after assuming office. For example, President Richard von Weizsäcker, whose second term expired in June 1994, was the former Christian Democratic mayor of Berlin. Upon becoming president in 1984, he resigned from his party positions. Weizsäcker played a prominent role in urging Germans to come to terms with their actions during the Third Reich and in calling for greater tolerance toward foreigners in Germany as right-wing violence escalated in the early 1990s. Although the formal powers of the president are limited, the president's role can be quite significant depending on his or her own activities. Between 1949 and 1994, the Christian Democratic Union (Christlich Demokratische Union--CDU) held the office for twenty-five years, the Free Democratic Party (Freie Demo-kratische Partei--FDP) for fifteen, and the Social Democratic Party of Germany (Sozialdemokratische Partei Deutschlands--SPD) for five (see table 2, Appendix).
Elected by the Federal Convention in May 1994, Roman Herzog succeeded Weizsäcker as President on July 1, 1994. Previously president of the Federal Constitutional Court in Karls-ruhe, Germany's highest court, he was nominated for the presidency by the CDU and its sister party, the Christian Social Union (Christlich-Soziale Union--CSU).
The federal government consists of the chancellor and his or her cabinet ministers. As explained above, the Basic Law invests the chancellor with central executive authority. For that reason, some observers refer to the German political system as a "chancellor democracy." The chancellor's authority emanates from the provisions of the Basic Law and from his or her status as leader of the party or coalition of parties holding a majority of seats in the Bundestag. Every four years, after national elections and the seating of the newly elected Bundestag members, the federal president nominates a chancellor candidate to that parliamentary body; the chancellor is elected by majority vote in the Bundestag.
The Basic Law limits parliament's control over the chancellor and the cabinet. Unlike most parliamentary legislatures, the Bundestag cannot remove the chancellor simply with a vote of no-confidence. In the Weimar Republic, this procedure was abused by parties of both political extremes in order to oppose chancellors and undermine the democratic process. As a consequence, the Basic Law allows only for a "constructive vote of no-confidence." That is, the Bundestag can remove a chancellor only when it simultaneously agrees on a successor. This legislative mechanism ensures both an orderly transfer of power and an initial parliamentary majority in support of the new chancellor. The constructive no-confidence vote makes it harder to remove a chancellor because opponents of the chancellor not only must disagree with his or her governing but also must agree on a replacement.
As of 1995, the Bundestag had tried to pass a constructive no-confidence vote twice, but had succeeded only once. In 1972 the opposition parties tried to replace Chancellor Willy Brandt of the SPD with the CDU party leader because of profound disagreements over the government's policies toward Eastern Europe. The motion fell one vote shy of the necessary majority. In late 1982, the CDU convinced the FDP to leave its coalition with the SPD over differences on economic policy and to form a new government with the CDU and the CSU. The constructive no-confidence vote resulted in the replacement of Chancellor Helmut Schmidt with Helmut Kohl, the CDU party leader. Observers agree that the constructive no-confidence vote has increased political stability in Germany.
The chancellor also may make use of a second type of no-confidence vote to garner legislative support in the Bundestag. The chancellor can append a simple no-confidence provision to any government legislative proposal. If the Bundestag rejects the proposal, the chancellor may request that the president dissolve parliament and call new elections. Although not commonly used, this procedure enables the chancellor to gauge support in the Bundestag for the government and to increase pressure on the Bundestag to vote in favor of legislation that the government considers as critical. Furthermore, governments have employed this simple no-confidence motion as a means of bringing about early Bundestag elections. For example, after Kohl became chancellor through the constructive no-confidence vote in August 1982, his government purposely set out to lose a simple no-confidence provision in order to bring about new elections and give voters a chance to validate the new government through a democratic election.
Article 65 of the Basic Law sets forth three principles that define how the executive branch functions. First, the "chancellor principle" makes the chancellor responsible for all government policies. Any formal policy guidelines issued by the chancellor are legally binding directives that cabinet ministers must implement. Cabinet ministers are expected to introduce specific policies at the ministerial level that reflect the chancellor's broader guidelines. Second, the "principle of ministerial autonomy" entrusts each minister with the freedom to supervise departmental operations and prepare legislative proposals without cabinet interference so long as the minister's policies are consistent with the chancellor's larger guidelines. Third, the "cabinet principle" calls for disagreements between federal ministers over jurisdictional or budgetary matters to be settled by the cabinet.
The chancellor determines the composition of the cabinet. The federal president formally appoints and dismisses cabinet ministers, at the recommendation of the chancellor; no Bundestag approval is needed. According to the Basic Law, the chancellor may set the number of cabinet ministers and dictate their specific duties. Chancellor Ludwig Erhard had the largest cabinet, with twenty-two ministers, in the mid-1960s. Kohl presided over seventeen ministers at the start of his fourth term in 1994.
The power of the smaller coalition partners, the FDP and the CSU, was evident from the distribution of cabinet posts in Kohl's government in 1995. The FDP held three ministries--the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ministry of Justice, and Ministry for Economics. CSU members led four ministries--the Ministry of Finance, Ministry for Health, Ministry for Post and Telecommunications, and Ministry for Economic Cooperation.
The staff of a cabinet minister is managed by at least two state secretaries, both of whom are career civil servants responsible for the ministry's administration, and a parliamentary state secretary, who is generally a member of the Bundestag and represents the ministry there and in other political forums. Typically, state secretaries remain in the ministry beyond the tenure of any one government, in contrast to the parliamentary state secretary, who is a political appointee and is viewed as a junior member of the government whose term ends with the minister's. Under these top officials, the ministries are organized functionally in accordance with each one's specific responsibilities. Career civil servants constitute virtually the entire staff of the ministries.
The heart of any parliamentary system of government is the legislature. Germany has a bicameral parliament. The two chambers are the Bundestag (Federal Diet or lower house) and the Bundesrat (Federal Council or upper house). Both chambers can initiate legislation, and most bills must be approved by both chambers, as well as the executive branch, before becoming law. Legislation on issues within the exclusive jurisdiction of the federal government, such as international treaties, does not require Bundesrat approval.
The federal government introduces most legislation; when it does so, the Bundesrat reviews the bill and then passes it on to the Bundestag. If a bill originates in the Bundesrat, it is submitted to the Bundestag through the executive branch. If the Bundestag introduces a bill, it is sent first to the Bundesrat and, if approved there, forwarded to the executive. The Joint Conference Committee resolves any differences over legislation between the two legislative chambers. Once the compromise bill that emerges from the conference committee has been approved by a majority in both chambers and by the cabinet, it is signed into law by the federal president and countersigned by the relevant cabinet minister.Bundestag
The Bundestag is the principal legislative chamber, roughly analogous to the United States House of Representatives. The Bundestag has grown gradually since its creation, most dramatically with unification and the addition of 144 new representatives from eastern Germany, for a total of 656 deputies in 1990. A further expansion in 1994 increased the number to 672. Elections are held every four years (or earlier if a government falls from power). Bundestag members are the only federal officials directly elected by the public. All candidates must be at least twenty-one years old; there are no term limits.
The most important organizational structures within the Bundestag are parliamentary groups (Fraktionen ; sing., Fraktion ), which are formed by each political party represented in the chamber. The size of a party's Fraktion determines the extent of its representation on legislative committees, the number of committee chairs it can hold, and its representation in executive bodies of the Bundestag. The head of the largest Fraktion is named president of the Bundestag. The Fraktionen , not the members, receive the bulk of government funding for legislative and administrative activities.
The leadership of each Fraktion consists of a parliamentary party leader, several deputy leaders, and an executive committee. The leadership's major responsibilities are to represent the Fraktion , enforce party discipline, and orchestrate the party's parliamentary activities. The members of each Fraktion are distributed among working groups focused on specific policy-related topics such as social policy, economics, and foreign policy. The Fraktion meets once a week to consider legislation before the Bundestag and formulate the party's position on it.
The Bundestag's executive bodies include the Council of Elders and the Presidium. The council consists of the Bundestag leadership, together with the most senior representatives of each Fraktion , with the number of these representatives tied to the strength of the party in the chamber. The council is the coordination hub, determining the daily legislative agenda and assigning committee chairpersons based on party representation. The council also serves as an important forum for interparty negotiations on specific legislation and procedural issues. The Presidium is responsible for the routine administration of the Bundestag, including its clerical and research activities. It consists of the chamber's president and vice presidents (one from each Fraktion ).
Most of the legislative work in the Bundestag is the product of standing committees. Although this is common practice in the United States Congress, it is uncommon in other parliamentary systems, such as the British House of Commons and the French National Assembly. The number of committees approximates the number of federal ministries, and the titles of each are roughly similar (e.g., defense, agriculture, and labor). Between 1987 and 1990, the term of the eleventh Bundestag, there were twenty-one standing committees. The distribution of committee chairs and the membership of each committee reflect the relative strength of the various parties in the chamber. In the eleventh Bundestag, the CDU/CSU chaired eleven committees, the SPD eight, the FDP one, and the environmentalist party, the Greens (Die Grünen), one. Unlike in the United States Congress, where all committees are chaired by members of the majority party, the German system allows members of the opposition party to chair a significant number of standing committees. These committees have either a small staff or no staff at all.
Although most legislation is initiated by the executive branch, the Bundestag considers the legislative function its most important responsibility. The Bundestag concentrates much of its energy on assessing and amending the government's legislative program. The committees play a prominent role in this process. Plenary sessions provide a forum for members to engage in public debate on legislative issues before them, but they tend to be well attended only when significant legislation is being considered. The Bundestag allots each Fraktion a certain amount of time, based on its size, to express its views.
Other responsibilities of the Bundestag include selecting the federal chancellor and exercising oversight of the executive branch on issues of both substantive policy and routine administration. This check on executive power can be employed through binding legislation, public debates on government policy, investigations, and direct questioning of the chancellor or cabinet officials. For example, the Bundestag can conduct a question hour (Fragestunde ), in which a government representative responds to a previously submitted written question from a member. Members can ask related questions during the question hour. The questions can concern anything from a major policy issue to a specific constituent's problem. Use of the question hour has increased markedly over the past forty years, with more than 20,000 questions being posed during the 1987-90 Bundestag term. Understandably, the opposition parties are active in exercising the parliamentary right to scrutinize government actions.
One striking difference when comparing the Bundestag with the United States Congress is the lack of time spent on serving constituents in Germany. In part, that difference results from the fact that only 50 percent of Bundestag deputies are directly elected to represent a specific geographic district; the other half are elected as party representatives. The political parties are thus of great importance in Germany's electoral system, and many voters tend not to see the candidates as autonomous political personalities but rather as creatures of the party. Interestingly, constituent service seems not to be perceived, either by the electorate or by the representatives, as a critical function of the legislator. A practical constraint on the expansion of constituent service is the limited personal staff of Bundestag deputies.Bundesrat
The second legislative chamber, the Bundesrat, is the federal body in which the sixteen Land governments are directly represented. It exemplifies Germany's federalist system of government. Members of the Bundesrat are not popularly elected but are appointed by their respective Land governments. Members tend to be Land government ministers. The Bundesrat has sixty-nine members. The Länder with more than 7 million inhabitants have six seats (Baden-Württemberg, Bavaria, Lower Saxony, and North Rhine-Westphalia). The Länder with populations of between 2 million and 7 million have four seats (Berlin, Brandenburg, Hesse, Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, Rhineland-Palatinate, Saxony, Saxony-Anhalt, Schleswig-Holstein, and Thuringia). The least populous Länder , with fewer than 2 million inhabitants, receive three seats each (Bremen, Hamburg, and the Saarland). This system of representation, although designed to reflect Land populations accurately, in fact affords greater representation per inhabitant to the smaller Länder . The presidency of the Bundesrat rotates annually among the Länder . By law, each Land delegation is required to vote as a bloc in accordance with the instructions of the Land government.
Because the Bundesrat is so much smaller than the Bundestag, it does not require the extensive organizational structure of the lower house. The Bundesrat typically schedules plenary sessions once a month for the purpose of voting on legislation prepared in committee. In comparison, the Bundestag conducts about fifty plenary sessions a year. Bundesrat representatives rarely attend committee sessions; instead, they delegate that responsibility to civil servants from their ministries, as allowed for in the Basic Law. The members tend to spend most of their time in their Land capitals, rather than in the federal capital.
The legislative authority of the Bundesrat is subordinate to that of the Bundestag, but the upper house nonetheless plays a vital legislative role. The federal government must present all legislative initiatives first to the Bundesrat; only thereafter can a proposal be passed to the Bundestag. Further, the Bundesrat must approve all legislation affecting policy areas for which the Basic Law grants the Länder concurrent powers and for which the Länder must administer federal regulations. The Bundesrat has increased its legislative responsibilities over time by successfully arguing for a broad, rather than a narrow, interpretation of what constitutes the range of legislation affecting Land interests. In 1949 only 10 percent of all federal laws, namely, those directly affecting the Länder , required Bundesrat approval. In 1993 close to 60 percent of federal legislation required the upper house's assent. The Basic Law also provides the Bundesrat with an absolute veto of such legislation.
The political power of the absolute veto is particularly evident when the opposition party or parties in the Bundestag have a majority in the Bundesrat. When this is the case, the opposition can threaten the government's legislative program. Such a division of authority can complicate the process of governing when the major parties disagree, and, unlike the Bundestag, the Bundesrat cannot be dissolved under any circumstances.
This bicameral system also has advantages. Some observers emphasize that different majorities in the two chambers ensure that all legislation, when approved, has the support of a broad political spectrum--a particularly valuable attribute in the aftermath of unification, when consensus on critical policy decisions is vital. The formal representation of the Länder in the federal government through the upper chamber provides an obvious forum for the coordination of policy between the Länder and the federal government. The need for such coordination, particularly given the specific, crucial needs of the eastern Länder , has become only more important.
The judiciary's independence and extensive responsibilities reflect the importance of the rule of law in the German system of government. A core concept is that of the Rechtsstaat , a government based on law, in which citizens are guaranteed equality and in which government decisions can be amended. Federal law delineates the structure of the judiciary, but the administration of most courts is regulated by Land law. The Länder are responsible for the lower levels of the court system; the highest appellate courts alone operate at the federal level. This federal-Land division of labor allows the federation to ensure that laws are enforced equally throughout the country, whereas the central role of the Länder in administering the courts safeguards the independence of the judicial system from the federal government.
Principles of Roman law form the basis of the German judicial system and define a system of justice that differs fundamentally from the Anglo-Saxon system. In the United States, courts rely on precedents from prior cases; in Germany, courts look to a comprehensive system of legal codes. The codes delineate somewhat abstract legal principles, and judges must decide specific cases on the basis of those standards. Given the importance of complex legal codes, judges must be particularly well trained. Indeed, judges are not chosen from the field of practicing lawyers. Rather, they follow a distinct career path. At the end of their legal education at university, law students must pass a state examination before they can continue on to an apprenticeship that provides them with broad training in the legal profession over several years. They then must pass a second state examination that qualifies them to practice law. At that point, the individual can choose either to be a lawyer or to enter the judiciary. Judicial candidates must train for several more years before actually earning the title of judge.
The judicial system comprises three types of courts. Ordinary courts, dealing with criminal and most civil cases, are the most numerous by far. Specialized courts hear cases related to administrative, labor, social, fiscal, and patent law. Constitutional courts focus on judicial review and constitutional interpretation. The Federal Constitutional Court (Bundes-verfassungsgericht) is the highest court and has played a vital role through its interpretative rulings on the Basic Law.
The ordinary courts are organized in four tiers, each of increasing importance. At the lowest level are several hundred local courts (Amtsgerichte ; sing., Amstgericht ), which hear cases involving minor criminal offenses or small civil suits. These courts also carry out routine legal functions, such as probate. Some local courts are staffed by two or more professional judges, but most have only one judge, who is assisted by lay judges in criminal cases. Above the local courts are more than 100 regional courts (Landesgerichte ; sing., Landesgericht ), which are divided into two sections, one for major civil cases and the other for criminal cases. The two sections consist of panels of judges who specialize in particular types of cases. Regional courts function as courts of appeals for decisions from the local courts and hold original jurisdiction in most major civil and criminal matters. At the next level, Land appellate courts (Oberlandesgerichte ; sing., Oberlandesgericht ) primarily review points of law raised in appeals from the lower courts. (For cases originating in local courts, this is the level of final appeal.) Appellate courts also hold original jurisdiction in cases of treason and anticonstitutional activity. Similar to the regional courts, appellate courts are divided into panels of judges, arranged according to legal specialization. Crowning the system of ordinary courts is the Federal Court of Justice (Bundesgerichtshof) in Karlsruhe. It represents the final court of appeals for all cases originating in the regional and appellate courts and holds no original jurisdiction.
Specialized courts deal with five distinct subject areas: administrative, labor, social, fiscal, and patent law. Like the ordinary courts, they are organized hierarchically with the Land court systems under a federal appeals court. Administrative courts consist of local administrative courts, higher administrative courts, and the Federal Administrative Court. In these courts, individuals can seek compensation from the government for any harm caused by incorrect administrative actions by officials. For instance, many lawsuits have been brought in administrative courts by citizens against the government concerning the location and safety standards of nuclear power plants. Labor courts also function on three levels and address disputes over collective bargaining agreements and working conditions. Social courts, organized at three levels, adjudicate cases relating to the system of social insurance, which includes unemployment compensation, workers' compensation, and social security payments. Finance, or fiscal, courts hear only tax-related cases and exist on two levels. Finally, a single Federal Patents Court in Munich adjudicates disputes relating to industrial property rights.
Except for Schleswig-Holstein, each Land has a state constitutional court. These courts are administratively independent and financially autonomous from any other government body. For instance, a Land constitutional court can write its own budget and hire or fire employees, powers that represent a degree of independence unique in the government structure.
Sixteen judges make up the Federal Constitutional Court, Germany's highest and most important judicial body. They are selected to serve twelve-year, nonrenewable terms and can only be removed from office for abuse of their position and then only by a motion of the court itself. The Bundestag and the Bundesrat each choose half of the court's members. Thus, partisan politics do play a role. However, compromise is built into the system because any court decision requires a two-thirds majority among the participating judges. The court is divided into two senates, each consisting of a panel of eight judges with its own chief justice. The first senate hears cases concerning the basic rights guaranteed in Articles 1 through 19 of the Basic Law and concerning judicial review of legislation. The second senate is responsible for deciding constitutional disputes among government agencies and how the political process should be regulated.
Unlike the United States Supreme Court, the Federal Constitutional Court does not hear final appeals--that function belongs to the Federal Court of Justice. The Basic Law explicitly confines the jurisdiction of the Federal Constitutional Court to constitutional issues. By the late 1980s, the majority of the articles in the Basic Law had been subjected to judicial review, and the constitutionality of federal and state legislation had been considered in hundreds of court cases. When lacking the legislative clout to challenge a government policy, the opposition in the Bundestag traditionally has turned to the Federal Constitutional Court to question the constitutionality of legislation.
As of June 1992, about 6.7 million Germans were employed by federal, Land , or local governments in Germany; close to 5 million of these were in the western part of the country, and 1.6 million were in the east. The vast majority (over 4.5 million) were employed at the Land and local levels. Included at the federal level were roughly 642,000 postal workers and 434,000 railroad workers. Of these civil servants, about 5.6 million were working full time and 1.1 million part time. Public servants have considerable social status in Germany.
Civil servants are categorized into three groups. Slightly over 2 million are career civil servants (Beamten ; sing., Beamte ); about 3 million are employees (Angestellten ; sing., Angestellte ); and roughly 1.5 million are workers (Arbeiter ). Beamten are divided into four "career groups": higher service, executive service, clerical service, and basic service. A public servant rarely moves from one category to another during his or her career.
Beamten , or career civil servants, constitute the highest level of the administrative elite and enjoy special privileges. They are appointed for life and also receive a noncontributory pension that substantially increases their salaries in comparison with those of public servants in other categories. Beamten can be found everywhere, from low-level jobs in the post office to the most senior positions in government ministries, the equivalent of supergrade administrative positions in the United States government. These upper-level Beamten occupy most of the significant administrative posts within the bureaucracy and thus influence both formation and application of policy. Almost all Beamten at that level of Land and federal administration have a university degree, typically with a concentration in law or economics.
In exercising Land authority, Beamten must obey the orders of their superiors, possess no right to strike, are bound to defend the constitutional order, and are legally responsible for the application of administrative law. In 1972 the federal and Land governments issued an executive decree that institutionalized the ban against employing antidemocratic extremists in the public service. This highly controversial law (known as the Radikalenerlass or Berufsverbot) mandated that all candidates for positions as Beamten be screened and those already employed be examined, if deemed necessary, for evidence of extreme political views. Other public servants may also be scrutinized "in accordance with the contracts regulating each case."
Public servants may run for public office, and many do so. For example, the Bundestag is often referred to as the parliament of civil servants because a high percentage of its members are Beamten . During the twelfth Bundestag (1990-94), almost one-third of the deputies were Beamten . The largest portion of that group, 10 percent, consisted of teachers.
The Basic Law guarantees the right to vote by secret ballot in direct and free elections to every German citizen eighteen years of age or older. To be eligible to vote, an individual must have resided in a constituency district for at least three months prior to an election. Officials who are popularly elected include Bundestag deputies at the federal level, Landtag representatives or senate members at the Land level, and council members at the district and local levels. Executive officials typically are not chosen in popular, direct elections; however, in a minority of municipalities the mayor is elected by popular vote. Elections usually are held every four years at all levels. Elections at the federal, Land , and local levels are not held simultaneously, as in the United States, but rather are staggered. As a result, electoral campaigns are almost always under way, and each election is viewed as a test of the federal government's popularity and the strength of the opposition. All elections are held on Sunday.
Voter turnout, traditionally high--around 90 percent for national elections--has been decreasing since the early 1980s. Voters are most likely to participate in general elections, but even at that level turnout in western Germany fell from 89.1 percent in 1983 to 84.3 percent in 1987, and to 78.5 percent in 1990. The 1990 general election was the first following unification; turnout was the lowest since the first West German election in 1949. The most consistent participants in the electoral process are civil servants, and a clear correlation exists between willingness to vote and increasing social and professional status and income. Analysts had been predicting a further drop in turnout, the result of increasing voter alienation, for the national election in October 1994; in fact, turnout increased slightly to 79.1 percent.
In designing the electoral system, the framers of the Basic Law had two objectives. First, they sought to reestablish the system of proportional representation used during the Weimar Republic. A proportional representation system distributes legislative seats based on a party's percentage of the popular vote. For example, if a party wins 15 percent of the popular vote, it receives 15 percent of the seats in the Bundestag. The second objective was to construct a system of single-member districts, like those in the United States. The framers believed that this combination would create an electoral system that would not fragment as the Weimar Republic had and would ensure greater accountability of representatives to their electoral districts. A hybrid electoral system of personalized proportional representation resulted.
Under the German electoral system, each voter casts two ballots in a Bundestag election. The elector's first vote is cast for a candidate running to represent a particular district. The candidate who receives a plurality of votes becomes the district representative. Germany is divided into 328 electoral districts with roughly 180,000 voters in each district. Half of the Bundestag members are directly elected from these districts. The second ballot is cast for a particular political party. These second votes determine each party's share of the popular vote.
The first ballot is designed to decrease the anonymity of a strict proportional representation system--thus the description "personalized"--but it is the second ballot that determines how many Bundestag seats each party will receive. To ensure that each party's percentage of the combined district (first ballot) and party (second ballot) seats equals its share of the second vote, each party is allocated additional seats. These additional party seats are filled according to lists of candidates drawn up by the state party organization prior to the election. Research indicates that constituency representatives in the Bundestag are more responsive to their electorate's needs and are slightly more likely to follow their constituents' preferences when voting than deputies chosen from the party lists.
If a party wins more constituency seats than it is entitled to according to its share of the vote in the second ballot, the party retains those seats, and the size of the Bundestag is increased. This was the case in both the 1990 and 1994 federal elections. After the 1990 election, the total number of seats in the Bundestag rose from 656 to 662. In 1994 sixteen extra seats were added, leading to a 672-member Bundestag; twelve of those seats went to Kohl's CDU and accounted for Kohl's ten-seat margin of victory.
One crucial exception to Germany's system of personalized proportional representation is the so-called 5 percent clause. The electoral law stipulates that a party must receive a minimum of 5 percent of the national vote, or three constituency seats, in order to get any representation in the Bundestag. An exception was made for the first all-Germany election in December 1990, with the Federal Constitutional Court setting separate 5 percent minimums for the old and new Länder . Thus, a party needed only to win 5 percent of the vote in either western or eastern Germany in order to receive seats in the Bundestag.
The 5 percent clause was crafted to prevent the proliferation of small extremist parties like those that destabilized the Weimar Republic. This electoral hurdle has limited the success of minor parties and consolidated the party system. Often voters are reluctant to vote for a smaller party if they are unsure if it will clear the 5 percent threshold. Smaller parties, such as the FDP, encourage voters to split their ticket, casting their first ballot for a named candidate of one of the larger parties and their second ballot for the FDP.
Small parties rarely win the three constituency seats that automatically qualify a party for parliamentary representation according to its overall share of the national vote. This rarity occurred in the 1994 national election. The Party of Democratic Socialism (Partei des Demokratischen Sozialismus--PDS), the renamed communist party of the former East Germany, won 4.4 percent of the national vote, an insufficient total to clear the 5 percent hurdle. The PDS surprised seemingly everyone, however, by winning four districts outright (all in eastern Berlin), entitling it to thirty seats in the Bundestag.
Germany holds no by-elections; if Bundestag deputies resign or die in office, they are automatically succeeded by the next candidate on the party's list in the appropriate Land . There are also no primary elections through which voters can choose party representatives. Rather, a small group of official party members nominates constituency candidates, and candidates appearing on the Land party lists are chosen at Land party conventions held six to eight weeks before the election. Party officials at the federal level play no part in the nominating procedure. Roughly two-thirds of the candidates run as both constituent and list candidates, thus increasing their chances of winning a legislative seat. If a candidate wins in a constituency, his or her name is automatically removed from the Land list. There is considerable jockeying among party factions and various interest groups as candidates are selected and placed on the Land lists. Placement near the top of the list is usually given to incumbents, party members of particular political prominence, or members who have the support of a key faction or interest group. Thus, aspiring politicians are quite dependent on their party, and successful candidates tend to evince loyalty to the party's policy platform. Candidates must be at least twenty-one years old.
Observers often describe political parties as critical stabilizing institutions in democratic systems of government. Because of the central role played by German political parties, many observers refer to Germany as a "party state." The government of this type of state rests on the principle that competition among parties provides for both popular representation and political accountability for government action.
On the role of parties, Article 21 of the Basic Law stipulates that "the political parties shall participate in the forming of the political will of the people. They may be freely established. Their internal organization must conform to democratic principles. They must publicly account for the sources of their funds." The 1967 Law on Parties further solidified the role of parties in the political process and addressed party organization, membership rights, and specific procedures, such as the nomination of candidates for office.
The educational function noted in Article 21 ("forming of the political will") suggests that parties should help define public opinion rather than simply carry out the wishes of the electorate. Major parties are closely affiliated with large foundations, which are technically independent of individual party organizations. These foundations receive over 90 percent of their funding from public sources to carry out their educational role. They offer public education programs for youth and adults, research social and political issues, and facilitate international exchanges.
Party funding comes from membership dues, corporate and interest group gifts, and, since 1959, public funds. Figures on party financing from 1992 show that dues accounted for over 50 percent of SPD revenues and 42 percent of CDU revenues. Federal resources accounted for 24 percent of SPD revenues and 30 percent of CDU revenues; donations accounted for 8 percent and 17 percent, respectively. The parties must report all income, expenditures, and assets. The government substantially finances election campaigns. Any party that gains at least 0.5 percent of the national vote is eligible to receive a set sum. This sum has increased over time and, beginning in January 1984, amounted to DM5 (for value of the deutsche mark--see Glossary) from the federal treasury for every vote cast for a particular party in a Bundestag election. Parties at the Land level receive similar public subsidies. The political parties receive free campaign advertising on public television and radio stations for European, national, and Land elections. Airtime is allotted to parties proportionally based on past election performance. Parties may not purchase additional time.
Several events, including a party-financing scandal in the early 1980s and an electoral campaign in Schleswig-Holstein marked by dirty tricks in the late 1980s, have contributed to increased public distrust of the parties. A 1990 poll showed that West Germans, in ranking the level of confidence they had in a dozen social and political institutions, placed political parties very low on the list.
Although only 3 to 4 percent of voters were members of a political party, all the major parties experienced a decrease in party membership in the early 1990s, possibly a result of the increased distrust of political parties. SPD membership fell by 3.5 percent in 1992 to 888,000. At the end of the 1970s, the party had had more than 1 million members. CDU membership fell by 5 percent in 1992 to 714,000, while that of the FDP fell by about one-fifth to 110,000.
Article 21 of the Basic Law places certain restrictions on the ideological orientation of political parties: "Parties which, by reason of their aims or the behavior of their adherents, seek to impair or abolish the free democratic basic order or to endanger the existence of the Federal Republic of Germany, shall be unconstitutional. The Federal Constitutional Court shall decide on the question of unconstitutionality." This provision allowed for the banning of the neo-Nazi Socialist Reich Party in 1952 and the Communist Party of Germany (Kommunistische Partei Deutschlands--KPD) in 1956.
The decision to regulate the organization and activities of political parties reflects lessons learned from Germany's experience during the post-World War I Weimar Republic, when a weak multiparty system severely impaired the functioning of parliamentary democracy and was effectively manipulated by antidemocratic parties. After World War II, many parties dotted the West German political landscape, but electoral laws allowed only parties with at least 5 percent of the vote to have representation in national and Land parliaments. Over time, the smaller parties faded from the scene. From 1962 to 1982, the Bundestag contained representatives from only four parties: the CDU, the CSU, the SPD, and the FDP (see table 4, Appendix). The Greens gained enough of the national vote to win seats in 1983, and unification brought additional parties into the Bundestag in late 1990. At the federal level, the CSU coalesces with the CDU, the largest conservative party. The SPD is the major party of the left. The liberal FDP is, typically, the critical swing party, which can form a coalition with either the CDU/CSU or the SPD to create the majority needed to pass legislation in the Bundestag.
Following World War II, the Christian Democratic Union (Christlich Demokratische Union--CDU) was founded by a diverse group of Catholics and Protestants, businesspeople and trade unionists, and conservatives and moderates. The party espoused a Christian approach to politics and rejected both Nazism and communism. CDU members advocated conservative values and the benefits of a social market economy--that is, one combining capitalist practices and an extensive welfare system. Konrad Adenauer, the CDU's first leader and West Germany's first chancellor, envisioned the CDU as a conservative catchall party (Volkspartei ) that would attract a majority of the electorate.
The CDU is a national party except in the Land of Bavaria, where it is not active, in deference to its sister party, the Christian Social Union (Christlich-Soziale Union--CSU). Bavaria has the largest concentration of conservative, rural, Catholic voters, and the CSU has dominated politics there since 1957. The CSU was personified by its leader, Franz-Josef Strauss, until his death in 1988. By 1994 no clear heir to Strauss had emerged, but the CSU nonetheless retained its absolute majority in the Land election of September 1994 (see table 21, Appendix). Germany's population increased through unification, and thus it has become more difficult for the CSU to pass the 5 percent electoral threshold at the national level. However, the CSU performed strongly in the 1994 national election, garnering 7.3 percent of the vote. The CDU and the CSU form a single Fraktion in parliament, choose a common candidate for chancellor, and have always governed in coalition. Below the federal level, the two party organizations are entirely separate.
From 1949 until 1963, Adenauer and his CDU dominated German politics (see West Germany and the Community of Nations, ch. 2). At the time of the 1961 election, Adenauer was eighty-five years old, and the opposition SPD was gaining in popularity. Ludwig Erhard, a CDU member credited with engineering Germany's postwar economic miracle, succeeded Adenauer as chancellor in 1963 (see table 3, Appendix). An economic recession then hastened the end of the CDU/CSU's hold on power. November 1966 brought the creation of the Grand Coalition between the CDU/CSU and the SPD with Kurt Georg Kiesinger (CDU) as chancellor and Willy Brandt (SPD) as vice chancellor (see Ludwig Erhard and the Grand Coalition, ch. 2). The FDP was relegated to the opposition benches. After the 1969 election, the SPD formed a coalition with the FDP, leaving the CDU/CSU in opposition for the first time in West German history.
For thirteen years, the CDU/CSU waited to regain power. By the early 1980s, the CDU had adopted a new party program consisting of conservative economic policies, resembling those of Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan, and moderate social and foreign policies. Helmut Kohl, as leader of the CDU/CSU Fraktion in the Bundestag, was also rebuilding a political bridge to the FDP. In 1982, as West Germany's economy weakened, the liberal SPD and the economically conservative FDP could not settle on a package of economic remedies. The FDP chose to leave the coalition and form a new government with the CDU/CSU. The constructive vote of no-confidence was used successfully for the first time to unseat Helmut Schmidt as chancellor; Kohl replaced him. West Germans ratified this change through early elections called for March 1983 (see The Christian Democratic/Christian Socialist-Free Democratic Coalition, 1983- , ch. 2).
By the late 1980s, the CDU/CSU was growing increasingly unpopular. The CDU/CSU was also facing a new challenge from the right in the form of a new extreme right party, the Republikaner. In a series of Land elections, the Republikaner successfully eroded some of the CDU/CSU's support. The collapse of the German Democratic Republic, however, provided Kohl with a historic opportunity to reverse the fortunes of his party. While most Germans reacted to the change in the geopolitical landscape with amazement, Kohl seized the moment and actively advocated early unification (see Unification, ch. 8). The first, free, all-Germany election since November 1932 took place in December 1990. In essence, this election became a referendum on the process of unification; the CDU/CSU emerged victorious, with Kohl promising greater prosperity for all Germans. As the costs of unification, in economic, social, and psychological terms, became more apparent to both western and eastern Germans, the CDU began suffering setbacks in Land and local elections. Nonetheless, Chancellor Kohl was able to claim a narrow victory in the national election of October 1994. Kohl's governing coalition benefited from an increasingly positive economic outlook in Germany and from the fact that the opposition Social Democratic candidate, Rudolf Scharping, was seen by many as lackluster (see Political Developments since Unification, this ch.).
The organizational structure of the CDU is a product of the party's evolution. In its early years, the CDU was a loose collection of local groups. Over time, a weak national party emerged to complement the strong Land party organizations. In the early 1970s, the CDU built up its national organization to compete with the more tightly structured SPD. Membership and party income increased accordingly. The Federal Executive is the primary executive organ of the CDU. It consists of about sixty individuals, including the party chair (elected for two years), several deputy chairs, a general secretary, a treasurer, the CDU's main legislative representatives, and the leaders of the Land party organizations. Because the Federal Executive is too large and does not meet frequently, a smaller subset called the Presidium, composed of the highest ranking CDU officials, actually sets party policy and makes administrative decisions. Each Land except Bavaria, where the CSU is active, holds semiannual party congresses and has an executive committee. These party structures are primarily responsible for the selection of party candidates for Bundestag elections. Every two years, the CDU holds a full party congress of several hundred party activists. Kohl has served as national chairman of the CDU since 1973, headed the parliamentary Fraktion from 1976 until 1982, and continues to lead the party as chancellor. Kohl's single-handed management of the party has given him a political dominance within the CDU that only Adenauer surpassed.
The CDU maintains several auxiliary organizations designed to increase the party's attractiveness to particular societal groups and to represent their views within the party. CDU statutes list seven organizations representing youth, women, workers, business and industry, the middle class, municipal politics, and refugees. Other, unofficial groupings exist as well. The most powerful of the auxiliary organizations has traditionally been the one representing business and industry. Although these auxiliary organizations are legally autonomous from the CDU, a high percentage of their members are also members of the CDU.
Founded in 1875, the Social Democratic Party of Germany (Sozialdemokratische Partei Deutschlands--SPD) is Germany's oldest political party and its largest in terms of membership. After World War II, under the leadership of Kurt Schumacher, the SPD reestablished itself as an ideological party, representing the interests of the working class and the trade unions. The party's program, which espoused Marxist principles, called for the nationalization of major industries and state planning. A strong nationalist, Schumacher rejected Adenauer's Western-oriented foreign policy and gave priority to unifying Germany, even if that meant accommodating Soviet demands. Despite the SPD's membership of almost 1 million in 1949, it was unable to dent Adenauer's popularity. Schumacher's death in 1952 and a string of electoral defeats led the SPD to rethink its platform in order to attract more votes. The Bad Godesburg Program, a radical change in policy, was announced at the SPD's 1959 party conference. The new program meant abandoning the party's socialist economic principles and adopting the principles of the social market economy. The party also dropped its opposition to West German membership in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO--see Glossary). Like the CDU, the SPD was becoming a catchall party (Volkspartei )--albeit of the left.
Introduction of the Bad Godesberg Program, together with the emergence of a dynamic leader in the person of Willy Brandt, marked the beginning of improved fortunes for the SPD. Although the party gained support from election to election, suspicion about its ability to govern persisted. Joining the CDU/CSU in the Grand Coalition in November 1966 proved critical in erasing doubts among voters about SPD reliability. After the 1969 election, the FDP decided to form a coalition with the SPD--a governing configuration that held until 1982 (see The Social Democratic-Free Democratic Coalition, 1969-82, ch. 2).
Brandt served as chancellor from 1969 to 1974. His most notable achievements were in foreign policy. Brandt and his key aide, Egon Bahr, put into place an entirely new approach to the East--Ostpolitik--premised upon accepting the reality of postwar geopolitical divisions and giving priority to reconciliation with Eastern Europe. Brandt addressed long-standing disputes with the Soviet Union and Poland, signing landmark treaties with both countries in 1970. His efforts won him the Nobel Prize for Peace in 1971. The Brandt government also negotiated the Basic Treaty with East Germany in 1972, which formally granted recognition to the GDR. On the domestic side, the SPD-FDP coalition succeeded in almost doubling social spending between 1969 and 1975.
Helmut Schmidt succeeded Brandt as chancellor in 1974. Although Schmidt won a reputation as a highly effective leader, the SPD experienced increasingly trying times. The oil crises of the 1970s undermined economic growth globally, and West Germany experienced economic stagnation and inflation. A critical problem for the SPD-FDP coalition government was a difference in opinion over the appropriate response to these problems. Divisions over economic policy were exacerbated by a debate within the party over defense policy and the stationing of United States intermediate nuclear forces in West Germany in the early 1980s. In 1982 the Free Democrats decided to abandon the coalition with the SPD and allied themselves with the CDU/CSU, forcing the SPD out of power. Schmidt, although regarded as a statesman abroad and an effective leader at home, became increasingly isolated within his own party, and he chose not to campaign as the SPD chancellor candidate in the March 1983 elections. Hans-Jochen Vogel was the SPD standard-bearer in that election, and the party suffered a serious loss.
The SPD has been wrought by internal crises since the late 1970s, and these divisions have continued into the 1990s. The party is split into two factions, one giving priority to economic and social justice, egalitarianism, and environmental protection, and the other most concerned with controlling inflation, encouraging fiscal responsibility, and playing a significant part in the European security system. The SPD faces a challenge on the left from the Greens and on the right from the CDU/CSU and the FDP. Rather than move to the left, the SPD chose a centrist strategy in the 1987 national election and earned only a small increase in voter support.
In 1990 the nomination of Oskar Lafontaine as chancellor candidate suggested a tactical shift to the left aimed at attracting liberal, middle-class voters. The national election in December 1990 became, in essence, a referendum on unification, and the CDU's Kohl, who had endorsed a speedy union, far outstripped the more ambivalent and pessimistic Lafontaine in the polls. The SPD did not receive the support it had expected in the heavily Protestant eastern Länder . Leadership of the SPD passed to Björn Engholm, a moderate, who resigned in May 1993 in the wake of a political scandal.
Rudolf Scharping, the moderate and relatively unknown minister president of Rhineland-Palatinate, was elected by SPD members--the first time in the history of the party that its members directly chose a new leader--to replace Engholm in late June 1993. Scharping opposed Kohl in the 1994 national election. The SPD candidate began 1994 with a strong lead in public opinion polls, but, beginning in late April, the SPD's support began a sustained decline for several reasons. For one, the increasingly positive economic situation was credited to the governing coalition. For another, Scharping was perceived by many Germans to be a lackluster candidate; further, he was not wholly successful in portraying himself as the conciliator who had brought harmony to a traditionally fractious SPD. Following the election, Scharping became the leader of the SPD's parliamentary group in the Bundestag.
The organizational structure of the SPD is highly centralized, with decisions made in a top-down, bureaucratic fashion. Technically, the SPD's highest authority is the party congress, which meets biannually. Arguably, its only significant function is to elect the thirty-six-member Executive Committee, which serves as the SPD's primary executive body and its policy maker. The members of the Executive Committee typically represent the various political factions within the party. The core of the Executive Committee is the nine-member Presidium, which represents the inner circle of party officials and is generally composed of the party leadership. The Presidium meets weekly to conduct the business of the party, deal with budgetary issues, and handle administrative and campaign matters. The Presidium is also responsible for endorsing policy originating either with an SPD government or with the leadership of the parliamentary Fraktion when the party is in opposition. In almost all cases, decisions made in the Presidium are ratified by the Federal Executive and the party congress. All SPD organizations below the national level elect their own party officials. The district, subdistrict, and local levels are all subordinate to the Land executive committees, which direct party policy below the national level and are relatively independent of the federal party officials. Like the CDU/CSU, the SPD maintains specialized groups representing particular professions, youth, women, trade unions, refugees, and sports interests. In the case of the SPD, these groups are closely tied to the SPD bureaucracy, and only the Young Socialists and the trade union group have policy-making roles.
The Free Democratic Party (Freie Demokratische Partei--FDP) is much smaller than the CDU or SPD, but its limited electoral strength masks the party's inordinate influence. Prior to the 1994 election, the FDP had experienced its worst results in national elections in 1969 (5.8 percent) and 1983 (7 percent). Both of those poor showings occurred following an FDP decision to switch coalition partners. Beyond these two exceptions, between 1949 and 1990 the FDP averaged 9.6 percent of the vote in national elections. Given its pivotal role in governing coalitions, the FDP has held over 20 percent of the cabinet posts during its time in government.
The FDP served in coalition governments with the CDU from 1949 to 1956 and from 1961 to 1966. As of mid-1995, it has governed with the CDU since 1982. The FDP governed in coalition with the SPD from 1969 to 1982. The remarkable amount of time that the FDP has spent in government has been a source of continuity in the German political process. FDP ministers carry a detailed knowledge of government personnel and procedures unsurpassed among the other parties.
The central role played by the FDP in forming governments is explained by the fact that a major party has been able to garner an outright majority of Bundestag seats only once (the CDU, in 1957); thus, the CDU and the SPD have been compelled to form coalition governments. Therefore, the FDP has participated in every government except the one from 1957 to 1961 and the Grand Coalition of 1966-69. Because the SPD and CDU/CSU enjoyed roughly equal electoral support, the FDP could choose with which major party it wished to align. This ability to make or break a ruling coalition has provided the small FDP with considerable leverage in the distribution of policy and cabinet positions. To take one example, as of mid- 1995, the FDP, in the person of Klaus Kinkel, led the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, which it has held since 1969. The most prominent member of the FDP, Hans-Dietrich Genscher, served as foreign minister from 1974 until his resignation in 1992.
The FDP was created in 1948 under the chairmanship of Theodor Heuss, who served as the first president of the Federal Republic, from 1949 to 1959. The party's founders wanted the FDP to revive the liberal party tradition of pre-World War II Germany. Although there was some initial debate over what was meant by "liberal," the party did articulate a political philosophy distinct from that of the two major parties. The FDP gave precedence to the legal protection of individual freedoms. Unlike the SPD, it supported private enterprise and disavowed any socialist leaning, and, unlike the CDU/CSU, it envisioned a strictly secular path for itself. In the early 1990s, the Free Democrats remained closer to the CDU/CSU on economic issues and closer to the SPD on social and foreign policy. Many Germans view the FDP as the party of the middle, moderating the policies of both major parties.
Following the 1949 national elections, the FDP emerged as a natural ally of the CDU/CSU, most importantly because of a congruity of economic policy. During the mid- to late 1960s, the FDP, under the leadership of Walter Scheel, went through a transformation of sorts, shedding its conservative image and emphasizing the reformist aspects of its liberal tradition. Its new focus on social concerns resulted in an SPD-FDP coalition in 1969. The party's new direction was ratified at the FDP's 1971 party congress, which endorsed a program of "social liberalism." As economic conditions worsened in the early 1980s, however, the FDP returned to its earlier advocacy of economic policies more conservative than those endorsed by the SPD. The FDP was most concerned with the growing budget deficit, whereas the SPD gave priority to the impact of the economic downturn on workers. The FDP abandoned the coalition with the SPD in September 1982, shifting allegiance to the CDU/CSU. The FDP lost considerable electoral support in the 1983 federal election but regained strength in the 1987 election.
The Free Democrats benefited initially from unification, garnering 11 percent of the vote in the first all-Germany elections in December 1990. In part, the FDP's popularity in the east was directly attributable to Genscher, an eastern German by birth who played a leading role in negotiations over the international agreements that made unification possible.
In light of the FDP's strong showing in the 1990 election, it is perhaps surprising to note that, by the time of the 1994 national election, the FDP was, in many ways, a party in crisis. It had lost representation in every Land that held elections in 1994, and thus the FDP has no seats in any eastern Land legislature. Minister of Foreign Affairs Kinkel had been elected party chairman in 1993, and some critics felt that the two posts had overwhelmed him, leading him to perform inadequately in both. Other observers, however, argued that it was the party's message, rather than its messenger, that needed revamping. Increasingly, the FDP found it difficult to differentiate its policy from that of Kohl's CDU. Given the fact that the FDP had performed so poorly at the Land level in 1994, there was much speculation as to whether the party would cross the 5 percent hurdle in the national election. FDP politicians breathed a collective sigh of relief when the party garnered 6.9 percent of the vote when Germans went to the polls in October 1994. Reportedly, the FDP had over 500,000 CDU voters to thank for this outcome, because they gave their second votes tactically to the FDP to ensure a victory for Kohl. One poll showed that 63 percent of those who voted for the FDP gave the CDU as their preferred party.
The structure of the FDP is decentralized and is loosely organized at all levels. The party basically is a federation of Land organizations, each maintaining a degree of well-guarded independence. The national party headquarters lacks the power to orchestrate activities at the Land level, and the formal party institutions--the Federal Executive, Presidium, and party congress--are weak. The FDP deemed this lack of centralization necessary to accommodate differences within the party, particularly between economic conservatives and social liberals. The FDP has never sought to be a mass party, and its members accordingly have little influence on decision making.
In the early years of the FRG, several minor parties representing a range of political views from the neo-Nazi right to the communist left played a role in the political system. Support for these parties dwindled over time, and, after 1961, the FDP was the only smaller party to cross the 5 percent threshold necessary to gain Bundestag representation. The presence of the 5 percent clause in federal, Land , and most local election laws was a significant reason for the decline of minor parties. The major parties have encouraged this trend by sponsoring certain regulations--for instance, in the areas of federal financing for political parties and procedures for nominating party candidates--that have also made it more difficult for minor parties to survive.
A challenge to West Germany's established party system emerged in 1983 when a relatively new party, the Greens (Die Grünen), entered the Bundestag. The Green movement had been gaining support steadily since the late 1970s, and by the end of 1982 the Greens were represented in six of West Germany's eleven Land parliaments. The Greens' platform gave priority to environmental concerns and an end to the use of nuclear energy as a power source. The party also opposed the stationing of United States intermediate-range nuclear weapons in Western Europe. On the basis of this platform, the Greens won 5.6 percent of the vote in the 1983 federal election. The success of the Greens at the federal level--which continued in the 1987 national election with the party winning 8.3 percent of the vote--led to a "greening" of the established parties, with environmental awareness increasing across the political spectrum. The Greens also livened up the Bundestag, appearing in jeans and sweaters rather than business suits and bringing plants into proceedings.
The Greens were plagued by a split between the Realos (realists) and the Fundis (fundamentalists). The Realos are pragmatists who want to serve as a constructive opposition and ultimately exercise power. The more radical Fundis are committed to a fundamental restructuring of society and politics; they do not want to share power with the Social Democrats--their obvious allies--or in any way legitimate the existing political system.
The Greens did not embrace the unification of Germany and opposed any automatic extension of West German economic and political principles to the east. The West German Greens chose not to form an electoral alliance with their eastern counterparts, Alliance 90 (Bündnis 90), prior to the 1990 elections because of their opposition to union. This lack of enthusiasm for unification alienated the Greens from much of their own constituency. The party's chances for success in the December 1990 all-Germany election were further undermined by the SPD's choice of Lafontaine as its candidate for chancellor. Lafontaine moved the SPD to the left, successfully co-opting "green" issues. The West German Greens received only 4.8 percent of the vote in the 1990 election, an outcome that left them with no seats in the Bundestag. Alliance 90, composed largely of former dissidents and focusing heavily on civil rights, received 6 percent of the eastern vote and therefore received eight seats in the Bundestag. Had these two parties run in coalition, they could have secured about forty parliamentary seats. Alliance 90 had grown out of the major human rights groups that demonstrated against the communist system and effectively brought down the Berlin Wall in 1989. Like the West German Greens, Alliance 90 had not wanted quick unity with the west either, but the sentiment of the majority of eastern Germans was clear.
Young middle-class voters living in urban areas form the core of support for the West German Greens. Alliance 90 also receives much of its support from this group, although one-third of its supporters are over fifty years of age. Employees of the public sector are disproportionately strong supporters of both parties. Election results suggest that neither working-class voters nor independent businesspeople are likely to vote for either party.
The devastating loss for the West German Greens in the 1990 election brought the conflict between Realos and Fundis to a head, with the pragmatic wing emerging as victor. The party conference in April 1991 ratified a set of Realo reforms. In the series of Land elections that followed (Hesse, Rhineland-Palatinate, Hamburg, and Bremen), the Greens did well. This trend continued in 1992 as the Greens received an impressive 9.5 percent of the vote in the wealthy, southwestern Land of Baden-Württemberg. In the rural, northwestern Land of Schleswig-Holstein, the Greens garnered 4.97 percent of the vote, coming within 397 votes of surpassing the 5 percent hurdle.
In January 1993, the West German Greens merged with Alliance 90 in preparation for the spate of federal and Land elections scheduled for 1994. The new party is listed officially as Alliance 90/Greens (Bündnis 90/Die Grünen), but members informally call it the Greens.
Overall, the Greens performed well in the series of Land elections in 1994. Following the 1994 national election, with 7.3 percent of the vote, the Greens emerged as the third strongest party in the federal parliament. The obvious coalition partner for the Greens is the SPD, though one increasingly hears talk of possible CDU/Green coalitions. Indeed, the Greens have moderated many of their positions, a reflection of the dominance in the party of the Realos. The best known figure in the party is Joschka Fischer, a prominent Realo and a former environment minister in the Land of Hesse.
On the opposite end of the political spectrum from the Greens are two parties of the far right, the Republikaner (Die Republikaner--REP), with about 23,000 members, and the German People's Union (Deutsche Volksunion--DVU), with 26,000 members. As of mid- 1995, these two parties had not gained sufficient support to win seats in the Bundestag, but the DVU was represented in Land parliaments in Bremen (with 6.2 percent of the vote in 1991) and Schleswig-Holstein (with 6.3 percent of the vote in 1992); the Republikaner held seats in Baden-Württemberg (with 10.9 percent of the vote in 1992). The Republikaner received 2.1 percent of the vote in the all-Germany election of December 1990 and 1.9 percent in the October 1994 election.
In the early 1990s, the rallying cry of the far right was "Germany for the Germans." This slogan appeals to many Germans, particularly young, male, rural, less educated, blue-collar workers who fear for their economic future and regard the large pool of asylum-seekers as competitors for housing, social programs, and jobs. These particular Germans are also uneasy about greater integration within the European Union (EU--see Glossary), which, in their minds, requires Germany to forfeit too much of its identity and share too much of its prosperity. According to some observers, the far right's electoral support represents, in part, a protest vote against the mainstream parties. German politicians repeatedly remark on the electorate's Politikverdrossenheit --a deep disaffection with all things political.
Franz Schönhuber, a one-time Bavarian television moderator and former officer in the Nazi Waffen-SS, formed the Republikaner in 1983 from a group of discontented members of the CSU. Schönhuber published a book in 1981 boasting of his experiences in the Waffen-SS but has staunchly denied that his party has neo-Nazi leanings. Elected to the European Parliament in 1989, Schönhuber, over seventy years old in mid-1995, tried to portray the party as a mainstream group that does not promote bigotry but merely protects German national interests. The party platform speaks for itself. In it, the Republikaner blame foreigners, who make up about 8 percent of the German population, for the housing shortage, street crime, and pollution. Among other things, the party has proposed banning Islamic community centers from sponsoring political or cultural activities other than prayer, and it has advocated putting asylum-seekers in collection camps "to minimize the native population's existing and growing antipathy toward foreign residents." The party platform also proposes creating separate classes for foreign schoolchildren, and it rejects "the multicultural society that has made the United States the world's largest showplace of crime and latent racial conflict." Reportedly, the Republikaner attracted about 5,000 new members in eastern Germany in 1992 and 1993. Schönhuber contends that support in the east comes from young Germans between twenty and thirty years of age, whereas in the west support comes from members of his own generation. Schönhuber, the party's only nationally known figure, was deposed as party leader in the fall of 1994 because he had proposed that his party join forces with the more extreme DVU.
Gerhard Frey, the Munich publisher of two weekly neofascist newspapers, Deutsche National-Zeitung (print run 63,000) and Deutsche Wochen-Zeitung (20,000), founded the DVU in 1971. The DVU espouses many of the views held by the Republikaner, but it goes one step further in tacitly supporting violence against asylum- seekers and foreign workers. Frey, over sixty years old in mid-1995, has sought to distance himself from pro-Nazi sentiments while simultaneously insisting that most Germans want to live in a racially pure country.
Germany's domestic intelligence agency, the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution (Bundesamt für Verfassungsschutz--BfV), announced in April 1992 that the DVU was under surveillance to determine if the party met the legal definition of "antidemocratic," a classification that would permit the government to ban it. A similar investigation of the Republikaner was announced in December 1992. Such surveillance legally can include government infiltration of the party, monitoring of mail and telephone calls, and interrogation of party members. The BfV has classified both parties as "right-wing extremist" and "constitutionally hostile."
The communist party that ran East Germany was the Socialist Unity Party of Germany (Sozialistische Einheitspartei Deutschlands--SED). Founded in 1946, the SED controlled the government and the electoral process and supervised the omnipresent State Security Service (Staatssicherheitsdienst--Stasi). To be considered for important positions in East German government and society, membership in the party was a requirement (see The Ulbricht Era, 1949-71, ch. 2).
When the East German public toppled the communist regime, the SED and its extensive organizational structure also came unraveled. Membership fell dramatically; local and regional party groups disbanded. In a desperate attempt to save itself, the SED sought to reconstruct itself for the new democratic climate. It changed its name in February 1990 to the Party of Democratic Socialism (Partei des Demokratischen Sozialismus--PDS). The old party guard was replaced by moderate leaders, such as the new chairman, Gregor Gysi. The PDS won 11 percent of the vote in eastern Germany in the 1990 all-Germany election, an outcome that entitled the party to seventeen seats in the Bundestag. In the Bundestag, the PDS has advocated communist values and has energetically criticized the Kohl government. The PDS's all-Germany tally reached only 2.4 percent because of a showing in western Germany of 0.3 percent.
The party's electoral base is limited to the east, particularly areas in which substantial numbers of former SED members live. In mid-1995 the PDS had roughly 130,000 members in the east, giving the PDS the largest membership of any party in eastern Germany. The party's strongholds are Saxony, Berlin, and Brandenburg. The party continues to have a tiny following in the west, with 1,200 members.
Two main factors account for the success of the PDS in the east: the PDS inherited the infrastructure and local grassroots organization of the SED, and the PDS has come to be seen by many in the east as the only party that represents specifically eastern German interests and that stresses the positive aspects of eastern German life. Over 90 percent of PDS members belonged to the SED, and 66 percent are over the age of sixty. The established parties have largely ostracized the PDS.
The PDS garnered 4.4 percent of the vote in the 1994 national election, an outcome that, as predicted, left the party beneath the 5 percent hurdle. However, the party won parliamentary representation, thanks to a peculariarity of the German electoral law: the fact that the PDS won four districts outright (all in eastern Berlin) entitled it to thirty seats in the Bundestag. Much credit for the strong showing of the PDS in the east has been given to the party's leading figure, the lawyer Gysi, an articulate and charismatic member of parliament.
The political institutions of unified Germany are remarkably similar to those of the former West Germany, reflecting minor adjustments to accommodate the larger population rather than making fundamental changes. The unfolding drama of unification is much more evident when one takes into consideration Germany's political landscape, including elections, political climate in the unified country, and issues that have dominated that landscape.
The Bundestag election of December 2, 1990, was the first all-Germany election since 1932. The election returned to power the governing coalition of the CDU/CSU and the FDP. The central issue of the campaign was unification. Parties that strongly supported unification scored well; those that were ambivalent or opposed to unification, such as the SPD and the Greens, fared poorly.
Helmut Kohl's political fortunes soon declined, however, in the wake of problems with the unification process. Increasing unemployment in the east, and anger in the west about a tax increase that Kohl had pledged to avoid before the 1990 election, caused the CDU to lose a series of Land elections after unification. As a result, in 1991 the ruling coalition lost its majority in the Bundesrat when the CDU lost power in the Länder of Hesse and Rhineland-Palatinate (Kohl's home Land ). This development made it more difficult for the Kohl government to gain approval for key legislative initiatives.
The year 1994 was nicknamed the "super election year" because Germany conducted approximately twenty elections at the local, Land , federal, and European levels, culminating in the national election in October. In eight Land elections throughout 1994, the SPD fared better than did the CDU. The SPD thus increased its majority in the Bundesrat. The FDP performed miserably at the Land level, failing to gain the required 5 percent for representation in all eight elections. Given this poor showing, many observers question the staying power of the FDP as a political force in Germany. Observers were surprised by the strength of the former Communists (PDS) in the eastern Länder ; all five new Länder held elections in 1994, with the PDS garnering from 16 to 23 percent of the vote in each (see table 21, Appendix). The PDS increased its share of the vote over the results in 1990 and solidified the party's position as the third strongest political force in eastern Germany. On November 9, 1994, Germans celebrated the fifth anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. However, much still divides eastern and western Germans, not least economic success, and the PDS was able to capitalize on eastern resentments.
Germans voted in national elections on October 16, 1994. Chancellor Kohl was challenged by Rudolf Scharping, the minister president of the western Land of Rhineland-Palatinate and the chairman of the SPD. Election themes included unemployment and economic growth, particularly in light of unification, as well as law and order. Except for the future of the EU, foreign policy issues did not figure in the election campaign.
Scharping began 1994 with a strong lead in public opinion polls, but, beginning in late April, the SPD's support began a sustained decline for several reasons. First, the CDU benefited from an increasingly positive economic outlook in Germany. Second, Scharping was seen by many to be a lackluster candidate; further, he was not wholly successful in portraying himself as the conciliator who had brought harmony to a traditionally fractious SPD. Chancellor Kohl, however, was seen to embody stability, continuity and predictability; one of his election slogans was "no experiments." Third, the CDU/CSU launched a fierce campaign against the PDS, whose members had belonged to the Communist SED, calling them "red-painted fascists," and Kohl succeeded in incriminating the SPD, at least marginally, in this seeming Communist revival. The SPD provided Kohl with this opportunity by forming a minority government with the Greens in the eastern Land of Saxony-Anhalt that depended on the votes (or abstention) of the PDS to remain in office. This CDU/CSU tactic was aimed, effectively it would seem, at those western German voters who, despite Scharping, questioned the SPD's commitment to centrist policies.
Kohl's governing coalition claimed a narrow victory; its majority in the Bundestag was reduced from 134 to ten seats (see table 4, Appendix). The Greens and the former Communists also won representation in the Bundestag. The far-right Republikaner, seen as a spent political force, failed to clear the 5 percent hurdle necessary to enter the Bundestag. Voter turnout, up slightly from the 1990 election, was 79.1 percent. Following the election, Scharping became the leader of the SPD's parliamentary group in the Bundestag, which will allow him to keep a high national profile in preparation for the next national election. The coalition government of Kohl's CDU, the CSU, and the FDP will focus on creating jobs, trimming bureaucracy, fighting crime, and expanding the EU eastward.
The FDP's seemingly chronic inability to win representation in Land parliaments means that it is increasingly losing its regional bases and its reservoirs of future political talent. If and how the FDP can regenerate support remains to be seen. Recent CDU overtures to the Greens--until recently an unthinkable development--also suggest a CDU awareness of the possible need for an alternate coalition partner in the future. The 1994 election may thus mark the beginning of some profound changes in political alignments in Germany.
Unified Germany's second national election suggests that the country's east-west divide has not narrowed. The strongest evidence is the success of the PDS in winning parliamentary representation. In eastern Germany, the PDS received 19.2 percent of the vote, compared with only 0.9 percent in the west. The national tally of 4.4 percent was insufficient to clear the 5 percent hurdle for parliamentary representation, but the PDS benefited from an oft-forgotten electoral law that automatically qualifies a party for representation according to its overall share of the national vote when the party wins three electoral districts outright (first votes). The PDS surprised seemingly everyone in winning four districts outright (all in eastern Berlin), entitling it to thirty seats in the Bundestag.
The future of the PDS is unclear and may well depend on whether the CDU and the SPD develop programs that attract current PDS constituents. Kohl's coalition lost twice as many votes in the east as in the west, winning 49.9 percent of the vote in the west and 42.5 percent in the east. The SPD faces the challenge in the east of competing against two other parties of the left, the PDS and the Greens. When considering the success of the PDS, however, one must recall that 80 percent of eastern Germans did not vote for the former Communists. At present, PDS leaders are working to rid the party of its Stalinist heritage; if successful, the PDS would certainly have a broader appeal.
As of mid-1995, right-wing extremist parties held seats in three of sixteen Land parliaments (Baden-Würtemberg, Bremen, and Schleswig-Holstein) and appeared to be fading from the German political landscape. The most significant of these parties, the Republikaner, with about 23,000 members, attracted support principally by criticizing a government policy that allowed hundreds of thousands of asylum-seekers into Germany. However, the Kohl government engineered a revision of the German constitution in 1992 that severely restricts the right to asylum (which had been the most liberal in Europe), thus largely calming public concerns. The far right has thereby lost its major platform and has been tainted by violent attacks against foreigners in Germany. In-fighting has also divided the party and resulted in the ouster of leader Franz Schönhuber, a former Waffen-SS member and the party's one nationally known figure (see The Republikaner and the German People's Union, this ch.). In the October 1994 election, with close to 80 percent voter turnout, the Republikaner received only 1.9 percent of the national vote, thus once again failing to win representation in the Bundestag. This outcome cemented a downward trend, which had been evinced in the European Parliament election and Land elections throughout the year. That downward trend is particularly notable in light of the fact that extreme right parties have met with considerable electoral success in several West European countries, such as France, Belgium, and Italy.
A plethora of controversial issues has marked political debate in united Germany, for example, the right to political asylum, the upsurge in right-wing violence, and the tensions surrounding the unification process itself. The Basic Law originally contained a liberal regulation on the right to asylum, and in 1992 a total of 438,191 asylum-seekers streamed into Germany--up from 256,112 in 1991. Most asylum-seekers were from Romania, the former Yugoslavia, and Bulgaria. Many Germans complained that the German law permitted many people who were not political refugees, but rather economic migrants, to take advantage of the country's generous welfare system and compete with Germans for scarce housing. Extreme right-wing parties capitalized on this widespread resentment against asylum-seekers in April 1992 elections in two western Länder .
On December 6, 1992, Kohl's governing coalition and the opposition Social Democrats agreed on a constitutional amendment to limit the right to asylum. The asylum compromise between the government and the opposition included several important changes. First, asylum-seekers from European Community (EC--see Glossary) states or states that accept the Geneva Convention on Refugees and the European Human Rights Convention have no right to asylum in Germany. Second, any refugee passing through "safe third countries," which include all of Germany's neighbors, is ineligible for asylum. An individual may appeal this decision but may not stay in Germany during the course of that appeal. In exchange for these concessions, the Social Democrats won agreements to place an annual limit of 200,000 on the immigration of ethnic Germans eligible for automatic German citizenship and to ease the terms of citizenship for longtime foreign residents of Germany (see Immigration, ch. 3). Parliament approved the new asylum law in late May 1993, and it took effect on July 1. About 10,000 protesters surrounded the Bundestag on the day of the vote, but apparently about 70 percent of Germans approved the more restrictive asylum law. The number of foreigners seeking asylum in Germany has fallen substantially since the new law went into effect.
Another pressing issue has been the escalation of right-wing violence. In 1992 right-wing extremists committed 2,584 acts of violence in Germany, an increase of 74 percent from 1991. Seventeen people were killed in the 1992 attacks, six in 1991. About 60 percent of the attacks occurred in western Germany and 40 percent in eastern Germany--home to only 20 percent of the population. About 90 percent of the right-wing attacks in 1992 were directed against foreigners--above all, at asylum-seekers and their lodgings. People under the age of twenty-one committed 70 percent of these attacks.
In November 1992, three Turkish residents were killed in a firebombing in Mölln in western Germany. Of the 80 million people living in Germany in 1993, about 1.8 million were Turks, making that ethnic group the country's largest minority. Two-thirds of those Turks had lived in Germany at least a decade. The overwhelming majority of Germans condemn xenophobia and neo-Nazism, and after the Mölln attack, over 3 million Germans demonstrated across the country against right-wing violence. Following the violence in Mölln, the government began a crackdown on far-right violence. The federal prosecutor took over for the first time the investigation of an antiforeigner attack. The decision was made to charge the perpetrators with murder, rather than manslaughter, as had been done following previous arson attacks leading to fatalities. In December 1993, a judge imposed maximum sentences on the two men convicted in the Mölln killings. Other measures taken by the government included banning four small neo-Nazi organizations and outlawing the sale, manufacture, and distribution of the music of several neo-Nazi rock bands.
Despite the government's actions, the number of right-wing attacks increased in the first six months of 1993. The most serious incident occurred on May 29, 1993, when right-wing youths firebombed a house in Solingen in western Germany, killing five Turks. In late December 1993, four right-wing youths were charged with murder in the Solingen attack. In late October 1993, United States citizens for the first time became the target of right-wing violence. Two skinheads harassed African-American members of the United States Olympic luge team, which was practicing at an eastern German training center. When a white luger intervened on his teammates' behalf, he was severely beaten by the skinheads.
By the end of 1993, the surge in right-wing violence appeared to be abating. The federal police reported that, in the first eleven months of 1993, rightist crime dropped by 28 percent compared with the same period in 1992. As of December 2, 1993, eight people had died in rightist violence compared with seventeen in 1992. A police spokesman stated that the decline reflected decisive executive action, including faster police responses, tougher sentences, and bans on neo-Nazi groups.
Much of the public debate on how to address the causes of right-wing violence has focused on how better to integrate foreigners into German society. Chancellor Kohl announced some steps to make it easier for foreigners to become German citizens. He stopped short, however, of advocating dual citizenship. Concern exists in law enforcement circles that neo-Nazis are building an underground network of small, organized cells patterned in part on those of the Red Army Faction (Rote Armee Fraktion--RAF), the far-left organization that carried out bombings, assassinations, and kidnappings in the 1970s and 1980s (see The Student Movement and Terrorism, ch. 2; Dissidence and Terrorist Activity, ch. 9). The establishment of such a network would make it much more difficult for the authorities to monitor neo-Nazi activities.
A final issue dominating Germany's political scene has been the ongoing challenge of implementing unification. Among other things, the two Germanys have had to enact uniform legislation, decide on what city should serve as their capital, and bring the former leaders of East Germany to justice.
Unification left Germany with a population possessing widely different views on matters such as the family, religion, and the work ethic. A particularly sensitive issue has been abortion. East Germany, which permitted free abortion on demand up to the twelfth week of pregnancy, had a markedly more liberal policy on abortion than did West Germany. In June 1992, the Bundestag, in an attempt to unify abortion policy, approved an abortion law--opposed by Chancellor Kohl--that granted a woman the right to an abortion up to the twelfth week of pregnancy, provided she accepted counseling first. Thirty-two of the 268 CDU legislators, primarily from eastern Germany, broke ranks with the party leadership and approved the bill.
On August 4, 1992, the Federal Constitutional Court issued an injunction against the parliament's decision, and abortion continued to be available on demand in the east and largely prohibited in the west, pending a final court judgment. On May 28, 1993, the Federal Constitutional Court struck down the compromise law on the basis of the Basic Law's explicit protection of the rights of the unborn child. The ruling held that abortion was no longer a criminal offense but that abortions would only be allowed in the first three months of pregnancy for women who first participated in a formal consultation process. Further, the ruling barred insurance funds from paying for abortions and Land hospitals from performing them. The ruling went into effect on June 16, 1993. Women's groups, opposition politicians from the west, and easterners from across the political spectrum expressed outrage at the court's decision. At some point in the future, the Bundestag is still expected to pass a uniform abortion law for the entire country.
Another question that arose with unification was where to locate the new German capital. The Bundestag voted in June 1991 to move the capital from <"http://worldfacts.us/Germany-Bonn.htm"> Bonnto Berlin, fulfilling a long-standing promise of West German politicians across the board. The vote in favor of Berlin was surprisingly narrow, with 338 legislators supporting Berlin and 320 supporting Bonn. Many of the parliamentarians who voted for Bonn spoke of the symbolic importance of the capital's geographical location, with Bonn bearing witness to the critical importance of the Atlantic Alliance and Germany's commitment to Western democracy. Many who supported Berlin saw their choice as a necessary act of conciliation toward eastern Germans and a necessary step toward Germany's return to the world stage as a "normal" nation.
The quick move to Berlin that many eastern Germans had hoped for was thwarted by a quiet, yet effective, campaign led by Bonn bureaucrats and certain key politicians who opposed the Bundestag decision on several grounds. First, members of this group cited the huge expense of moving the government, estimated at just under US$19 billion by the Ministry of Finance. Second, they argued that Berlin's historical associations as the capital of a united Germany were negative and that Germany should avoid doing something to suggest to its neighbors a return to expansionist or aggressive tendencies. Third, many officials balked at the personal inconvenience of moving to Berlin if they owned homes in the Bonn area or otherwise faced having to uproot their families from the rather provincial Rhineland and relocate in a booming metropolis.
After two years of indecision, the Kohl cabinet announced in October 1993 that the government would complete the move to Berlin by December 31, 2000; the move will begin in 1998. The opposition Social Democrats had threatened to make the government's reluctance to move an issue in the 1994 national election campaign. Foreign embassies and private companies had delayed their moves to Berlin while waiting for an official announcement of a timetable. The cabinet decision sent a decisive message to investors and property developers who believed the move would attract greater investment in the five eastern Länder . The Bonn lobby won certain important concessions as well: eight government ministries will keep their headquarters in Bonn, and the remainder will retain offices there. Kohl received sharp criticism about the distant deadline from some commentators, who argued that the government's hesitation to complete the move was impeding the social and psychological unification of east and west.
Many Germans see the prosecution of former East German officials as a necessary part of coming to terms with divided Germany's past. On November 12, 1992, a trial opened in Berlin involving six defendants, including former East German leader Erich Honecker, former minister of state security Erich Mielke, and former prime minister Willi Stoph. These men were put on trial for the killings of East Germans trying to cross the border to the west. Two days later, however, Mielke and Stoph were declared unfit to stand trial for health reasons. Charges were then dropped against Honecker because of his advanced cancer, and he was allowed to join his family in Chile in early 1993. The remaining three defendants--all former members of East Germany's National Defense Council--were convicted in September 1993, receiving prison sentences ranging from four-and-one-half years to seven-and-one-half years.
From the start, the legal basis for the trials was questionable. German law does not apply to acts committed by East German citizens in a state that no longer exists. Thus, the defendants had to be prosecuted for transgressions of East German law, and East Germany's border law allowed guards to shoot anyone trying to flee. The Berlin prosecutors argued that the law was evil and ought not to have been obeyed, a form of reasoning with which the judges agreed. Many legal scholars believe that the convictions could be reversed on appeal, however. In part, the prosecution of these former East German leaders grew out of public indignation over the trials of border guards while senior policy makers were going free. By late 1993, ten border guards had stood trial. Nine received short, suspended sentences or acquittals; one received a sentence of six years for having shot and killed a fugitive who had already been caught and was under arrest. In the fall of 1993, the Bundestag extended the statute of limitations by three years for minor crimes by former East German officials and by five years for more serious crimes.
Most observers of Germany believe the country will solve the economic and political challenges associated with the unification process. However, polls indicated that, as time passed, eastern and western Germans seemed to see the gap between them widening rather than narrowing. In an April 1993 poll, when asked whether eastern and western Germans felt solidarity or antagonism toward one another, 71 percent in the west and 85 percent in the east answered "antagonism." In the coming years, perhaps the greatest challenge to Germans of the east and west will be to master the task of achieving social harmony. Only then can they become one nation.
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