Politics and Government in Germany, 1944-1994: Basic Documents

By Carl-Christoph Schweitzer; Detlev Karsten et al. | Go to book overview

7
Parliamentary Democracy: the Bundestag

Carl-Christoph Schweitzer

A ccording to democratic theory and the German Basic Law, the Bundestag, directly elected by the sovereign people, has precedence over the other two 'powers', i.e. the executive and the judiciary. The fathers of the Basic Law wanted to establish the Federal Republic of Germany very clearly as a parliamentary democracy. Remembering their experiences with the Weimar Republic, whose head of government was responsible to both parliament and the president as Head of State, they made sure that the executive branch of government, the chancellor (Bundeskanzler) with his cabinet (Bundesregierung), is politically responsible to the Bundestag and is elected by its members by secret ballot. (see also Ch.9)

The president of the Bundestag (Bundestagspräsident, 'speaker'), automatically elected at the beginning of each legislative period (Wahlperiode) on the nomination of the majority party in the Bundestag, conducts the business of the House within a set of very specific Standing Orders (Geschäftsordnung des Bundestag, Doc.1). He is assisted by Vice-presidents, representing the other parties in the Bundestag, and by the Council of Elders (Ä ltestenrat) made up of 'government' and 'opposition' Members of the Bundestag (MdBs, referred to below as 'members'). This body draws up, by mutual agreement, the weekly timetable of the House and in this way exercises control over its own business in a formal way not followed in Great Britain or Canada.

The members are not only governed by these Standing Orders of the Bundestag, but also by Standing Orders of their party caucuses (Fraktionsgeschäftsordnungen, Doc.2). The party caucuses constitute themselves formally and automatically after each general election. They are, however, recognised only when and if the elected members of a given political party make up at least 5 percent of the overall Bundestag membership of 656 (see also Chs.2 and 8 for post-reunification). There have been so far no cases of members being elected

-175-

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Politics and Government in Germany, 1944-1994: Basic Documents
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Preface to the First Edition xv
  • Preface to the Second Edition xvii
  • Introduction xix
  • 1 - The Origins of The Federal Republic Of Germany, 1944-1949 1
  • 2 - Berlin 29
  • 3 - The Two Germanies 48
  • 4 - Germany Reunited 1989--Her First Successful Revolution, And a Peaceful One 76
  • 5 - Foreign Policy 108
  • 6 - Defence Policy and the Armed Forces 150
  • 7 - Parliamentary Democracy: The Bundestag 175
  • 8 - Political Parties 201
  • 9 - Chancellor, Cabinet, and President 239
  • 10 - The Judiciary 272
  • 11 - Basic Rights And Constitutional Review 297
  • 12 - Federalism: Bund and Länder 325
  • 13 - Public Opinion: Interest Groups and the Media 371
  • 14 - Economic and Social Policy 401
  • Statistical Tables 432
  • Glossary 446
  • Select Bibliography 449
  • Notes on the Editors 458
  • Index 460
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