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October 13 Notes

Political Science
Course Code
Randall Hansen

of 2
POL207 Lecture 5 October 13th 2010
Parliamentary Democracy in Germany
Has broad features of British Parliamentary regime, but differs in a number of key
1.Electoral system (PR + 5% threshold) ensures that all governments are coalition
governments, requiring cross-party consensus building and compromise
2. Bundesrat (senate or upper house) has an absolute veto over constitutional
responsibilities and Laender financing and a suspensive veto over all else; when the
government loses its majority in the Bundesrat, there exists a German form of divided
3. Powerful committee structure ensures that legislators make an independent
contribution to the development of policy [discussed in legislative process, below]
German governments, 1945-present
In most of the governments since 1949 the CDU have been part of government. The
FDP has been consistently in power since the 1960s.
The German Party System
Germany is something of a hybrid of the two systems:
Electoral system ensusres multiparty representation, but the threshold (5%) and the need
to avoid a constructive vote of non-confidence leads to cohesive government
Parties are constitutionally entrenched and state-funded. They are powerful, well-funded
and exercise a strong influence on policy, though the CDU has traditionally been highly
dependent on leader (Adeneaur/Kohl)
They are also the main source of corruption in Germany
Postwar party history characterized by a strong degree of stability
Major parties in Germany
-Christian Democrats (CDU, Christliche Demokratische Union)
-Christian Socialists (Christliche, Soziale Union, CSU); Bavarian sister party to CDU,
split of the 2 parties avoided the emergence of a regional cleavage
-Free Democrats (FDP, Freie demokratische Partei); neo-liberal, libertarian party
-Greens (die Gruenen), ecological party, of greatest appeal of the ’68 generation;
combines support of decentralized economy with strong environmental protection
-Fringe parties: German Peoples Party, Republikaner, New Left Party
-Laender party: PDS
Powers of German Chancellor
-Distinct from federal president: figurehead, elected by Bundestag electoral college (with
Laender representation)
-Chancellors powers: determines general guidelines of policy [Richtlinienkompetenz]
allows intervention in broad range of fields
-Power depends on relations with party, relations with coalition parties, institutions of the
federal republic