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of national interests in the selection of Bundestag members, but avoids excessive fragmentation.

Secondly, the Federal President, elected now by the federal parliament and an equal number of state representatives, has a largely ceremonial function as the head of state (not head of the government), and therefore unable to interfere too directly in parliamentary politics (Hancock 1993, p215; Roskin 1992, pp155-156; for difficulties through 2004 in selecting Horst Kohler, a Christian Democrat and ‘boss’ of the International Monetary Fund, to replace the Social Democrat president, Johannes Rau, see the Economist 2004a). Thirdly, the Federal Constitutional Court has much more power than the Weimar courts to challenge legislation passed in the Bundestag and the Bundesrat (upper Federal Council of states), so that laws undermining democracy are likely to be challenged (Hancock 1993, p215; Steiner 1986, p155). Likewise, the position of Chancellor has been made more stable by a principle called 'constructive no-confidence', because the head of the government cannot be ousted by a no-confidence vote unless a new Chancellor is also appointed (Roskin 1992, p158). Since the Chancellor appoints the Cabinet, this is a powerful position which strong leaders like Adenauer (Chancellor in 1949) and Helmut Kohl have used to set their stamp on government-style. There is also a very strong emphasis on state powers, and the German states (Länder) have extensive authority over police functions, education, and medical care (Roskin 1992, p155).

The Bundestag (lower house of parliament) gains much of its power through the use of standing committees which work on and modify proposed legislation, often working with multi-party support on particular reforms, and liaising directly with cabinet ministries to influence the running of government. Although the Bundestag is not as powerful as the British parliament, it does include a wide range of types of members, including civil servants given leave from their duties, as well as leaders from the union movement and business men who have decided to run for office (Roskin 1992, p162). The Bundesrat, the upper house consists of delegates appointed by the states (between 3-6), who have an equal vote with the Bundestag on laws effecting states - on other issues they can veto a piece of legislation, but in the end the Bundestag can 'override' the objection (Roskin 1992, p162). The local states, the Länder, however, retain strong responsibilities for local legislation, control of the police, 'administration of justice, primary, secondary and higher education, and cultural matters' (Rémond 2001).

These assurances remain in place, of course, only so long as extremist parties remain minorities, and do not dominate lower level state regions. However, efforts have been made to keep Germany integrated into larger European structures that favour multilateral rather than unilateral policies. Occasionally some citizens of Britain, Switzerland, the Czech Republic (see Phillips 2001) or France express concern about possible German economic dominance of the European Union. This has also expressed itself in concerns over how far Germany influences the financial policies of the European Central Bank. Likewise, the way that Germany uses its international influence is watched carefully by world opinion and by European neighbours. A more serious issue is how large and small states relate within the EU, and whether a shared Franco-German understanding of the future of Europe can be sustained (see below).

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