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NUMERO 14 - 12/06/2024

 Germany on the European ballot: an announced shock and the risk of losing identity

As Art. 20 of the Basic Law (BL) states, the Federal Republic of Germany (FRG) is a federal state with a highly rationalised parliamentary form of government. The system gives political parties a central role in institutional dynamics, that is why Germany is also known as a party democracy. Elections to renew the Bundestag – the representative chamber of the German electorate – are held according to a personalised proportional system, which gives each voter two votes: a majority vote, with which they can elect a candidate in their constituency in a single round, and a list vote, with which they can express their preference for one of the competing parties, but without being able to choose between the candidates on their chosen list. Coalitions are usually necessary to form a government, as it is difficult for a single party to win a majority of seats in the Bundestag. The Head of State is the Federal President, who is elected by the Federal Assembly (Bundesversammlung), consisting of the elected Members of the Bundestag and an equal number of representatives of the Länder, and receives a five-year term of office, renewable once. Legislative power is vested in an imperfect bicameral system, in which the two chambers have partially differentiated powers. Legislative power is conferred in particular on the Bundestag, which is elected every four years by ‘universal, direct, free, equal and secret suffrage’ (Art. 38 BL) by all German citizens. On the proposal of the Federal President, the Bundestag gives its vote of confidence without debate only to the Federal Chancellor, who, as head of the Government, determines the guidelines for the internal and foreign policy of the Executive at federal level (the so-called Richtlinienkompetenz) (Art. 65 BL) and proposes the ministers of his Cabinet, appointed by the Head of State (Art. 64 BL). In order to stabilise the position of the Government and the Chancellor in particular, the BL provides for a highly rationalised form of the trust relationship between the Executive and the Legislative, centred on the institution of ‘constructive no-confidence’ (Art. 67 I BL). This provides that the Bundestag may only express no-confidence against the Federal Chancellor alone, and not against the government as a whole, provided that, by a majority of its members, a successor is elected at the same time as the resolution sanctioning the removal of the incumbent Head of Government, with the requirement that at least 48 hours elapse between the tabling of the motion of no-confidence and its vote in the Bundestag. In this way, the position of the Executive, and in particular of the Federal Chancellor, is strongly strengthened, since the failure to obtain a majority of votes in favour of an alternative candidate to the Head of Government at risk of no-confidence may not only indirectly strengthen the latter, but may also result in an early dissolution of the Bundestag itself by the Federal President. Political forces are therefore called upon to consider very carefully the opportunity to use the institute of constructive no-confidence… (continues)

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