Germany, Brexit and the Future of the European Union
Charles Lees & Philip Walters
20 July 2017
Politics and Society in Germany
The Federal Republic of Germany comprises the eleven states of the former West Germany and the five states of the former East Germany. Its political system has two important features: parliamentary federalism and mixed-member proportional representation (MMP). A federal parliamentary republic is a federation of states with a government that is more or less dependent on the confidence of parliaments at both the national and subnational levels. MMP is a mixed electoral system in which voters have two votes: one to decide the representative for their single-seat constituency, and one for a political party’s ‘list’ of candidates. Seats in the legislature are filled firstly by the successful constituency candidates, and secondly by party candidates on the basis of the percentage of nationwide votes that each party receives. MMP differs from parallel voting in that the nationwide seats are allocated to political parties in a compensatory manner in order to achieve proportional election results. Under MMP, two parties that each receive 25% of the votes may both end up with 25% of the seats, even if one party wins more constituencies than the other.
The political system that developed in Germany after the Second World War was a three-party central-tending triangular dynamic involving the CDU/CSU, the SPD and the FDP, which were been more or less equal in political influence if not seats. This political system was somewhat upset after 1983 when the Greens became significant, and in 1990 with the emergence of the left-leaning PDS (the direct successor to the East German SED and later to become the Left Party) after the reincorporation of the GDR. Over the last 20 years Germany has become much more of a cosmopolitan and multicultural society. The 2011 census gave the population of Germany as 80.2 million. About 74 million (92.3%) were German citizens, of whom 9.9 million (12.3%) were of immigrant background. About 6 million (7.7%) were foreign nationals. The figures for religious belief were: none 33.5%; Roman Catholic 29.5%; Protestant 27.9%; Muslim 5%; other Christian 3.3%; other religion 0.8%. Social cleavages persist to differing degrees in Germany along ethnic, onfessional, class and geographical lines, accompanied by a cultural divide between citizens with libertarian or authoritarian value orientations. Nevertheless the German political culture is still basically consensual, as opposed to the UK’s adversarial political culture. A stable party system, a relatively consensual parliamentary culture, coalition government and multi-level governance, in the context of a social market economy, make up what has been called Germany’s ‘efficient secret’ (Smith 1994).Continue reading “Germany, Brexit and the Future of the European Union”