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The state & politics

Broad Participation

Political party work is the classic way to become involved, but lots of young people exploit opportunities to participate in local citizens’ groups.
The instruments of direct democracy, such as referendums, come into play more frequently at the municipal level © dpa

The political parties are granted a major and privileged place in the political system of the Federal Republic of Germany. Article 21 of the Basic Law The Basic Law The Basic Law determines that Germany is a constitutional state: All state authorities are subject to judicial control. Section 1 of the Basic Law is of particular relevance. It stipulates that respect for human dignity is the most important aspect of the constitution: “Human dignity shall be… Read more › states that “ Political parties Political parties According to the Basic Law it is the task of the political parties to participate in political will formation by the people. As such, putting forward candidates for political office and the organization of election campaigns both have the status of constitutional tasks. For this reason the parties… Read more › shall participate in the formation of the ­political will of the people.” This goes hand in hand with an obligation to uphold inner-party democracy: The chairperson, committees, and candidates must all be elected by secret ballot of grass roots delegates at party conferences. In order to strengthen this inner-party democracy, in the case of important decisions parties have in recent times polled their members directly. The SPD members’ vote on the Coalition Agreement in 2018 was pivotal to the forming of a joint Federal Government Federal Government The Federal Government and cabinet is made up of the Federal Chancellor and the Federal Ministers. While the Chancellor holds the power to issue directives, the ministers have departmental powers, meaning that they independently run their respective ministries in the framework of those directives… Read more › with the CDU/CSU. At heart the parties are still expressions of specific strata of society, but at the same time they are losing coherence in this regard. CDU/CSU and SPD together have around one million party members – in ­relation to the 61.5 million eligible voters that is a share of 1.7 percent. There is also a downward trend in election turnout. Whereas in the 1970s and 1980s elections Elections Every four years, the parties stand in the general elections to the Bundestag. Traditionally, the turn-out is high in Germany, and following a high in the 1970s, when the turn-out was over 90 percent, since reunification it has been around 80 percent. Read more › continually saw high and extremely high turnouts, (91.1 percent in 1972), in 2013 and 2017 the elections to the Bundestag The Bundestag The Bundestag is the elected representation of the German people. Technically speaking half the 598 seats in the Bundestag are allocated by means of the parties’ state lists (the second vote) and the other half by the direct election of candidates in the 299 constituencies (the first vote). This… Read more › only saw turnouts of 71.5 and 76.2 percent respectively.

Young people often find being involved in local citizens’ groups and non-government organisations more appealing. Social media are also becoming increasingly important as platforms for a specific type of political articu­lation and action. Citizens also participate dir­ectly in political issues through democratic procedures such as referendums. Over the past few years, there have been more opportunities for direct democracy at both federal state and municipal level, and citizens have made great use of these.