Brandt School Universität Erfurt

"German Elections Ahead..." - Brandt School Workshop

On September 24th, 2017, the German population is asked to the polling stations to elect the next German chancellor? President? Parliament? Who do the people of the EU’s most populated state actually elect? And how does the German federal electoral system work in general?

This Friday’s workshop addressed these puzzling questions. Participants were interactively engaged with the complexities by receiving inputs from experts in the field. Dr. Anja Mihr of the Brandt School welcomed the participants and guided the discussions throughout the event.  Dr. Bernd Rother of the Willy Brandt Stiftung Berlin gave a short introductory note on the foundation by highlighting the most important pathways of the chancellor, Willy Brandt.  

What kind of political and party system does Germany have? Prof. Eric Linhart of the University Chemnitz started by explaining the parliamentarian, multi-party system of Germany. The student body and participants were particularly interested in how the parliamentarian, democratic system of Germany varies in so many aspects, for example, presidential democracies and what implications this has for the democratic culture in Germany?

Miriam Kueller, former political affairs officer at the Embassy of Canada, followed up on this by going more in-depth about the specifics of the German political parties. The following debate focused on current challenges of the political system, such as the grand coalition and a potential lack of critical discourse between the two major parties. Prof. Eric Linhart pointed out that if parties move towards the middle, it could cause people to criticize the development and result in a rising demand for an alternative extreme party. Furthermore, people may not be able to differentiate between the parties anymore, triggering populism, according to Miriam Kueller. However, Dr. Bernd Rother of the Willy Brandt Stiftung Berlin argued that, as seen in the past, grand coalitions do not necessarily create extreme parties.

Another important point of discussion was the question surrounding the parliamentarian system and if it has reached its limits? And if so, what could be the alternatives? A so-called post parliamentarian system? Moving back to the ancient Greek system? Rolling a dice to elect those to govern the country? In the case of Germany, it was declared that the current system is highly unlikely to change besides the occurring criticism.

According to history, how has the German political system evolved? Dr. Bernd Rother, a historian by training, highlighted the most important developments, which lead to today’s  system. Stressing that until 1918, the parliament was solely able to reject the budget, it became once more obvious what a lengthy process it has been and the pitfalls which had to be overcome, such as the Nazi dictatorship, but also the East West divide after the second world war.

Considering the complexity of the topic, this workshop was a great opportunity to shed some light on current and past developments as well as challenges. The workshop leaders made it possible to break down such a complex topic into an understandable and engaging manner. Twenty students from the Willy Brandt School of Public Policy and other faculties of the University of Erfurt joined the event and enriched the discussion with their questions and comments.  

This workshop was organized in cooperation with the Bundeskanzler Willy Brandt Foundation Berlin.