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United States. Office of the US High Commissioner for Germany / A program to foster citizen participation in government and politics in Germany
(1951)

7. Legislative organization and practice,   pp. 21-23 PDF (2.0 MB)


Page 21

(2) Visiting Consultants
It is intended to bring one consultant from the
U.S. during 1950 who is an expert on election
systems. He will consult with the Voters' Leagues,
Bundestag and Landtag members and party lead-
ers, and with citizens' associations.
No plan has yet been made for a consultant in
1951 because of the feeling that other items in the
program must be further developed before sub-
stantial additional work in this field can be under-
taken.
(3) German Visits to the United States and
European Countries
Arrangements have been made for two groups
of German political leaders, totaling 13 persons,
to go to the U.S. during 1950 for a period of three
months. These individuals will be selected as hav-
ing an interest in the improvement of political
practices in Germany, although not committed to
any specific reforms. They will observe the work-
ing relationship between the voter, the parties,
legislators and officials in the U.S. This includes
political groups, non-partisan voters' organizations,
pressure groups, letters from constituent to rep-
resentative, newspaper discussion of candidates'
voting records, party organization, the direct prim-
ary system, and a number of other details which
distinguish practice in the United States and Ger-
many.
A A-similar program for five leaders is proposed
for 1951, subject to modification after experience
with the 1950 group.
(4) Pamphlets
"Election Systems". This will be a simple pres-
entation of comparative election systems showing
the benefits and defects of each and the arguments
pro and con.
"How Political Parties Work". This will describe
the actual operation of the political party system
in Germany, with comment and illustrations of alter-
native practices in the other Western democracies,
and emphasis on the advantages of better relations
between the parties and the public and more con-
trol of the public over legislative representatives.
(5) Land Offices
Newspaper editorials indicate that there is al-
ready considerable understanding among those
familiar with public affairs that the present po-
litical party system is unsatisfactory and unrep-
resentative, that there is too strong a party dis-
cipline, and that the interests of the public as a
whole and of constituencies in particular are sub-
ordinated to party policy and interests. With this
as a starting point it seems probable that some
impression may be made on the political party
system in the various Laender by discussion with
individuals interested in public affairs, whether
they are now active in party politics or not. The
recent rise of the refugee parties and the absten-
tion of youth are indications of the public dis-
satisfaction with the present system. Common ex-
perience indicates that many who still vote the
regular party tickets do so because no other choice
is offered them. An opportunity is .open to that
party which first convinces the people by action
that it is responsive to the public will and public
need.
Leaders and legislators may be convinced of the
advantage of closer contacts with their constit-
uencies, and that this should extend to the voters
as a whole and not merely to party supporters.
They would also find it useful to discuss matters
and elicit voters' opinions rather than devote them-
selves primarily to speeches presenting party doc-
trine.
(6) Kreis Offices
The considerations outlined under (5) above are
even more applicable to the Kreis Officers because
they have the best opportunity for contact with
the local leaders and legislators. If reforms are ever
realized it will result from grass roots pressure
and application at the local level.
(7) Newspapers and Radio
General material will be made available from
IPG. HICOG representatives at all levels may en-
courage newspaper and radio comment upon
developments, or concerning the action of local
representatives in the local councils, the Landtag,
and Bundestag. It would be particularly desirable
if the newspapers would report the vote of the
local representative on particular bills which af-
fect the locality, noting whether he voted in the
interest of the locality or, under party discipline,
against it. It is hoped that some newspapers and
radio commentators may be persuaded consistently
to contrast party ideologies with the realities of ur-
gent problems and pending programs.
(8) Films
No film program has been developed.
7. LEGISLATIVE ORGANIZATION AND
PRACTICE
A. PROBLEM
At both Federal and Land level the Executive
branch of the government tends to dominate the
Legislative branch. The Executive branch is head-
ed by a cabinet which commonly includes the
party leaders of the legislative majority, and it
exercises, not merely leadership, but a tight dis-
cipline over the party groups. The Executive
branch is staffed by professional civil servants who
for generations have nourished the tradition that
only they through their training and experience
are expert in government. Many legislators seem
to accede to this view, and many civil servants
appear to have a contempt for the untrained
legislator and hence for the legislative process and
legislative authority.
Legislative organization and procedure are ill-
adapted to the assertion of the constitutional
supremacy of the legislature, especially since
final decisions are made in committees and party
caucuses and through agreements between party
leaders before debate and the public vote. The
legislatures lack staff and reference bureaus and
depend largely on the ministries to draft their
legislation for them. Most bills which are passed
are cabinet drafts. Legislative investigations of
government administration and public affairs are
unduly limited because of executive influence
over the legislature.
The public has little real representation and
little opportunity to make its views known or
effective. As noted in Program 6, election systems
and party discipline combine to make the legis-
lator represent the party, not his constituents.
Public hearings on pending legislation are almost
unknown, and public- discussion of legislation be-
fore adoption is almost non-existent and is vigor-
ously opposed by most governments.
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