Il governo dei partiti in Germania: fondamenta, funzionalitą, problemi e prospettive

N. 183


Summary — The political situation in Germany seems to be characterised by a widening gap between the high level of stability in party politics and stagnation in policy making. After 16 years in office the figure of chancellor Kohl represents both these aspects of political reality, as in the last legislature his historical coalition of Christian Democrats and Liberals proved unwilling or unable to overcome the block on reform policies created by the opposition Social Democratic majority in the Chamber of Regions. As a result malcontents with party performance have reached a new peak, with political scientists and citizens intensifying their criticisms of the German " Party State ".

However, a crisis over the legitimacy of party government, such as occurred in Italy in 1993, seems very improbable in the Federal Republic. The German party state system created by Gerhard Leibholz in the ‘50’s has given considerable space and financial resources to party action, while also emphasising democratic guarantees in party life, in order to ensure a functional relationship between citizens and institutions. In the changed circumstances of "mass media democracy", these rules, enlisted mostly in the German "Party Law", now support the gradual adaptation of parties to new functional necessities.

With the decreasing impact of party politics in an era of globalisation and the dissolution of political ideologies and social classes into dozens of different groupings, classical "catch-all-parties" now find it much more difficult to maintain their electoral strength. The party that has suffered most from this situation in Germany is the opposition SPD. Minor parties already in Parliament, such as the Green Party of the post-communist PDS, have been able to draw electoral advantage from these difficulties, but it seems improbable that other new parties will join them in the forthcoming poll. Despite a diminishing consensus among voters, the two major parties, the CDU/CSU and the SPD, maintain their political dominance in the system of "Chancellor's Democracy". The possibility of Kohl's CDU/CSU winning another election and defending their hegemony depends to a great extent on the destiny of the liberal partner, the FDP, which risks falling short of the 5-%-hurdle for entering Parliament.

Thanks to the guarantees of the Party State, however, even a political stalemate between the two major parties should not lead to a cataclysm in German politics, as "the lessons learned by the catastrophe of 1945 may have provided the basis for a 'learning democracy' in the Federal Republic of Germany".