EINWURF is a policy brief of the Bertelsmann Stiftung. In 6-8 issues per year, it deals with current topics and challenges to the future of democracy. It concentrates on the issues of political participation, the future of parties and parliaments, the sustainability and forward-looking approach of democratic politics, and new forms of direct democracy.
In the following list, you will find past issues of the policy brief in English. To download individual issues in PDF format, simply click on one of the titles.
EINWURF - Policy Brief / English issue
The European citizens’ initiative is being reformed – and that’s a good thing. To date, the media have hardly reported on this young participation instrument. But if the citizens’ initiative is to have any impact in Brussels,it needs more public awareness.
In addition to the Policy Brief „More Initiative for Europe’s Citizens“, the factsheet offers facts, figures and analyses about the ECI.
Political parties and governments are better than their reputation. This also holds true for the previous German grand coalition composed of the CDU/CSU and SPD: Of the 188 total promises in the 2013 coalition agreement, almost 80 percent were either fully or partially fulfilled. However, less than 13 percent of all eligible voters see things this way. The majority underestimates what the parties and the government achieved.
Low and socially divided turnout harms Germany´s Democracy. To vote by mail - the only flexible way to cast one´s Ballot - citizens still have to apply before each election. If this hurdle were removed, voter turnout could go back up.
Voter turnout in Germany is decreasing and no longer socially representative. However, the majority of non-voters can still be approached and mobilized. There isn’t any simple, fail-safe solution for doing this. But by addressing the core issues of who votes, how we vote and according to which rules we vote, the following eight proposals provide an outline of how voter turnout could be raised anew. Here, the main focus lies on incentives and instruments for mobilizing non-voters, a more modern organization of elections and a more transparent election law.
The first-ever estimates of voter turnout of the social milieus, for the 2013 federal elections in Germany, show that the upper social class has a voter-participation rate up to 40 percent higher than that of the socially weaker milieus. The socially disadvantaged milieus are underrepresented in the election results by up to one-third, and they make up a share of non-voters almost twice as large as the share of non-voters of all eligible voters. At the same time, the socially stronger milieus are significantly overrepresented. (Election) surveys systematically underestimate the social divide in voter turnout.
As Germany is facing enormous infrastructural challenges, citizens want to have a say and know what will be build and why. If Germany’s infrastructure-renewal efforts are to succeed, politicians and public administration need to fi nd new ways to get citizens fully involved in decision-making processes. To improve participation in practice, there must be a major push toward professionalization, as projects planned without consideration for or input from citizens will fail.
Germans are paying less and less attention to debates in their federal parliament, and media coverage of them is rather limited. Introducing new systems of debate and inquiry could help strengthen the Bundestag as a key arena of political competition. The grand coalition has agreed to amend the system of putting questions to the Federal Government. But this is merely the first step! The questions need to be more topical and wide-ranging, all member of the Federal Cabinet should participate in Q&A sessions, and citizens should ask questions, too. Impossible? Absolutely not!
Younger people today make political decisions based more on pragmatic concerns and their own short-term needs than older people do. However, instead of to age, this “future orientation” can be attributed to the infl uences of each generation’s political socialization: Having guiding principles and political ideologies has made today’s older individuals more future-oriented, while younger people – as members of “Generation wahl-O-Mat” – tend to be more presentoriented. Given ongoing demographic changes, what does this mean for the future viability of Germany’s Democracy?
The political culture in Germany has changed and become more participatory. Voting alone is no longer enough, as citizens want to be able to participate in deliberations and decide things for themselves. In their view, the greatest need for improvement lies with referendums. In any case, our democracy has become more diverse – and that’s a good thing, as more citizens’ participation strengthens our democracy. While citizens have already embraced a diverse democracy for some time, political elites continue to cling more strongly to the representative System.
It already held true for Germany’s 2013 federal parliamentary election: The more precarious the Social living conditions, the lower the voter turnout. As a result, growing regional and social differences lead to political inequality (EINWURF 3/2013). The social divide in German society can be seen even more clearly with the 2014 European Parliament election: With voter turnout for it being significantly lower than that for the Bundestag election, social selectivity was more pronounced. Thus, the results of the EU election are even less representative than those of the Bundestag election.
Voter turnout for the 2013 election of Germany’s federal parliament almost reached a record low, at 71.5 percent. At the same time, the low level of voter participation intensifies the social selectivity of the electorate and thereby the social divisions within our democracy. This is reflected by a uniform pattern across Germany: The more precarious the social living conditions in a neighborhood or voting district, the lower the voter turnout. Social inequality leads to political inequality – which in turn harms the representativeness of the election result.
Voter turnout for the 2013 election of Germany’s federal parliament reached its second-lowest level since the founding of the Federal Republic. Almost 30 percent of eligible voters opted not to exercise their right to vote. Growing regional and social disparities in voter turnout are intensifying political inequality. Democratic representation is eroding, and many believe that the democracy is losing internal legitimacy. For this reason, low voter turnout is weakening the democratic system. But German voters are still opposed to statutory compulsory voting.
Whether someone votes in Germany depends on where they live, who their friends are and whether politics are discussed in their family. The typical nonvoter doesn’t view voting as a civic duty, lives in disadvantaged neighborhoods, is young and is just as apolitical as those in his or her environment. The protesting “Party of Nonvoters” is a myth: Political indifference, rather than disenchantment with democracy, explains why people from social strata with lower levels of income and education participate in politics less. Germany is becoming a socially devided democracy.