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Farewell to Federal Chancellor Konrad Adenauer (October 15, 1963)

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His political style

Yes, you have not only enjoyed the benefit of the Basic Law, with the strong position it grants the Federal Chancellor and the protection of the constructive vote of no confidence. Of even greater importance, however, was the fact that, from the very beginning, you had many very exceptional staff members in your cabinets and offices, and that you succeeded in personally befriending high-ranking foreign statesmen. Your political style has often been criticized. Meanwhile, these fourteen years of German parliamentary democracy have come to show that unlike a presidential democracy, not to mention Bismarck’s Reich Constitution [Bismarksche Reichsverfassung], the head of the government in our democracy must always be backed by an adequate level of parliamentary support. It goes without saying that he will therefore always try to keep at least his own parliamentary group and his own coalition united behind him as much as possible. That, of course, has the consequence that an essential, often decisive part of the dialogue between government and parliament does not take place in the plenary sessions but within the parliamentary groups, which practically excludes the public. One might regret that, one can also criticize that, but one ignores reality when he concludes from this that the parliament in our state or the parliamentary groups of the government coalition receive orders from the government, or, to be more precise, from the man who determines the policy guidelines.

It was not only your constitutional right to do this, Mr. Chancellor, it was your duty! In our state, one is even less able to base an accusation of authoritarian rule on this, since the government is always ultimately dependent on a parliamentary majority to implement its policies. Whoever appreciates this fact will understand when you, Mr. Chancellor, say that you constantly went to great lengths to persuade as many as possible. Because in our state even a federal chancellor remains relentlessly dependent on that [parliamentary majority], which is why every Bundestag election is also a referendum for or against his policies.

[ . . . ]

Source: Bundestag President Dr. Eugen Gerstenmaier, “Warum in dieser Stunde vom Dank die Rede ist. Der Wortlaut der Laudatio auf Konrad Adenauer. 15 Oktober 1963” [“Why there is Talk of Gratitude in this Hour. The Text of the Speech honoring Konrad Adenauer, October 15, 1963”], Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, October 16, 1963, p. 11.

Translation: Allison Brown

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