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The Beginnings of Parliamentary Work (January 17/24, 1997)

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Constitutional Consensus

The separate state constitution that was created for Brandenburg has garnered much praise but also harsh criticism on account of its many plebiscitary elements. The right of citizens to work and housing was enshrined with a broad consensus spanning the boundaries of parliamentary factions. The population can initiate a popular initiative with 20,000 signatures, and a referendum with 80,000 signatures. The necessary local-level territorial reforms created an immense workload. At the end of 1993, 14 large districts and four cities constituting districts in their own right were created out of the 36 tiny administrative units that had existed previously.

The processing of the Stasi past ran like a red thread through the entire first legislative session. Two deputies – from the Alliance 90 parliamentary faction, of all things – resigned on account of proven dealings with the Ministry for State Security (MfS) and vacated their seats. Several other deputies from the other factions were considered borderline cases and remained in parliament. The Stasi past of Minister President Manfred Stolpe (SPD) occupied the parliament for nearly two-and-a-half years. The Stolpe Investigative Committee, established at the request of the CDU in February 1992, dominated – with a considerable media circus – the political life in Potsdam for nearly two-and-a-half years. Its work finally concluded in June 1994 with Stolpe’s acquittal and a Landtag appeal for the use of humane criteria in the evaluation of the GDR past.

While the Committee was doing its work, the constant appearance of new files from the Gauck Agency* in Berlin and many suspicions paralyzed the business of government and in March 1994 dealt a death blow to the traffic-light coalition of the SPD, the F.D.P., and Alliance 90.* After then Alliance faction leader Günter Nooke accused Stolpe of being a liar, the traffic light – previously held together often only with great effort – broke apart for good. The SPD and the F.D.P. governed alone until the end of the legislative session half a year later.

[ . . . ]

* Commonly used term for the federal agency with the unwieldy name “Federal Commissioner for the Records of the Ministry for State Security of the Former German Democratic Republic.” The agency was named after its first head, Joachim Gauck – eds.
** In Germany, government coalitions among different parties are often named after the colors associated with the particular parties. A traffic-light coalition is a coalition between the SPD (red),the F.D.P. (yellow) and Alliance 90/The Greens (green) – eds.

Source: Klaus-Dieter Eule, “Zu Beginn Gesetze am laufenden Band” [“In the Beginning, a Constant Stream of Laws”], Das Parlament, January 17/24, 1997, p. 5.

Translation: Thomas Dunlap

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