In the Beginning, a Constant Stream of Laws
The Landtag of Brandenburg has now outgrown its infancy. Initial euphoria, excitement, and also inadequacies have given way over time to placidity and professional routine. Superb work is being done in the 19 committees, and participants long ago reached Western standards in the verbal jousting that goes on in the plenary hall.
After the elections in October 1990, 88 deputies took their seats in parliament. With 36 deputies, the SPD was the strongest faction. The CDU faction had 27 deputies, while the PDS received 13 seats. They were joined back then by two smaller parties, the F.D.P. and Alliance 90, the latter of which had been created by civil rights activists during the Wende*; each had six parliamentarians. Whereas no fewer than five of the ten ministers in the state government were “imported” from the West, all of the Landtag deputies hailed from Brandenburg.
During the founding years, the first order of business was to create, through hard work, the mechanism that was necessary for parliamentary democracy in the young federal state of Brandenburg: the necessary laws were drafted, debated, and passed virtually in a constant stream. Today, the work revolves mostly around amending these laws to adjust them to conditions in the Land [state]. During the first legislative session from 1990 to 1994, no fewer than 207 laws were passed, most of which replaced old GDR legislation. That was just over fifty laws a year, recalls the president of the parliament, Herbert Knoblich (SPD), who, after six years in office, is now considered an “old hand.” “That was an incredible achievement and burden at the same time,” he says. Knoblich: “Back then it was our duty to create the political structures of the old Federal Republic here in our state.”
Knoblich speaks of the “spirit of the round tables” that prevailed in parliament at the time. As he explains, an incredible dynamism characterized the developments in the East after the fall of the Wall, and this was also reflected in the Landtag’s decrees. At times, however, their wording was a little strange, since experience was still lacking in the beginning. Moreover, the boundaries between the parliamentary factions were not yet as rigidly drawn as they are today. During voting, “yes” or “no” votes were cast straight across party lines. “The statement in the state constitution of Brandenburg about the deputy who is obligated only to his conscience may sound rather formal to Western ears,” Knoblich emphasizes, “but in the East it was a real alternative to the toppled GDR dictatorship.” Although the initial colorfulness has been toned down considerably by now, what has remained is the deputies’ great closeness to the citizens and to their region. None of the parliamentary factions exclusively follows directives from Bonn. Politics, he says, is being tailored entirely to the problems in the East, even if it goes against the directives from one’s own party.
* The German term Wende refers to the events that led to the downfall of the Communist regime in 1989/90 – eds.