Party funding before the Federal Constitutional Court: Where there is a loophole in control – politics

One can grumble about the parties, their clique, their selection of personnel, their haggling over positions; about the egalitarianism in their ranks, which they sell as unity. But without them things would look bad in the system of representative democracy. They are an important hinge between the people and the state. They bundle the political dispute and make it negotiable for the institutions, above all for parliament. They have constitutional status, Article 21, Paragraph 1 of the Basic Law: They “participate in the political decision-making process of the people”.

It is therefore correct that To see party financing as a public task. Parties need money to function. A largely privatized party landscape would offer opaque zones of influence in which interested parties could buy democratic power with donations. There are bad examples, for example from the USA.

The GDR was a bad example

Conversely, the exclusively state organization of parties would be the beginning of the end of popular rule. The political system would finally decouple itself from its social undercurrent. In the end there would be a party dictatorship in which parliament becomes the backdrop. A recent example on German soil was the GDR. With a view to such experiences, a hybrid form of fundraising has established itself in the Federal Republic, in which the amount of state subsidies is linked to success in votes and donations. The more encouragement, the higher the account balance. In essence, however, the parties should pay for their own maintenance.

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An arrangement that needs to be balanced and controlled. Parliament cannot do it alone, at least not so far. Otherwise, federal constitutional judges, who predominantly make up the Second Senate of the court, would not have had to bend over a modification of the regulations with which the majority of the parliamentary groups from the Union and the SPD had approved the parties an additional few million euros by means of a new upper limit.

The court remains the only corrective

What the verdict will look like is open. Possibly the action was legal, especially if the increased financial requirement is well justified. But one can doubt that. Doubt is fueled only by the way in which the project got into the legal gazette at record speed in 2018, because there was only one reason for the hurry: to shorten the public discussion about it. That became so obvious with the negotiation in Karlsruhe that the protagonists from back then can be embarrassed. The Federal Constitutional Court remains the only effective corrective. However, it can only intervene here because other groups brought the case to court – certainly against the financial interests of their own parties. So a coincidence. This points to a loophole in the system of democratic self-regulation over party finances. One has to hope that it will be noticed in Karlsruhe.

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