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Thank you Germany: Part 099: Political separation of powers is neatly organised in Germany


The separation of powers is also part of Germany’s political culture. And it is very neatly organised in the political system of the Federal Republic of Germany. The founding fathers of the Basic Law and the Allies went to great lengths after the end of the Second World War both to make the democratisation of the country possible and to provide enough room for lively political debate.

There is a separate institution for each area of political decision-making and these institutions supervise each other. On the one hand, there is the Bundestag as parliament and thus legislator. On the other hand, there are the courts and the Federal Constitutional Court. The latter ensures that laws are interpreted and that the enactment of laws is politically correct. This means that unconstitutional laws can be rejected by the Federal Constitutional Court. When a case is brought before it, it examines the law to see whether it conforms to the constitution. Through this work, the Federal Constitutional Court monitors the legislation of the Bundestag.

The Federal Constitutional Court enjoys a higher political standing in Germany than almost any other institution. The German state has the police and a correspondingly large administrative apparatus at its disposal for issuing decrees and enforcing laws. In Germany, the police have no military tasks. It is quite deliberately an institution that is supposed to provide security on a more civil level. This kind of exercise of state power also distinguishes Germany from many other states in the world. It ensures that while the police enforce the law, they do so with moderation and are not out to merely enforce brute force. This characteristic of liberal democracy is an important quality of Germany. Even if the actions of the police and the enactment of new police laws have repeatedly been the subject of heated political debate, the civilian form of the German police is nevertheless a clear characteristic of this apparatus. It is not a military force inside the country. One can be glad that Germany’s political system is very conscious of “checks and balances” in political decision-making.

This system ensures that political changes take place by voting out a government and not by a coup, and also grants implementation of laws that adhere to the basic rules of democracy as laid down in the Basic Law of the Federal Republic of Germany. The Basic Law has constitutional status in Germany – and in all federal states. This means that despite federalism, the rules of the Basic Law always take precedence over the rules of the individual Länder. Thus, everyone in Germany can invoke the constitution and sue for the rights that are themselves guaranteed to them in the Basic Law.

The courts are independent of the political decision-makers when considering such complaints. Even those who do not agree with the government or argue against its plans can count on a fair trial at any time. This possibility does not exist in every country in the world. For people in Germany, it is part of normality today.

Last updated on 6. February 2023

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