I.In the Karlsruhe exhibition hall, a fundamental aspect was discussed on Wednesday. The procedure for state party financing led to the question: What does the legislature owe? In principle: only the law, no justification. When it comes to increasing government grants, however, a different standard may prevail.
In 2018, the grand coalition raised the ceiling for state party funding by 15 percent to 190 million euros. The Union and the SPD argued primarily with higher spending due to digitization and intra-party participation. That was too generalized for the Greens, the Left and the FDP. You went to the Federal Constitutional Court against the reform; the AfD criticizes the “hasty” legislative process there.
MPs as “legislators in their own right”
An increase in party funding must be justified precisely, say the Greens, the FDP and the Left. As party members, the MPs here are after all “legislators in their own right”. Sophie Schönberger, the representative of the three parliamentary groups, made it clear in what the action in “own cause” was expressed. As a rule, political conflict ensures a balance between the common good and the interests of individual parties. When it comes to their financing, all MEPs have “structurally the same wishes”. It therefore needs compensation. Only a detailed justification can prevent the impression that the parties are “using” the state treasury.
Trust in democratic institutions is waning anyway, said Schönberger. With regard to parties, this development is particularly explosive in view of its importance for representative democracy. Schönberger seemed to gain approval from the judges. Monika Hermanns asked, however, whether this would not open a “Pandora’s box”, after all there was a risk of loss of acceptance in many places. It is also laid out in democracy. Schoenberger countered that not every decision was about “one’s own cause”. The obligation to give reasons here also serves “self-control”.
It is also about the common good
Joachim Wieland, the representative for the Bundestag, did not want to recognize a decision “on his own behalf”. After all, the financing of parties is not just about their wishes, but also, with a view to their function, about the common good. The negotiation also shows that different interests collide here. Some parliamentary groups have decided not to “get on board”, probably in order to win voters in this way. The rapporteur for the procedure, Peter Müller, was not convinced of this. He emphasized that one was in a “special situation” and asked warningly whether the party funding would not “somehow go blind” without public accountability.
From Wieland’s point of view, the call for an obligation to give reasons distracts from the decisive criterion: the question of whether there have been “drastic changes” in society that justify an increase in the upper limit according to the constitutional court. On the first day of the negotiations, the SPD tried to illustrate the increased requirements brought about by digitization. She received support from political scientist Isabelle Borucki on Wednesday. The need for financing has increased enormously, especially for large parties. In addition to communication and participation in the digital space, they ultimately continued to do a lot of work in the analog world.
How the Federal Constitutional Court interprets the indefinite legal term “radical change” will become known in a few months – when it reaches its judgment.