Democracy and rights
Abbreviated as DEU by Abbreviationfinder, Germany is considered one of the most developed democracies in the world. Civil and political rights are protected in the Constitution and respected in practice. The media has an independent position and can operate freely, like the courts in the country while the life of the association is flourishing.
The general elections, which are held every four years, are considered by judges to be free of influence and properly and fairly conducted. The electoral law is fair and impartial and there is a general right to vote from the age of 18. However, about eight million German residents do not have the right to vote, even though they have lived in the country for a long time, because they are not German citizens. In order to become a citizen you have to cancel your citizenship in your home country. About 8 percent of the members of the Bundestag had immigrant backgrounds after the 2017 election. At the same time, the proportion of women in Parliament had dropped to 30.9 percent, which was the lowest level since 1998.
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The country’s many parties can act without hindrance and civil society also plays an important role in society and has many members of the population.
There are protections in the Constitution that have been introduced in the light of Germany’s Nazi past and should prevent a similar development from being repeated. It is possible to ban organizations that are considered to threaten democracy. This also applies to political parties. It has not happened since 1956 that no party has been banned.
There is freedom of assembly and demonstration, but applications to be allowed to demonstrate can be refused if it is considered a threat to public safety or if it is prohibited groups behind.
Corruption is not a big problem. Germany is among the dozens of countries in the world that have the least corruption according to the organization Transparency International’s ranking list (see here). There are anti-corruption laws that work relatively well, although Transparency International’s German local organization has criticized the regulations for lobbying and pressure on MEPs for being insufficient. The Council of Europe’s anti-corruption body has also felt that there is too little transparency and transparency regarding the financing of political parties.
Terrorist movements have continued to be seen as a threat to the country’s security and surveillance has tightened, not least after the Paris 2015 attacks. New legislation in 2016 made it easier for the authorities to expel foreign nationals convicted of crime and the opportunities to monitor suspected terrorists increased. The number of people investigated and charged with suspected terrorist activities has increased significantly. In 2014, the government banned all forms of support for the Islamic State (IS) extremist movement. Germany is one of the countries in Europe that has had the most citizens, up to 700 according to some sources, who have joined militant movements such as IS in Syria and Iraq.
Since the beginning of the 21st century, the fight against terrorism has been an important priority in Germany. Some of the members of the al-Qaeda terrorist network that carried out the terrorist attacks against the United States on September 11, 2001 had lived in Hamburg for some time. Following the attacks, Germany, like several other countries, introduced stricter anti-terrorism laws.
During the 2010s, refugee flows and immigration have presented the country with new challenges, which has led to the rise of right-wing extremist movements while gaining popularity, while anti-Semitism has also grown.
Freedom of expression and media
The media plays an important role in the German social debate and can freely convey different views. Freedom of speech and press is enshrined in the constitution, but statements that support Nazism or encourage racism are prohibited.
German freedom of speech does not include the denial of mass murder of Jews during World War II or statements that encourage racial hatred and Nazism.
There is legislation that gives access to public documents, but according to Reporters Without Borders, it has more gaps than many other countries’ laws.
Germany has in recent years commuted from place 12 and up to 17 on Reporters Without Borders list of press freedom (see list here.) Since 2015, the organization has mentioned in its reports an “alarming trend” where German journalists are physically attacked or harassed.
In 2017, a controversial social networking law came into force to stop posting on social media that could be considered hate speech against people or slander. Social media companies can face high fines if they do not quickly remove banned material. Journalists and press freedom organizations have warned that the law may have a negative impact on freedom of expression on the Internet.
There are no restrictions on freedom of expression on the internet and no censorship exists.
Judicial system and legal security
Germany has a well-functioning judiciary that is independent of the executive and legislative powers. The Constitution guarantees the right to a fair and public trial. After terrorist attacks in 2016, Germany has adopted stricter legislation to fight terrorism. For example, the police have increased authority to act on suspected persons who are considered to be a security threat.
Criticism against the president of the federation
Christian Wulff is accused of lying during his time as head of government in Lower Saxony about his contacts with a businessman in connection with a property purchase. Wulff said in 2010 that in ten years he had no business with a designated multi-millionaire, but according to new information in the press, Wulff in 2008 borrowed money from the husband’s wife. When the newspaper Bild asks critical questions about the loan, Wulff threatens the newspaper with “war”. The opposition calls for the president’s resignation, but he gets Chancellor Merkel’s support.
Yes to crisis fund
The Bundestag voted by an overwhelming majority to strengthen the eurozone crisis fund EFSF.
Rescue grants do not violate the Constitution
The Constitutional Court finds that Germany’s contribution to the rescue packages promised to crisis-stricken euro countries is constitutional. The Court states that future aid loans must also be approved by the Bundestag.
State election in Merkel’s home state of Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania
The election will be another loss for the government coalition. The CDU goes backwards and the FDP falls out of parliament. Despite the hardship, the CDU can continue to reign in coalition with the SPD. The Greens are entering the state parliament for the first time, which means that they are now represented in all state parliaments.
Former Nazi sentenced to prison
91-year-old John Demanjuk is sentenced to five years in prison for assisting in the murder of tens of thousands of Jews during World War II. However, the Ukrainian-born former prison guard, who is sentenced to his denial, is released, given his high age. Demanjuk was a guard in the Sobibor concentration camp in Poland, and the prosecutor believes it is proven that he, as a Soviet prisoner of war, participated in the murders of at least 28,000 people in 1943. In the 1980s, Demanjuk was convicted in Israel as “Ivan the Terrible” – a notorious guard in the Treblinka camp. However, new information about his identity caused him to be released in 1993.
New decision on nuclear power
In connection with major demonstrations against nuclear power, the government parties decide that all the country’s 17 reactors should be shut down by 2022, which had been decided in 2001. The eight reactors that were stopped after the nuclear accident in Japan should not be restarted. (see also October 2010)
FDP appoints new party leader
After the difficult election losses, FDP Philipp Rösler, health minister in Merkel’s government, chooses a new leader. He takes over the posts as Minister of Technology and Finance and Vice Chancellor of former FDP leader Guido Westerwelle.
CDU loses the government power in Baden-Württemberg
The CDU and the FDP go back strongly in the Baden-Württemberg state elections, while the Greens go strong forward. Together with the SPD, they receive a majority in the state assembly. The CDU loses the government power in Baden-Württemberg after 58 years and also loses the election in Rhineland-Palatinate, where the Greens will be in parliament for the first time. After the Saxony-Anhalt elections, the CDU and the SPD can continue to rule in a major coalition in the state. The FDP leaves the parliaments in both Rhineland-Palatinate and Saxony-Anhalt.
The government stops older nuclear reactors
Following the nuclear accident in Japan the same month, the German government stops the operation of eight older nuclear reactors. Merkel announces that Germany will make an “organized exit” from the nuclear power community and says that the goal is a society with only renewable energy as soon as possible. (see also October 2010)
The Minister of Defense resigns
Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg from CSU leaves his post because of plagiarism charges. He is accused of plagiarizing large parts of his dissertation. His departure is a serious hardship for Merkel. zu Guttenberg was the government’s most popular minister and was seen as a likely successor to Merkel.
Defeat for the Christian Democrats in Hamburg
In the Hamburg state elections, the SPD is strongly moving forward. CDU loses big and gets just under 22 percent of the vote, compared to just over 42 percent in the 2008 election. CDU has never before backed so much between two elections. The CDU also loses the mandate of the Federal Council through the loss in Hamburg.