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PRuF Symposium

Report on the Party Science Symposium 2022: Digital Party Democracy

After a two-year break due to the pandemic, the PRUF resumed the tradition of the annual party science symposium on 01 and 02 April 2022 and invited participants to the Haus der Universität. In a hybrid event format, participants from the fields of political science and law addressed the topic of "Digital Party Democracy" in five panels. Not least, the pandemic-related digitisation of political parties and the continuing increase in the importance of digital media provided an equally topical and urgent reason to take an in-depth look at the opportunities and challenges of digital decision-making in society, political parties and parliaments.

The first day of the event focused on the modern possibilities of digital interaction and communication between parties and their members, supporters and voters. How the inexorably advancing change in communication affects the established structures of the parties, their way of working and organising, what opportunities digital participation offers in the internal formation of party wills, but also what legal and practical limits currently exist and how the campaigning of the parties has adapted to the conditions of a digitalised society in the two pandemic and election campaign years 2020 and 2021, were discussed in four insightful panels, with stimulating lectures and insightful contributions from the plenary. The symposium was complemented on the second day of the event with a panel on the possibilities of digital will-forming in parliaments and, among other things, a review of the influence of the pandemic on the internal organisation of parliament to maintain the legislature's ability to act.

In the course of the two days of the event, the participants were not only able to exchange insights gained and deepen one or the other discussion, but also to appreciate the advantages of the (also informal) personal conversation with colleagues after two years of maintaining a polite distance due to the pandemic. PRUF looks back with pleasure on another successful symposium on party law, which once again underlined the great - also topical - relevance of the interdisciplinary consideration of pressing issues from society, politics and the state.

Photos: Jochen Müller / HHU

Report on the Party Science Symposium 2019: Parties and Elections

On 05 and 06 April 2019, this year's party science symposium was held on the topic of "Parties and Elections". After the President of the German Bundestag Dr. Wolfgang Schäuble declared the urgently needed electoral law reform to have failed for the time being only two days before, the topic of the symposium could not have been more topical. More than 100 participants from academia, administration and politics engaged in intensive discussions about the complex problems of electoral law. The first day of the event was devoted to four panels, each from a political science and law perspective, on the now questionable enlargement of the Bundestag, the importance of the secrecy of the ballot for democracy and possible threats to it through digitization as well as through steadily increasing postal voting quotas, and the informal as well as formal regulations of the nomination of candidates, the latter supplemented by international comparative perspectives with a special focus on the problematic situations in Italy and France.

The second day of the event focused on political practice and started with a panel on the observance of the state's duty of neutrality by public officials. A legal classification of the legal matter, which has been set in motion in recent years by several decisions of the Federal Constitutional Court, was followed by an engaging statement by Thomas Geisel, Lord Mayor of the City of Düsseldorf, who explained to the participants the practical difficulties of classifying actions and statements in office as "neutral" from the perspective of an affected public official. The much-discussed so-called "Licht-Aus" decision of the Federal Administrative Court was placed in the context of other decisions issued in this field and discussed controversially on the podium and with the plenary, which also included the experiences of the numerous foreign experts present.

At the end of the event, members of the Bundestag from the SPD, CDU, Greens, Left Party and the FDP discussed the reasons for the failure of the Commission on Electoral Law Reform, as well as possible alternative proposals that might be able to gain majority support. With Britta Haßelmann from the Greens and Ansgar Heveling from the CDU, two members of the commission were also represented on the podium. The lively discussion ended with an urgent appeal from the scientific community to reach a political agreement on a reform of the electoral law to reduce the size of the Bundestag, which is urgently needed.

Report on the Party Science Symposium: 50 Years of the Law on Political Parties and 25 Years of the Party Financing Ruling

On April 28 and 29, the 2017 symposium on party studies was once again dedicated to two anniversaries with renowned participation: 50 years of the Political Parties Act and 25 years of the ruling on party financing.

We took these anniversaries as an opportunity to reflect on the national but also international significance of the Political Parties Act, to highlight its strengths but also its weaknesses, and to develop visions for the future. Of course, the comparative international and interdisciplinary findings had to be taken into account. The case law of the Federal Constitutional Court has played a significant role in the development of the Political Parties Act and thus also in the development of party law. Only recently, the court set new standards in the NPD prohibition proceedings and stimulated a reflection on the previous party law dogmatics.

After the welcome by the director of the PRuF, Prof. Dr. Thomas Poguntke, the first panel was dedicated to developments in party law. Prof. Dr. Hans Hugo Klein, retired judge of the BVerfG, devoted himself to party law in case law. He pointed out that even before the enactment of the Political Parties Act, the case law of the Federal Constitutional Court had a significant influence on party law. Even after that, it set standards through numerous decisions, in particular on party financing, which have also attracted international attention. Prof. Dr. Günther Krings, Parliamentary State Secretary at the Federal Ministry of the Interior, then addressed the question of whether we need an isolated exclusion of anti-constitutional parties from state party funding following the ruling of the Federal Constitutional Court of January 17, 2017 on the NPD party ban. Prof. Dr. Ulrich von Alemann led into the discussion round that concluded this panel. After the lunch break, the panel "Regulation of the Law of Political Parties" continued. First, Prof. Dr. Ingrid van Biezen, University of Leiden, spoke on the development of party law in European countries. Then Annette Sawatzki, LobbyControl - Initiative for Transparency and Democracy e.V., addressed the topic of the necessity and possibility of regulating the struggle for power. Prof. Dr. Martin Morlok, currently deputy director of the PRuF, dealt with the dogmatics of party law. The discussion on the contents and findings of the lectures was led by Prof. Dr. Stefan Marschall, Heinrich Heine University Düsseldorf.

The first day of the event finally culminated in the panel discussion on the question of whether there is a need for legal change. Prof. Dr. Manfred Stelzer, University of Vienna, spoke from a comparative law perspective on the topic of "25 years after the financing ruling: The 'relative upper limit' on the test bench". The panel and subsequent discussion, chaired by Prof. Dr. Dian Schefold, University of Bremen, concluded with a presentation by Associate Prof. Dr. Ann-Kristin Kölln, University of Gothenburg/KU Leuven, on the topic of party members and sympathizers: new forms of participation in political parties.

The evening reception was followed by the panel "An international view" the next day. Here, Prof. Dr. Thomas Poguntke, currently director of the PRuF, presented an international comparison on inner-party democracy. Jorge Valladares, International IDEA - International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance, Stockholm, presented on the topic of party financing in international comparison. The subsequent discussion round, in which numerous viewpoints and questions were debated, was chaired by Prof. em. Dr. Karl-Heinz Naßmacher, Carl von Ossietzky University Oldenburg.

In the politicians' panel discussion that concluded the symposium on the topic of "Reform Needs from the Perspective of Political Practice," moderated by Henning Rasche of the Rheinische Post newspaper, Emily May Büning, Organizational Director of the Green Party, Dietmar Nietan, Federal Treasurer of the SPD, and Helmut Brandt, Legal Advisor to the CDU/CSU parliamentary group in the Bundestag, engaged in heated debates in which the differing viewpoints of the party representatives were presented, sometimes in clear terms. The conference was then concluded with the summarizing closing words of Prof. Dr. Martin Morlok.

With well over 100 participants from academia and practice, the PRuF once again contributed to providing a meeting place for all those interested in party law and party research, thus once again underlining its national as well as international position as a center for party studies.

Report on the party-scientific symposium on the occasion of the 25th anniversary of the PRuF "Party State - Party Democracy

On the occasion of its anniversary, the Düsseldorf Institute for German and International Party Law and Party Research (PRuF) devoted itself on April 8 and 9, 2016 to central questions concerning the role of political parties in the overall democratic structure. This year again, the interdisciplinary self-image of the Institute was taken into account by discussing the issues in a comparative perspective from a legal as well as political science, but also international perspective.

The organizers were pleased to welcome more than 140 guests, including numerous renowned scholars and practitioners.

The event culminated in a keynote speech by Norbert Lammert, President of the German Bundestag, who spoke about the value of political parties. With astute realism, Norbert Lammert demonstrated the indispensability of political parties in a democracy, but also urged that the complex relationship between parliamentary groups and parties should not be ignored. He was particularly critical of media coverage of politics, which he said puts entertainment value before information content.

In two days and four panels, the symposium highlighted the problems of party-based democratic structures and sought solutions.

Hans Herbert von Arnim opened the symposium with an examination of the concepts of party state and party democracy and their elements. Alexander H. Trechsel presented other forms of democracy, namely plebiscitary elements, while Werner J. Patzelt introduced functional deficits of political parties into the discussion.

In the second panel, Sophie Lenski demonstrated the complexity of the separation of party and parliamentary group, while Sebastian Bukow dealt with the professionalization of German state parliaments. Hans Hugo Klein concluded by highlighting the outstanding importance of the free mandate.

Simon T. Franzmann again addressed functional deficits in the third panel and discussed the rise of the AfD. Julian Krüper asked constitutional-theoretical questions about the function of political parties and their representation in law. In the last panel, questions of inner-party democracy were on the agenda. Sebastian Roßner, Klaus Detterbeck and Oskar Niedermayer looked back at the Pirate Party.

The moderators were Peter M. Huber, Manfred Stelzer, Ulrich von Alemann and Everhard Holtmann.

These two days confirmed the tension suggested in the title between the negatively connoted term "party state" and the more positively perceived term "party democracy." On the one hand, political parties are indispensable actors in democratically organized states and, to that extent, cannot be denounced. On the other hand, there must be a legal and factual framework that continues to make bottom-up democracy realistic. In particular, direct democratic elements must not be disregarded.

An anthology with the contributions of the symposium will be published soon in the Schriften zum Parteienrecht und zur Parteienforschung.

Picture gallery of the symposium 2016

Video gallery






Report on the party science symposium 2015 - "Establishment chances of new parties"

New parties have recently made headlines in various European countries. The Düsseldorf Institute for German and International Party Law and Party Research (PRuF) used their appearance as an opportunity to examine the "chances of establishing new parties" in this year's symposium on April 24 and 25. In doing so, the symposium followed the interdisciplinary claim of the institute by bringing together political science, jurisprudence and communication and media science in a dialogue. More than 90 guests, including numerous prominent representatives from academia and politics, attended the event at the university's Haus der Universität in the city.

The dialogue between the different disciplines of party science was complemented by discussions with protagonists of new and formerly new parties. For this purpose, the PRuF was able to attract a prominent round of active politicians: Konrad Adam (AfD), Klaus Ernst (Die Linke), Steffen Große (Freie Wähler), Joachim Paul (Piratenpartei) and Martin Sonneborn (Die Partei). This round was moderated by Ulrich von Alemann, former deputy director of the PRuF. In addition to current developments at the respective parties, fundamental difficulties for the founding of new parties were discussed. These included, above all, how to deal with individual members, how to manage intra-party conflicts through party arbitration tribunals, and the provisions for collecting signatures to allow non-established parties to run in elections.

Earlier, in four panels, the symposium examined the phenomenon of new parties from different perspectives of party studies. At the beginning of the event, Gregor Zons and Marc Bühlmann illustrated the multidimensionality of the novelty of parties, but also of competition between parties. Then, Martin Morlok, Director of PRuF, and Sophie Lenski addressed the legal conditions and in particular the specifics of party financing for newly founded parties. In the third panel, Nicole Bolleyer spoke about the dependence of the success of new parties on their organization and social connection. The media presentation and mediation of new parties was the focus of Olaf Jandura's talk. At the beginning of the second day, Tim Spier presented an analysis on membership changes between parties. Stijn van Kessel then presented an analysis of the success of right-wing populist parties in Europe. In the final presentation, Christoph Busch addressed the change in organizational form between far-right associations and parties. The panels were moderated by Thomas Poguntke, Manfred Stelzer, Christoph Strünck and Julian Krüper.

Overall, it became clear that the fate of new parties depends on conditions of the party system, the legal design of their environment, their internal organization and media presentation. The symposium thus underscored the importance and necessity of an interdisciplinary approach to political parties, which at the same time embodies the PRuF's claim. An anthology of the symposium's contributions will soon be published in Schriften zum Parteienrecht und zur Parteienforschung.

Report on the Party Science Symposium 2014

Political parties, fundamentally and interdisciplinarily considered, were the focus of the symposium of the Düsseldorf Institute for German and International Party Law and Party Research (PRuF), which was held for the first time on March 28-29 in the newly opened Haus der Universität in the city. This year, the Institute dedicated the tradition-steeped annual conference to the celebration of the 65th birthday of its deputy academic director, party law expert Prof. Dr. Martin Morlok. The program under the title "Party Studies" took special account of the Institute's interdisciplinary claim and Martin Morlok's scholarly work.

With prominent speakers from the fields of law, political science and sociology, the approximately 170 participants spent two days discussing basic questions of party science research. Among others, the current judge of the Federal Constitutional Court, Peter Michael Huber, and the former constitutional judges Dieter Grimm and Hans Hugo Klein ensured that contact with practice was not lost in the process, in addition to numerous practitioners in the audience who participated actively in the discussions. Political science was also represented with academic heavyweights in Düsseldorf. Among others, Klaus von Beyme, doyen of German political science, enriched the conference not only with his introductory lecture but also with numerous contributions to the discussion. Particularly successful was the composition of established party researchers on the one hand and young colleagues on the other. This clearly demonstrates the continuing importance of party research.

The symposium focused on political parties in five different fields, which are still of great topicality. This has recently been demonstrated, for example, by the decision of the Federal Constitutional Court on the 3-percent hurdle in European elections and is also reflected in the lively public debate on the introduction of direct-democratic decision-making procedures. The symposium approached these and other questions from different perspectives of party studies: Klaus von Beyme and Horst Dreier dealt with parties from the perspective of the history of science. Michael Baurmann and Matthias Jestaedt examined parties from the perspective of institutional and constitutional theory. The legal scholars Helmuth Schulze-Fielitz and Dian Schefold and the political scientist Elmar Wiesendahl addressed the real conditions of political party work. The legal conditions of political party work were discussed by Julian Krüper, Joachim Wieland and Heiko Sauer. Finally, Thomas Poguntke, Emanuel Towfigh and Dieter Grimm ventured an outlook on the future of the parties. The debates were chaired by Christoph Gusy, Peter Michael Huber, Hans Hugo Klein and Ulrich von Alemann. An anthology with the contributions of the symposium will be published soon in the Schriften zum Parteienrecht und zur Parteienforschung.

Pictures of the 2014 symposium can be found in the corresponding gallery.

PRuF Symposium 2013 - Parties and Foreigners: Guest Contribution by Jan Benjamin Daniels

„Parteien und Ausländer – Demokratische Partizipation in der Zuwanderungsgesellschaft“ war das Thema des Parteienwissenschaftlichen Symposions des Instituts für Deutsches und Internationales Parteienrecht und Parteienforschung der Heinrich-Heine-Universität Düsseldorf am 19. und 20. April 2013. Lesen Sie dazu den Gastbeitrag von JAN BENJAMIN DANIELS (Univsersität Osnabrück).

The PRuF Symposium 2013 took place on April 19 and 20. The thematic starting point of this year's symposium is the empirical finding that there are about 62 million citizens in Germany who are eligible to vote - but also about 6 million foreigners of voting age who are denied access to the right to vote and thus to full political participation. The event therefore addressed various facets of the representation of citizens who live here but are not entitled to vote due to their lack of German citizenship.

Report on the symposium - Guest article by JAN BENJAMIN DANIELS (University of Osnabrück)

Foreigners and Parties - Governed but not represented?

The Election as the Royal Discipline of Participation for "Full Members of Society".

In welcoming the audience, Professor Dr. Thomas Poguntke (Director PRuF, Düsseldorf) emphasized the value and importance of participation in the democratic process. He asked whether the protest movements within Europe can be understood as an indication of representation deficits. Using Mayhew's quote "no taxation without representation," he clarified a possible reason for a foreigner's right to vote; however, at no time had there been identity of electorate and ruled. He emphasized the bidirectional functioning of political parties, for which non-voting foreigners might not be an attractive clientele in the "political market". A possible reform knew two alternatives: Adjusting the electoral law or changing the citizenship law.

Dr. Rana Deep Islam (Stiftung Mercator) then described how he experienced the "intimate moment of the first act of voting" not as the end point, but precisely as the beginning of political participation. Whether people were eligible to vote could be described as a "coincidence."

Panel 1: Democracy and participation

In the first panel, moderated by Professor Dr. Manfred Stelzer (Vienna), PD Dr. Dirk Jörke (Greifswald) showed in his lecture "Der Fremde und die Herrschaft des Volkes" (The Stranger and the Rule of the People) in a three-step approach from antiquity (Aristotle, Cicero) via modern times (Rousseau, Kant) to (post-)modern times (Miller, Benhabib) how ethos and demos related to each other in the course of time. He put forward the thesis that the participation of "strangers" strengthens democracy as such.

Professor Dr. Karen Schönwälder (MPI-MMG Göttingen) then spoke about "Measures and Forms of Immigration Society Today". Her dynamic lecture came up with some surprising facts, such as the fact that half of the immigrants have been living in the Federal Republic for no more than twenty years - and consequently the 80s and 90s should be the focus of attention. She also identified accelerated and liberalized naturalization as absolutely necessary.

Subsequently, PD Dr. Julian Krüper (Düsseldorf/Bochum) dealt with citizenship as a "right to rights" or "door opener to social participation" under the title "Citizenship - Myth and Meaning"; in addition to basics of citizenship law (ius sanguinis/ius soli, etc.) and a consideration of the rationality of such considerations, he also critically questioned the binary thinking of jurisprudence.

Panel 2: Legal Conditions of Democratic Participation in Comparison

In the second panel (moderated by Professor Dr. Uwe Volkmann, Mainz), Dr. Sebastian Roßner (Düsseldorf) looked at the "Political-Partisan Participation of Foreigners under German Law," in which the presentation of inner-party committees took up a great deal of space. He also emphasized that foreigners are not a "solvent customer" for parties in the political market. Consequently, the electoral law must be reformed, regardless of how one understands the concept of the people in Article 38 (1) sentence 2 of the Basic Law.

The "Political-Partisan Participation of Foreigners in France" was examined by Dr. Yves-Marie Doublet (Assemblée nationale, Paris). He concluded that, although a constitutional principle, much remains to be done before the proverbial equality is also achieved in the subject area of his presentation.

Dr. Luicy Pedroza (Berlin) compared under the heading "How do the others hold it? Participation Rights of Foreigners in Elections Compared to Other Democracies," she used the example of numerous countries to compare the extent to which so-called "denizens" can participate. She concluded that political elites in particular could influence the extent of possible participation.

Panel discussion 1: What can parties learn? Participation and integration in other areas of society

In the subsequent panel discussion, Michaela Dälken (DBG-Bildungswerk BUND), state pastor Markus Schäfer (Landeskirchenamt NRW), Dr. Stephan Osnabrügge (Fußballverband Mittelrhein), Ursula Schwarzenbart (Global Diversity Management Daimler AG) as representatives of non-party organizations were questioned by Professor Dr. Karl-Rudolf Korte (Duisburg-Essen). The harmonious panel showed the importance of participation and diversity based on the different starting points.

Panel 3: Problem awareness and adaptation of the parties

In the Saturday panel moderated by Professor Dr. Uwe Jun (Trier), Dr. Markus Linden (Trier) worked under the succinct title "Participation instead of representation? Benefits and Limits of Extra-Partisan Liberal Bodies for Foreigner Integration - Complement or Substitute for Intra-Party Integration?" that the concept of integration was considered a "political guiding maxim." This was followed by a consideration of the concept based on the definitions of Smend, Heller and Fraenkel, supplemented by Habermas' deliberative-rational theory of decision-making and Luhmann's view. However, Linden pointed out that the term integration is now also used for demarcation (Erdogan). He succinctly summarized the finding of the subsequent presentation of expert commissions and self-advocacy bodies: They would rather be " driving forces of political disadvantage" than helpful institutions.

"Political Representation and Migrant Interests" was presented by Dr. Andreas Wüst (Mannheim) in the form of research findings on the questions of what specific political interests migrants have, whether parties are suitable partners for asserting these interests, and whether longer-term alliances exist between migrants and parties. He summarized that Aussiedler are closest to autochthones in their political positions, that the second generation of other migrants is more alien to autochthonous positions than the first, and that migrants perceive parties as competent partners in the political enterprise.

Jun. Professor Dr. Andreas Blätte (Duisburg-Essen) ("Party-related Organizations of Immigrants: Political-Enterprise Action in the Struggle for Representation") pointed out that parties (understood as stratarchies, Eldersveld, or loosely structured anarchies, Wiesendahl) have extensive organizations close to them. These created a kind of "house power" within parties by improving members' chances of success.

Panel Discussion 2: Needs and Possibilities for Reform

Professor Dr. Ulrich von Alemann (Düsseldorf) moderated the subsequent panel discussion. Here, Dr. Günther Beckstein, MdL, former Minister President, CSU ("We are not the social welfare office of Europe!"), Monika Düker, MdL, state chairwoman B90/Grüne NRW ("Europe is freedom of movement! "), Michael Hartmann, Member of the Bundestag, Spokesman on Domestic Policy, SPD ("All parties lack a consistent system with regard to people with a migration background"), Armin Laschet, Member of the NRW Landtag, Chairman of the CDU ("The nomination of candidates of Turkish origin can only come from above and cannot arise from the grass roots"), Bodo Ramelow, Member of the Thuringia Landtag, Parliamentary Group Chairman of DIE LINKE Thüringen ("We are the country from which the NSU perpetrators came") and Dr. Joachim Stamp, MdL, deputy chairman of the FDP NRW parliamentary group, spokesman for integration ("Mr. Laschet, call Mr. Laumann to order!"), clashed. In addition to familiar (but sometimes surprisingly clear) positions and intense exchanges, Alemann's nonchalant discussion ("Mr. Beckstein, are you a retarding force?") also revealed unexpected twists, such as considerable differences within the CDU/CSU or common ground between the CDU/CSU and the Greens.

Summary and Conclusion

Professor Dr. Martin Morlok, deputy director of PRuF (Düsseldorf), concluded the symposium with a number of insights. Via the idea of legitimacy, he came to the concept of the people, which plays a key role in questions of electoral law. The fusion of demos and ethos in the history of democracy is what now leads to problems. He searched for possible reasons for exclusion and found self-identification and the will for self-determination as well as (since at no time Morlok rejected them) the necessity of social homogeneity. If, however, one did not want that "due to eruptive occurrences at some point it bangs", a reform of the electoral law or the citizenship law would be necessary. On the other hand, one should not forget that even individual basic rights have so far been granted only to Germans within the meaning of Article 116 (1) of the Basic Law. Here, too, there is potential for reform. Finally, from his (legal) position, the number of eligible voters, rather than the number of people living in the constituency, should be taken into account in order to ensure equal representation of the population, which has already been mentioned several times as a benchmark.

With this year's symposium, the PRuF once again succeeded in bringing together representatives from academia and practice for an inspiring event that will have an impact on expected developments in this relevant topic.

The report by Jan Benjamin Daniels (Univsersität Osnabrück) was first published on
"Young Science in Public Law e.V.".

Information and contact to the author can be found here.

Photos can be found in our picture gallery.

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