The Federal Constitutional Court does not help the AfD parliamentary group with an interim order to its three committee chairs in the Bundestag. The Karlsruhe judges refused to provisionally appoint the AfD candidates not elected by the other MPs with immediate effect. However, the final decision in the main proceedings is still pending. It was “not completely impossible from the outset” that the rights of the AfD parliamentary group were violated, the highest German court said on Thursday.
The committees are renamed and appointed in each election period. “The committee chairmen have an important position,” says the Bundestag website. They prepare, convene and chair the meetings. Which parliamentary group chairs which committee is negotiated in the Council of Elders. If there is no agreement – as after the election in September – an access order is calculated according to the strength of the factions. The parliamentary groups can choose their committees in turn according to this order of precedence.
The interior and health committees as well as the committee for development cooperation fell to the AfD. Usually, the parliamentary groups then simply nominate the chairman for their respective committees – an election is only held in the event of an objection.
The other MPs failed the AfD candidates in all three committees on December 15. A second attempt on January 12 ended with the same result. At the moment, the three committees are led by their Vice-Chairs. The AfD speaks of a break with decades of practice.
A unique event in the history of the Bundestag
In the summary proceedings, the judges have not yet examined the facts in depth. To put it simply, it is about whether the plaintiff suffers irreparable disadvantages before the actual decision is made. When weighing up the consequences, the AfD was at the expense of the fact that it could participate “to the full extent” in the political decision-making process through its committee members without being chaired. Because the chairman has no independent control rights.
On the other hand, the judges see the ability of the committees to work at risk if they are temporarily headed by a person “who obviously does not have the trust of the majority of the committee”. This is also about the free mandate and the autonomy of the Bundestag in terms of rules of procedure.
In the main proceedings, the judges of the Second Senate now want to clarify whether the Bundestag’s rules of procedure “allow free election of the committee chairs”, as they further announced. It should be checked whether this could affect the legal positions of the AfD parliamentary group and whether this is permissible.
There had already been a dispute in the previous election period. At that time, the AfD MP Stephan Brandner initially received the necessary majority in a secret ballot to take over the chairmanship of the legal committee. In November 2019, however, he was recalled – a unique event in the history of the Bundestag. The reason for this were several scandals that Brandner had triggered.
There is also still a process going on in Karlsruhe. In May 2020, the judges rejected an urgent request from the parliamentary group for Brandner’s reinstatement – on the grounds, among other things, that the AfD could reduce its impairment by naming another candidate itself. At the time, however, you also referred to the principle of equal treatment of the parliamentary groups. An effective opposition should not depend on the goodwill of the majority.
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