International experts discuss role of political parties

Georg Milbradt, centre-left, a former Premier of Saxony, and a director of the Forum of Federations, expresses his views at a Forum roundtable event on political parties. To his right is Volker Kröning, a former Senator and Member of the 13th-16th German Bundestag. To the left of Mr. Milbradt is panel moderator Jürgen Osterhage of ARD-Hauptstadtstudio, and Volker Ratzmann, the Chairman of the Green Caucus in the Parliament of the City State of Berlin.

In many federal countries, the proliferation of political parties has made it more difficult to form a government, both on the federal or the provincial and state level.

This was one of the key conclusions drawn at an international roundtable organized by the Forum of Federations and the Konrad Adenauer Foundation in Berlin.

The event looked at the role of political parties and civil society in 12 different federations.

The participants debated the following questions:

  • What effect does the structure of the state and the constitution have on the organization of political parties?
  • What are the effects of social movements on political parties?
  • What is the nature of political competition and its impact on the stability of the country?
  • In emerging as well as established federations, what role does the party system play in preserving national unity?

The conference formed part of the Forum’s Global Dialogue on Federalism Program and was the culmination of the current theme on Political Parties and Civil Society in Federal Systems. It brought together country experts from 12 different federations and practitioners from Germany who helped provide a “reality check” to the conclusions drawn by the international experts.

A panel discussion provided valuable insights into the mechanisms and challenges of Germany’s party system. The participants of that panel were Christian Democrat Georg Milbradt, a former Premier of Saxony, and a director of the Forum of Federations; Volker Kroening, a former Senator of the City State of Bremen and Member of the German Bundestag for the Social Democrats; and Volker Ratzmann, the Chairman of the Green Caucus in the Parliament of the City State of Berlin.

The conference was preceded by an authors’ workshop led by the two theme coordinators, Klaus Detterbeck and Wolfgang Renzsch from University of Magdeburg, Germany. The Forum will publish a volume on the topic of political parties and civil society in 2011, containing chapters on every country in which the Forum held a roundtable on this subject. It will be the ninth and final volume in the Forum’s Global Dialogue series.

The German event took place on June 9-11, 2010, in Berlin.

In addition to the panellists, the other conference participants were:

Dr. Norman Abjorensen, Australian National University, Canberra;
Prof. Javier Astudillo, Universitat Pompeu Fabra, Barcelona, Spain; Dr. Ralf Thomas Baus, Konrad Adenauer-Foundation, Berlin; Dr. Henner Jörg Boehl, German Ministry of the Interior, Berlin; Rupak Chattopadhyay Forum of Federations, Ottawa, Canada;

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