What is political fractionation


1. Basics

A parliamentary group (F) represents the organizational amalgamation of a group of → MPs for the joint exercise of parliamentary tasks. The parliamentary groups are an integral part of parliamentary opinion-forming and decision-making. They are based on the principle of the free mandate and are a representative element of modern party democracy. Fractions (F) are "parts of the parties in parliament" (Kretschmer 1992) or "parts of the Bundestag" (→ Federal Constitutional Court). Even if → parties and F. are to be legally separated, parliamentary practice largely takes their parliamentary interdependence into account.

2nd position

F. are an association under public law with partial legal capacity in the form of a collegial body. As part of the parliament, the members of the German → Bundestag are entitled to bring legal action in the constitutional dispute (Art. 93 I, 1 GG) and can assert the rights of the parliament against the → Federal Government in their own name. It is thus a matter of parts of a constitutional body (Art. 53a I GG) that combine the principles of representative democracy with those of the free mandate and the party state.

Binding statements on the position and tasks of F. can be found in the rules of procedure of the Bundestag, the state parliaments and the municipal representative bodies as well as in the case law of the constitutional courts. The provisions of the rules of procedure relate to the formation and rights of F. in the internal parliamentary area (application, proposal, designation rights, etc.), tacitly presuppose the necessity of F. for parliamentary work and define framework conditions for their work. According to the jurisprudence of the Federal Constitutional Court, F. are permanent structures of the representative bodies and institutions of constitutional life that are necessary for the functioning of the parliament and are assigned to the state area. If the quorum of the minimum strength of one F. in the amount of at least 5% of the members of the Bundestag (31 members of the 620 members of the 17th Bundestag) is not achieved, the members of such a party can obtain the status a group. This status entitles you to send an advisory member to the council of elders and an advisory member to each of the specialist committees with the right to propose and speak, to submit parliamentary submissions (§ 75 I GOBT), to ensure a speaking time corresponding to the relative group size, to grant rights for the chairman of the group, like a group chairman, and finally to the financial, technical and human support required for parliamentary work.

3. Features

The political → parties influence the formation of wills and decision-making in parliament and government through the F. The parliamentary groups enable the parliament to form opinions and pass resolutions. This is done in particular through proposals for the election of the → Federal Chancellor (Art. 63 ff. GG) and the composition of the → committees. Through the rights associated with the parliamentary group status (basic speaking time, financial resources), the parliamentarians who are grouped together can effectively perform their parliamentary tasks in the plenary and in the committees. This includes the binding of the individual Members to the opinion of the group in the performance of these tasks.

The F. functions of representation, integration, legitimation, recruitment and communication are indispensable instruments of the parliamentary division of labor. Internally, they exercise a service function for the individual → MPs and at the same time ensure that Parliament is able to work. In this way, they counteract the danger of parliamentary work being overloaded due to complexity and self-blockade due to an excessive variety of political interests and perspectives. As a transmission belt, their working groups enable the parliamentary committee work to be carefully prepared and thus interlink the parliamentary decision-making process with the ideas of the parties and individual members of parliament. Professionalization and hierarchization are permanent features of parliamentary group work.

The actual perception of the function of F. is not primarily shaped by the opposition between parliament and government, but by the fact that the government majority and the → opposition are positioned in front. Correspondingly, the classical tasks of parliament are perceived differently by the F., according to the momentum of the functional or temporal → separation of powers. While the government factions seek support for the government in exercising their parliamentary electoral, articulation, initiative and legislative functions, the opposition factions turn their control, criticism and alternative functions against the government.

F. and parties jointly exercise the functions of forming political opinions, making decisions and recruiting political leaders. This is evident in the choice of government and in support for current government policies. The actual political weight of F. depends on other influencing factors, in particular on personal unions between party and parliamentary group leaderships and on the coincidence of government and party leadership. In the case of government factions, they form the parliamentary pole of a political power triangle made up of the government, ruling party (ies) and faction (ies), which decide on the individual policy-making. Your leaders are part of the gravitational core of this power triangle. In parliamentary practice, F. exercise their influence on legislation primarily by making corrections and preventing them. They represent political structures with considerable decision-making potential that absorb and process centrifugal forces between the demands of the party and parliament (Reinken 2009). The interplay between the government majority and the opposition is reflected in the fact that the cohesion of the government and opposition factions also influences the parties' chances of being elected. A divided ruling faction cannot effectively advocate government policies, and an opposition faction divided on important issues does not allow the opposition party to appear as a credible alternative to the government.

The parliamentary group discipline follows from the parliamentary group commitment of the members. Both give F. articulation and assertiveness. The members of parliament are assigned to a group based on division of labor with a cohesive appearance and thus enable their ability to work. Conflicts of conviction are the exception rather than the rule. Parliament is constituted through F. Their strength forms the calculation basis for the composition of the committees, the distribution of the committee chairmen, the composition of the council of elders and the parliamentary presidium. The management of F. is in the hands of the parliamentary group chairman, the parliamentary group manager and the parliamentary group board.

Through their parliamentary work and their united demeanor, the F. create important prerequisites for the electoral success of their party and thus prove their credibility and ability to act. F. thereby guarantee the representativeness and stability of parliamentary government. As political early warning systems and veto agencies for legislation, they are central power factors of the German government system, whose stability is based not least on the efficiency and reliability of F. (Schwarz 2009).

Since F. represent complex structures with a minimum of unity, but also with a variety of political orientations, all the images that their members - the MPs - portray as "loyal party soldiers" or "adapted specialists" are too imprecise. Willingness to compromise and loyalty of the members of parliament are the basis of a "voluntary unity" (E. Schütt-Wetschky). This group structure enables the formation of will in modern parliament and a corresponding assignment of functions to the government (parliamentary groups) and opposition (parliamentary groups).

Source: Andersen, Uwe / Wichard Woyke (ed.): Concise dictionary of the political system of the Federal Republic of Germany. 7th, updated Aufl. Heidelberg: Springer VS 2013. Author of the article: Paul Kevenhörster