Effective opposition principle appeared low effective: A commentary on German Federal Constitutional Court decision of May 3, 2016 (2 BvE 4/14)

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Author: Andrey Rumyantsev

DOI: 10.21128/1812-7126-2016-3-114-120

Keywords: democracy; Federal Constitutional Court; opposition; parliamentary control; parliamentary group


In the case brought before the Federal Constitutional Court on a dispute between supreme federal bodies, the parliamentary group of the Left Party required that some rights granted to the parliamentary minority could be enjoyed by the opposition even if the number of its members were under the threshold defined by the German Constitution, typically one quarter of the members of the Federal Parliament, the Bundestag. Among those rights are several very important – the initiation of a parliamentary inquiry, convening the Bundestag, or submitting an application for an abstract judicial review at the Federal Constitutional Court. Though the Court rejected the request of the Left Party, it shaped some articulate ideas about the constitutional status of the parliamentary opposition. In the opinion of the Court, the Constitution provides the principle or the imperative of an effective opposition. This conclusion is based on the political circumstances. In the current parliamentary system, the government is monitored primarily not by the parliament as a whole but rather by the oppositional minority. On the contrary, the majority’s positions often match the ones of the government. For this reason, the opposition should be able to take some decisions independently from the majority. Nevertheless, the Court primarily considers the opposition as a political phenomenon and is very careful when offering them any specific constitutional status. The opposition can use the rights of the parliamentary minority in order to perform their political function. However, the minority rights are not limited to the opposition and can be used by any members of the Bundestag, including those of them who usually and generally support the Government.

About the author: Andrey Rumyantsev – Dr. jur. (Regensburg), Deputy Editor-in-Chief of the journal “Comparative constitutional review”, Moscow, Russia.

Citation: Rumyantsev A. (2016) Printsip effektivnoy oppozitsii okazalsya maloeffektivnym. Kommentariy k resheniyu Federal’nogo konsttutsionnogo suda Germanii ot 3 maya 2016 goda 2 BvE 4/14 [Effective opposition principle appeared low effective. A commentary on German Federal Constitutional Court decision of May 3, 2016 (2 BvE 4/14)]. Sravnitel’noe konstitutsionnoe obozrenie, vol. 25, no. 3, pp. 114–120. (In Russian).


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