Germany is a constitutional democracy. Citizens choose their representatives periodically in free and fair multiparty elections. The lower chamber of the federal parliament (Bundestag) elects the chancellor as head of the federal government. The second legislative chamber, the Federal Council (Bundesrat), represents the 16 states at the federal level and is composed of members of the state governments. The country’s 16 states exercise considerable autonomy, including over law enforcement and education. Observers considered the national elections for the Bundestag in 2017 to have been free and fair, as were state elections in 2018 and 2019.
Responsibility for internal and border security is shared by the police forces of the 16 states, the Federal Criminal Police Office (BKA), and the federal police. The states’ police forces report to their respective interior ministries; the federal police forces report to the Federal Ministry of the Interior. The Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution (FOPC) and the state offices for the protection of the constitution (OPCs) are responsible for gathering intelligence on threats to domestic order and other security functions. The FOPC reports to the Federal Ministry of the Interior, and the state OPCs report to their respective ministries of the interior. Civilian authorities maintained effective control over security forces.
Significant human rights issues included refoulement of those with pending asylum applications; crimes involving violence motivated by anti-Semitism or other forms of extremism, and violence against lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) persons or members of other minority groups.
The government took steps to investigate, prosecute, and punish officials in the security services and elsewhere in government who committed human rights abuses.
Section 3. Freedom to Participate in the Political Process
The constitution provides citizens the ability to choose their government in free and fair periodic elections held by secret ballot and based on universal and equal suffrage.
Recent Elections: The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe and 45 parliamentarians from 25 countries observed the country’s federal elections in September 2017 and considered them well run, free, and fair.
Political Parties and Political Participation: Political parties generally operated without restriction or outside interference unless authorities deemed them a threat to the federal constitution. When federal authorities perceive such a threat, they may petition the Federal Constitutional Court to ban the party.
In April the Federal Constitutional Court in Karlsruhe ruled that the removal of a police officer from his office was legal. From 2010 to 2015, the police officer was a member of Pro NRW, a regional right-wing party classified by the NRW OPC as anticonstitutional. He served as deputy party chairman in NRW and campaigned in the 2012 state elections. The court ruled the police officer violated his duty of allegiance through his active party engagement.
Under the law, each political party receives federal public funding commensurate with the party’s election results in state, national, and European elections. Under the constitution, however, extremist parties who seek to undermine the constitution are not eligible for public funding. In July the Bundesrat, Bundestag, and federal government filed a joint claim with the Federal Constitutional Court to exclude the right-wing extremist National Democratic Party (NPD) from receiving state party financing, arguing that the NPD seeks to undermine the democratic order in the country. The case was pending as of November.
On January 15, the Lower Saxony State Constitutional Court rejected the AfD’s challenge of the constitutionality of a new law under which the AfD was excluded from the board of Lower Saxony’s Holocaust Memorial Site Foundation, which oversees the concentration camp memorial site Bergen-Belsen. The court concluded the lawsuit was unfounded and partly inadmissible, as the foundation is not a parliamentary body and thus does not require representation from all political parties in the parliament. (It is not possible to file an appeal at the Lower Saxony State Constitutional Court.)
Participation of Women and Minorities: No laws limit the participation of women and members of minorities in the political process, and they did participate.