Germany became a federal state for numerous reasons and due to many principles and elements in Germany's history and society. The main reason was to overcome and destroy the outdated authoritarian and dictatorial regimes of the German monarchies, Empires, Reichs and the fascist regime of Hitler's Nazi Party. The end of World War II in 1945 promoted consensus and unity all over the world, as seen in the European integration process that secured peace, nobody wanted to witness the horrors and terror seen in the "war to end all wars".
Germany wanted to overcome the extreme right legacy that Hitler and the Nazi Party imposed between 1933 and 1945. The country done everything possible to wipe out the sickening memories of the Holocaust, in which Hitler's mass "ethnic cleansing" of Germany wiped out over 6 million people! (Jews, Blacks, Foreigners, etc). The Federal system would mean extremists such as Hitler would find it near impossible to take control of Germany ever again. Peoples' basic human and civil rights are protected by the Constitution.
The Constitution may also ban such extreme right wing parties such as the Nazi Party, to ensure such parties may never come to power ever again. The federal state would protect Germany from the threat the extremists and neo-nazis pose to democracy. Post-war Germany has vowed never again to allow fascism, racism and ultra-nationalism to run its country ever again, as they are anti-democratic and anti-constitution in their nature and principles. 3 Federalism would deliver Germany democracy and legitimacy, providing a close relationship and link between Government and the people.
The Federal State was seen as a better alternative than to the past political regimes of German history. Federalism originated and was created from the US and French Revolutions in 1776 and 1789. The Western Allies advised that the federal system created by the "Founding Fathers" in 1776 was essential for true parliamentary democracy and decentralisation of power in Germany. 4 Germany had witnessed federalist principles before. The concept became aware of in Germany in 1871, under Bismarck and the second German Empire.
Federalism did not survive long in Germany as no political unit wanted to surrender sovereignty. After Hitler and the Nazi Party, the need for a constitution was essential, to set out rules for a German Government to abide by and to prevent conflicts and to ensure a one-party state would never be seen again in Germany. 5 Before the Federal Republic and the German Constitution there was no democratic institutions to control conflicts and expressions, therefore there was no rules for conflicts in Government between political parties and under Hitler there were no opposition parties.
6 Both West and East Germany had suffered many tragedies under extremism both fascist and communist regimes. Germany was so fragmented and diverse that federalism was seen as the best system to govern the country. The principles of federalism appealed and attracted many Germans. Germany became the Federal Republic of Germany through the creation of the Constitution, known as the "Basic Law" in 1949. Democratic and federal institutions were also created; the Bundestag (Parliament), the Bundesrat (Council), the Lander (16 States) and the Constitutional Court.
7 Political parties were also created, the main parties being the Christian Democratic Union (CDU), the Christian Social Union (CSU), and the Social Democratic Party (SPD). The first federal elections were held in 1949 with the CDU/CSU being the first party to govern the Federal Republic of Germany. 8 The electoral system in Germany is one of Proportional Representation (PR). This means the % of votes = % of seats. This guarantees parties "true" parliamentary representation and provides effective opposition.
PR usually delivers coalition government, which means all political parties are all working together and have to consult each other. Germany also adopted the bicameral system of 2 chambers which means power lies in both chambers. The electoral system ensures one-party systems are a thing of the past. The electoral system used in the Federal Republic of Germany is similar to the one used in the new Scottish Parliament, in that it is a hybrid (mixture) system using both First Past The Post (FPTP) and PR (Additional Member System AMS and the Party List).
PR is used in most European countries in electing Government. Many believe a disadvantage of PR is that it may give a better chance for extreme and radical parties to gain representation. This fact is a reason why Germany created the "5% hurdle" to keep the extreme right out of government which it has been successful in doing so far. 10 The 16 Lander (16 Federal States) in Germany have their own "sovereignty" through each Land having their own Land Parliament and Land Government.
Each of the 16 Land governs themselves through each Land Government and Parliament; legislating, executing and administering their own policies and laws. 11 Federal systems aim to deliver equality in living standards in all Lander and to all German citizens. The main principle is that of "power-sharing", no body holds all the power; power is distributed to all the 16 Lander. Germany becoming a federal state means that power is technically distributed amongst four levels- EU, Municipal, State and Federal.
The principles are held in socialism in which there is no centre, the redistribution of wealth amongst all through the equalisation of the economy in all of the 16 Lander. In each Land the institutions and authorities are close to the citizen and their everyday needs. 12 Constitutional law is fundamental to the foundations of a federal state and this ensures the powers and responsibilities are distributed through the federal rules stated in the Constitution- "Basic Law for the Federal Republic of Germany". There is both a "horizontal" and "vertical" distribution of power.
"Horizontal" meaning power distributed amongst the 3 levels of Government; legislature (Bundestag), executive (Bundesrat + Lander), and the judiciary (Federal Constitutional Court, Judges + Courts, etc). No federal system existed in East Germany also known as the German Democratic Republic (GDR) until 1990. This was because they were under Soviet Communist rule from WWII; in what only existed was a one-party state. This means there were no elections, no party competition and no opposition parties. East Germany stayed under this "dictatorship" and didn't join the Federal Republic of Germany until unification in 1990.
East and West Germany now become one, with the East abandoning their Communist past to join the West and the federal state. 13 How the federal state works in Germany, is a complex question. Just looking at the European Union which is a federal state, shows how difficult it is to understand the workings of a federal system, in that it is difficult to so who is "sovereign". The federal state in Germany is based on many principles to make it operate. Firstly, the "republican" principle; both the Lander and the Federation must have a "republican" constitution.
14 The "democratic" principle is the next principle, which is the foundation of federalism. This principle is built around the German people, in that the people are "sovereign" and have "citizens" democracy. The Constitution gives the people democratic rights; that are established through the Lander that secures the "democratic" principle- decisions are taken as close to the people as possible. The electoral system also secures democracy through proportionately, because the % of votes will be in proportion to the seats and will equal the % of seats.
The third principle that is also essential and fundamental to the federal state is the "social-state" principle, which is achieved through social principles in the constitution. This involves social justice and equality to all German citizens or residents, by removing the repressions and discriminations that had existed in Germany's fascist past and which still exist today in a tiny minority of the extreme right. These discriminations and prejudices have now been removed from social life through equality in German society in education and employment.