Ulrich Sieberer
Agenda setting in the German Bundestag. A weak government in a consensus democracy

German Politics, 2006: 15, issue 1, pp. 49-72

Government agenda-setting rights in the Bundestag are weak. The theoretical part of this article discusses various aspects of agenda setting and their theoretical relevance in the context of the Bundestag. It will be argued that analyses of agenda setting should distinguish between two analytical foci, one concentrating on policy effects in the context of spatial models, the other analysing executive– legislative relations in the broader context of political competition. In addition, agenda setting among veto players should be distinguished from agenda setting between veto players and non-veto players. While the article’s theoretical part drives the subsequent empirical analysis, readers more interested in the empirical aspects of agenda setting in the Bundestag may wish to turn directly to the article’s second section, which provides an empirical and descriptive account of the formal rules of agenda setting in the Bundestag. In this part, it will be argued that the weakness of the government under the Bundestag’s first permanent rules of procedure introduced in the early 1950s can be explained by historic circumstances. Since then, party system characteristics and the strong role of the Bundesrat have made it unattractive for the federal government to seek increased agenda control in the Bundestag. Overall, agenda setting rules in the Bundestag underscore the characterisation of Germany as a consensus democracy.