The German state distributed 200 million euros to parties in 2022. Is that too much? The FDP, the Greens and the Left Party have appealed to the Federal Constitutional Court.
Whether red (SPD and Left), Green, Yellow (FDP), Black (CDU and CSU) or Blue (AfD) – everyone gets tax money
They are an elixir of life for parliamentary democracy and have constitutional status in Germany: “The parties help to form the political will of the people,” says Article 21 of the Basic Law. And further: “Your foundation is free. Your internal order must correspond to democratic principles. You must give public account of the origin and use of your funds and your assets.”
Tax money, donations and paying party members
The money that parties use to finance their work and staff comes from a number of sources. The most important are membership fees, donations and tax money. The German Bundestag decides on the amount of government support. In 2022 it was around 205 million euros. With the annual adjustment, the national parliament must orientate itself on the price development. In fact, increasing grants are usually used to compensate for inflation.
Dome of the German Bundestag: Last year, the parties received a good 200 million euros in state funding
The Federal Constitutional Court in Karlsruhe made this requirement as early as 1992. A further increase is only possible if the circumstances change “drastically”. From the point of view of the governing parties at the time, this happened in 2018: Conservatives (CDU/CSU) and Social Democrats (SPD) justified the sharp increase in state funds from 165 to 190 million euros primarily with increased costs for digitization.
The long wait for a verdict
All parties benefited from the increase, but the government coalition at the time benefited the most. That went too far for the opposition Free Democrats (FDP), Greens and Leftists at the time. Together they complained to the Federal Constitutional Court. It took three years until the oral hearing. The need for advice seems to have been great. Another 15 months later, the verdict will be announced on January 24.
The second senate of the Federal Constitutional Court will soon judge the amount of state party funding
Some questions are “uncharted territory,” said the lead judge, Peter Müller, during the hearing, and indicated that it was apparently a very complex process. He also responded to the accusation of self-service: “This could be a case of legislation on our own behalf.” Theoretically, those parties that have filed a complaint against the increase in state funding can also benefit from this. This applies in particular to the Greens, because they have been very successful in elections since then.
Extra-parliamentary parties also benefit
Parties that miss the leap into parliament can also benefit. They are still entitled to state funds if they get at least 0.5 percent of the valid votes cast in a European or federal election. In state elections it has to be twice as many, i.e. one percent.
The party of the Danish minority, the South Schleswig Voters' Association (SSW), received a good 145,000 euros from the state in 2021
There is 1.06 euros per vote. If you get more than four million votes, you get 0.87 euros for each additional vote. In addition, parties receive 45 cents for every euro they earn through contributions from members and MPs. The same applies up to a maximum of 3300 euros for donations from so-called natural persons. There is no financial support from the state treasury for donations from companies and companies.
The SPD gets the most
In 2021, 20 parties received money from the federal budget. The leader was the SPD with 56.11 million euros, followed by the CDU (51 million) and the Greens (30.09 million). The bottom of the list of parties represented in the Bundestag was the Alternative for Germany (AfD) with eleven million euros.
Among the 12 parties that are not in the Bundestag, the Free Voters performed best (2.3 million), followed by the Animal Welfare Party (1.37 million). All others stayed below the million mark. They had to be satisfied with grants between 13,000 and almost 679,000 euros. For everyone – large or small – the following applies: State funds must not exceed the income generated by a party itself in the previous year.
Big plus for the Greens
If one looks at the development of state support for the three plaintiffs, a very inconsistent picture emerges. When the trio turned to the Federal Constitutional Court in 2018, the FDP received a good 15 million euros. Three years later it was 16 million. During the same period, the subsidy for Die Linke fell from 14.4 to just under 12.6 million. The Greens, on the other hand, benefited the most by far: their share of state party financing increased from 19.1 to almost 30.1 million.
#DeutschlandWaehlt: Party Finances
The financial development is reflected also reflected in the political significance of the parties. At the time of the lawsuit, all three were in opposition. After the 2021 federal election, the FDP and the Greens forged a government alliance with the SPD, while the left only narrowly managed to re-enter the Bundestag.
Berlin election on February 12
The Federal Constitutional Court is now deciding how much tax money will be available to all parties together in the future. The basic principle should remain unchanged: every single vote pays off if a party receives at least 0.5 percent of the votes in the four state elections in 2023. The first chance for subsidies from the state budget will be on February 12th with the election to the Berlin city parliament