Maassen and the CDU: Why it’s never easy to be expelled from a party


Status: 05.02.2023 08:04

According to the will of the CDU leadership, Hans-Georg Maassen should leave the party. The deadline for a voluntary withdrawal ends today. And then? Getting rid of unwanted members is not that easy.

By Christoph Kehlbach SWR, ARD legal department

The Basic Law assigns parties an important role in democracy: they play a part in forming the political will of the people. According to Article 21, their internal order must correspond to democratic principles. It follows from this that party members are in principle also free to express their opinions. In this way, the formation of opinions within the party should be strengthened. On the other hand, different parties should remain distinguishable from one another in order to promote political decision-making in the country.

That is why different parties stand up for different perspectives and beliefs. A party may well commit its members to these principles. The question of excluding party members moves in this tense relationship: On the one hand, the permissible expression of opinion, which can also exist within the party, and on the other hand, the question of when party members “have gone too far”.

Party law provides the framework

The Political Parties Act specifies the legal requirements for a party exclusion:

A member can only be expelled from the party if he or she intentionally violates the statutes or seriously violates the principles or rules of the party and thereby causes it serious damage.

Exactly when these hurdles have been crossed is not always easy to determine in practice and is therefore often the reason for protracted disputes.

These are initially carried out within the party: because the responsible internal party arbitration court decides on the exclusion. Such tribunals must be set up by all parties at their different territorial levels. This is also stipulated in the party law. The decision of this arbitration board can then be appealed to the higher-level arbitration board. The arbitration procedure is also referred to as “party order procedure”.

Decisions on content are often not easy

In these arbitration proceedings, the content of the statements or actions that are the reason for the intended exclusion of a party is discussed. The relevant committees must carefully examine: To what extent does the behavior in question actually constitute a violation of the statutes or principles or rules of the party? And: Has the party actually suffered serious damage as a result?

This requires a precise alignment with the respective statutes of the parties. Because they differ from one another, it is conceivable that certain behavior in one party would lead to exclusion while in another party it would not have such severe consequences. The views represented in the party as a whole must also be taken into account.

“Parties are committed to pluralism. The broader a party is, for example as a large people’s party, the more it has to allow for different views within the party,” says political scientist Ulrich Eith from the University of Freiburg. Deciding when the limit has been reached is therefore often complicated.

The former Berlin finance senator Thilo Sarrazin, for example, was confronted with a party order procedure three times. The last of these then led to expulsion from the SPD in 2020. The background to this procedure was Sarrazin’s Islam-critical statements in the book “Hostile Takeover”. The first two procedures after the publication of the book “Deutschland creates itself” did not yet lead to the party being expelled.

Decisions can only be checked to a limited extent

Those affected can also have the decisions of the internal party arbitration courts reviewed by the state courts. In this case, that would be the civil courts. However, they must respect party autonomy.

As a result, the standard of examination is limited for them. To put it simply, it limits itself to clarifying whether the measure was taken in accordance with the legal and statutory principles in a proper procedure. If this has not happened to the conviction of the respective court, it can reverse the decision of the party’s internal court

Maassen does not want to leave the CDU voluntarily

Oliver Neuroth, ARD Berlin, January 31, 2023 10:47 a.m

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