This week, when Minister Hubert Aiwanger (FW) reports to the Economic Committee on the consequences of the Ukraine war for Bavarian companies, or when the Interior Committee discusses the lessons learned from the new report for the protection of the Constitution with Minister Joachim Herrmann (CSU) – then these exciting dates will become quite limited public. Namely only for those interested citizens, professionally affected, parliamentary group employees or journalists who drive to the Maximilianeum and squeeze into the meeting room. And in the agricultural and science committees of the state parliament, petitions are dealt with on Wednesday. If it is about a local political issue, those affected would have to travel there, in extreme cases from Aschaffenburg or Bayerisch Eisenstein. Oh, if only you could watch it on YouTube.
You could do that during the pandemic. After the Easter break, there are now new rules in the state parliament, for example the panes of glass between the chairs in the plenum have been removed, and the plenary session is again meeting with normal numbers of people. The live streaming of the committees, the actual working area of Parliament, recently ended – which has hardly been noticed because of the holidays. At the end of March, the Greens, SPD and FDP wanted to take countermeasures at the last minute with a joint motion. The idea, born out of necessity, has proven itself, it is said, it provides “more transparency” and makes work easier for everyone in the political establishment. Above all, the CSU resisted. Its parliamentary director Tobias Reiß warned that one was a “presence parliament” and should “not think that democracy can be organized from the home office”. Stephan Oetzinger (CSU) also mentioned the cost-benefit balance. In the legal committee, for example, the average number of viewers is 19. So: Application rejected, committees offline since then.
But now things are moving again. On the one hand, there is an exact breakdown of the number of users, which the state parliament office shared with the SZ on request. On the other hand, there are said to have been talks between the CSU and free voters. All calls are listed in the overview – i.e. not only virtual guests of an entire session, but also clicks on individual speeches, petitions or motions. In 2021 and 2022, there were almost no low two-digit numbers, as cited by the CSU, across all committees; the numbers are often in three digits, and occasionally the views are in the thousands. The supposedly unattractive legal committee is actually one of the least interested. But the numbers, for example, now at the three meetings in March: 198, 144 and 117.
Meetings with ministerial reports or topics with potential for excitement are in high demand
Meetings with ministerial reports, hearings or topics with potential for excitement are in high demand. Number one in the overall balance: the Education Committee in January 2021, with 2678 viewers. At that time, Minister of Education Michael Piazolo (FW) spoke about the breakdowns with the learning platform Mebis in distance learning. You can imagine how many teachers, students and parents in the Free State were intrigued. Incidentally, this also provides political education: How does the state parliament work?
The opposition had sharply criticized the application to receive the streaming. For example, Jürgen Mistol (Greens) said: The refusal of the government factions “can probably only be explained by indifference to social changes, with a good deal of inertia and a backward-looking world view”. Since then, variable models have also been considered: such as permanent streaming for the press or employees of the state parliament – and for the general public, for example at ministerial appearances. At that time, the FW voted with the CSU, but seemed ready for dialogue. Her parliamentary manager Fabian Mehring announced that he was looking for a compromise – between the CSU and the FDP, which “with the exception of going to the toilet, would like to stream everything that takes place in the state parliament”.
When asked by SZ, Mehring said he had negotiated with the CSU. “It looks good that we are coming to a middle ground that will serve the cause.” The government factions want to discuss this soon, then there should be the details, according to Mehring. The actual number of views would also have played a role.