German coalition parties hardly ask any questions

Nice: der Spiegel has launched a data blog, Datenlese. One of the first posts analyses questions asked by members of the lower house, the Bundestag. I thought it might be interesting to compare these findings to the Dutch situation. Unfortunately, der Spiegel doesn’t appear to publish the actual dataset they use in their analysis (unlike, for example, the Guardian Data Blog, which usually provides a spreadsheet with all the relevant data). [Update: the author kindly provides a link to the dataset here]

However, the Bundestag does publish statistics of parliamentary initiatives, as does the Dutch Tweede Kamer. A few conclusions:

  • The Bundestag asks about 75 questions per month. The Tweede Kamer more than three times as many, even though the Bundestag has four times as many members.
  • Written questions are primarily a tool for the opposition, but more so in Germany than in the Netherlands. In Germany, only 1% of questions are asked by members of coalition parties. In the Netherlands, 17% (or even 33% if former quasi-coalition party PVV is included).
  • In Germany, most questions are asked by the left-wing party die Linke and by the green party. Far fewer questions are asked by the social-democrats. A spokesperson told der Spiegel that the party knows from its experience as a former government party that questions ‘can paralyse the entire apparatus’. In the Netherlands, the social-democrats asked the largest number of questions in 2011. This hasn’t always been the case: when the social-democrats were still in government, they asked fewer questions and the left-wing SP headed the list.

Data

Statistics of the current session of the Bundestag can be found here (pdf). Apparently, there is a distinction between ‘small’ and ‘large’ questions; the latter resulting in a debate. The number of large questions is very small; like der Spiegel I focused on the little questions. The Tweede Kamer is quite a bit slower than the Bundestag in publishing its statistics; I used the figures for 2011 published here.

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