The impact of institutional structures on the behaviour of actors in the legislative process. The Case of the German Immigration Law

Term Paper, 2002

19 Pages, Grade: 2,0



1. Introduction
1.1 General assumptions of a RC institutionalist model

2. Identification of actors

3. Identification of preferences
3.1 Theoretical considerations
3.2 Preferences in the case of the Immigration Law

4. Institutional structures
4.1 Formal institutional structures
4.2 Informal institutional structures

5. Impact of institutions in the case of the Immigration Law

6. Concluding remarks


1. Introduction

„Eklat im Bundesrat“ (scandal in the Bundesrat) read the headline of the Frankfurter Allgemeine (FAZ) on 23 March 2002. Leading politicians of CDU-CSU (the Christian Democrats) even made out a constitutional crisis and the political landscape in Germany was in a state of turmoil well before the official start of the election campaign. The reason for all this noise was that the Bundesrat, the second legislative chamber, had passed a controversial bill in a contested way the day before.

This paper will address the following research question: What is the impact of institutional structures in the German legislative process on the behaviour of actors in the legislative arena? My central argument can be stated as follows: The behaviour of the central actors, which often have conflicting preferences, is influenced by formal and informal institutions in the legislative process. The specific outcome can then be explained by their strategic use of institutional opportunities and their awareness of institutional constraints.

The remainder of the paper is structured as follows: I begin by stating the general assumptions central to the rational choice institutionalist model introduced here. In the following section, I will identify the actors in the legislative process before presenting a set of assumptions concerning their preferences. I will then describe the institutional structures of the legislative process before giving a set of theoretical arguments and hypotheses concerning their possible impact on the behaviour of actors. Finally, I will have a look at the impact of these institutions on the actual outcome in the case of the Immigration Law. The concluding remarks will give a short summary of the findings.

1.1 General assumptions of a RC institutionalist model

The analysis of the paper is based on rational choice institutionalism. According to Aspinwall/Schneider (2000:11f), in a rational-choice perspective institutions provide a context within which individual decisions are set, i.e. „a set of formal rules and procedures, or informal practices, that structure relationships (...) and shape human interactions“.

In general, the preferences of the actors are exogenous to the RC models, i.e. the preferences are fixed. Individual action is goal-driven within the „situative“ restrictions and possibilities provided by the institutional context. The models are usually based on non-cooperative game theory: the actors perform strategic behaviour; they adapt their strategies and beliefs to the assumed actions of the other players.

2. Identification of actors

The present analysis adopts a general (simplifying) assumption of formal theories of coalition behaviour: The actors in a coalition game are unified parties, each of which can be treated as a single bargaining entity (Laver 1986:35f). This assumption is based on élite-theoretic concepts of parties and democracy (Kropp/Sturm:15f). The definition violates somewhat the premise of methodological individualism but can hardly be avoided if the legislative process is to be modeled at all. Also, in reality, the assumption can never be wholly fulfilled. Although the actors identified here might be assumed to be relatively homogeneous, there might always be single individuals who do not act in conformity with the „unitary entity“ which they take part in.

The relevant actors for the present analysis are derived from the legislative process in the German federal state. In order not to complicate matters too much, the „pre-political“ stages of policy formulation by the ministerial bureaucracy and the possible influence of interest associations etc. are excluded here. In a parliamentary system, the most important distinction is to be made between the parties forming the government and the opposition parties in the legislative chamber. For the Bundestag this would be the governing coalition of Social Democrats (SPD) and the Greens (Bündnis 90/Grüne) on the one hand and the opposition of Christian Democrats (CDU-CSU), Free Democrats (FDP) and Democratic Socialists (PDS) on the other hand. Because of the unitary actor-assumption I will neither distinguish between the government and the parliamentary parties of SPD and B90/Grüne nor consider the influence of party members not being MPs. Germany is a federal state with a bicameral legislature. The second legislative chamber (Bundesrat) is set up by Länder governments. They are dependent on their parliamentary majorities and on the party organizations at Länder level.

3. Identification of preferences

3.1 Theoretical considerations

Economic theories of politics and electoral competition (e.g. Downs 1957) assume that the behaviour of politicians can be explained by their dependence on electoral support. Electoral constituencies are the principals, the elected delegates and their parties are the agents which deliver the policies desired by their voters in exchange for electoral support. Shepsle/Bonchek (1997:446-448) distinguish further between an office-seeking and a policy-seeking motivation. According to them, politicians on the one hand value being in office whatever happens. But on the other hand, they must also try to influence policies in such a way as desired by external constituencies (this could be e.g. financially strong supporters or again voters). As a consequence, a party in government might not risk a coalition due to policy differences but would also take into account electoral considerations. The election manifestos of parties will serve as a basis for determining their policy motivations.

German Länder politicians could be oriented towards office either at Länder or at federal level. Top positions in the federal executive are usually filled with candidates from the Länder level (Lehmbruch 2000:87f), take e.g. Kohl or Schröder who were both Prime Ministers before becoming Chancellor. If Länder politicians strive for a future career in the federal political arena, they would be highly dependent on the party organizations at federal level. Their preferences could then be determined by their orientation by the stances taken by the parties at federal level. Such behaviour could not only result from party discipline toward the federal level but also because politicians of the same party tend to share fundamental convictions as e.g. expressed in the election manifestos (Böhne 1998:70).

The second element are Länder politics; parties at Länder level might seek electoral support by reducing the costs of new federal legislation for their Länder constituencies. Another factor are office-seeking considerations concerning government stability (i.e. the stability of coalitions) at Länder level.

3.2 Preferences in the case of the Immigration Law

The purpose of the Immigration Law is the „steering and limitation of immigration“. It contains provisions for the influx, residence, employment and integration of foreigners (BMI 2002; FAZ, 2 March 2002): The influx of workers is orientated by the German labour market; foreign employees can only be hired if there are no suitable German candidates. In addition, a points system allows additional immigration (no quota regulations). Children are only allowed to follow their parents as long as they are under the age of 12 (exemptions are possible). Refugees are now more easily accepted if they have escaped from non-state and sex-specific persecution. Immigrants are obliged to participate in integration courses, e.g. language courses.

If compared to the wording of the election manifestos –although these are more general- it is easy to identify the differences in ideas and concepts between the parties. The ideas of SPD (2002) and B90/Grüne (2002) are similar, both parties are in favour of integrating Germans and foreigners into one multicultural society, which they regard as the only possible alternative. Nevertheless, the SPD only favours immigration if it is in the interest of the German labour market. In addition, immigrants are to attend compulsory integration courses while the federal state contributes to the costs. B90/Grüne stress the importance of a political design of the „immigration society“. They strongly support the recognition of persecution due to gender or sexuality and particularly generous social security payments for immigrants.


Excerpt out of 19 pages


The impact of institutional structures on the behaviour of actors in the legislative process. The Case of the German Immigration Law
University of Constance
Comparative Institutional Analysis
Catalog Number
ISBN (eBook)
File size
564 KB
Double spaced
Case, German, Immigration, Comparative, Institutional, Analysis
Quote paper
Christina Zimmer (Author), 2002, The impact of institutional structures on the behaviour of actors in the legislative process. The Case of the German Immigration Law, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


  • No comments yet.
Read the ebook
Title: The impact of institutional structures on the behaviour of actors in the legislative process. The Case of the German Immigration Law

Upload papers

Your term paper / thesis:

- Publication as eBook and book
- High royalties for the sales
- Completely free - with ISBN
- It only takes five minutes
- Every paper finds readers

Publish now - it's free