Important research projects
Below you can find some selected summaries of major research projects.
Digital Democracy/E-Democracy / "I-Voting"
The citizens of Estonia started electing their political representatives per internet in 2005. Since then the number of e-voters has grown strongly. A number of countries have conducted pilot tests, but no other country has followed Estonia’s example to date. Apart from analyzing the political processes up to the implementation, the venture examines why it was possible to implement this far-reaching project in Estonia. It concludes that a variety of structural and legislative factors, as well as a number of actor constellations, supported the process. The venture analyzes the factors and constellations, highlights the influence of history on the introduction of e-voting aimed at increasing the legitimacy of the political system, and suggests that political power games accompanied the introduction process. It will be interesting to see whether Estonia’s e-voting vision spawns sustainable copies in other countries in years to come.
Electronic Voting in Comparison - Part I
Estonia is the trailblazer in e-voting, but Switzerland is actively pursuing the establishment of e-voting in its elections, too. The purpose of the study is to identify the factors that essentially affected the success of the "vote électronique" in the pilot projects conducted in the cantons of Geneva, Neuchâtel and Zurich. It becomes evident that state change is promoted or prevented by the concurrence of several factors. Naturally, the underlying institutional factors and constellations of actors play a substantial role and the context of the Swiss system is of importance as well. Switzerland is using two of the most progressive e-voting solutions in the cantons of Geneva and Neuchâtel and, hence, can be a role model. This would be the case simply on the grounds that the introduction process was mastered despite strong federal structures and political complexities, although such determinants are generally considered to be resistant to innovation and reforms.
Electronic Voting in Comparison - Part II
Estonia has been electing its political representatives online since 2005, and is therefore on the forefront of a digital revolution. The interesting question arises how other European countries have developed. More specifically, whether the way has been paved properly elsewhere, and whether their efforts hold promise for the future. The country selection for this study was done mainly on the basis of where data is available, which is to some degree analyzable. Therefore, the study should primarily be seen as exploratory. In Europe, Switzerland seems to be the closest pursuer of Estonia on this field. Here one can expect to see the nationwide implementation of online elections in the near future. In Germany and Austria the efforts are also ambitious, but the concepts still less developed, and at this stage not implementable, for a number of reasons. In these countries the challenge is not to fall further behind, and to accelerate the respective efforts.
Policy-Learning as an integrated Approach
The research study focuses on the modernization of states. For this purpose it refers to theoretical approaches to learning which deals with the changeability of political objectives and state structures, and specifically with the variable aspects thereof, rather than the stabilizing aspects. The document constitutes a further development of the debate on learning theories, since these theories often do not oppose classical theoretical research approaches. They should be seen as a valuable supplement. New information or findings can change perceptions and preferences, which may lead to political reforms. Therefore, on the one hand policy-learning is an important cause of political change. On the other hand, learning approaches can contribute to a better explanation of policies. They often do this when they are designed complementary to, and integrated into actor-centered-institutional approaches. This has the advantage that central categories, such as power and interests, do not remain underexposed. Strictly speaking, change is not triggered by institutional factors or actor constellations. Such factors only stimulate change. Ultimately, there are other components, which initiate a learning process and change in cooperation with the aforementioned contextual factors. Crucial for this to happen, is a political and economic pressure setting and, inter alia, the factors time and space. Therefore, the probability that political change will follow in the wake of learning processes, is higher, if the aforementioned learn-promoting factors meet up with favorable context factors.
In the network of political and public administrative actors the public administration plays a key role. Countries previously influenced by socialism or communism, which joined the European Union in the two most recent accession waves and are now undergoing strong change, are investigated to determine whether - and to what extent - public administrations influence transition processes to more democracy and market economies. With a regression analysis it is demonstrated that a qualitatively better functioning public administration makes a positive impact on transition, its effectiveness and sustainability. The regression analysis also offers arguments for the view that public administrations are important actors when it comes to the implementation of EU standards.
Since the 1980s almost all OECD and EU states have implemented policies of liberalization and denationalization. This project offers a model for explaining this phenomenon by regarding it as a process of policy convergence. The determinants and causal mechanisms driving the proliferation of privatization policy are identified with the help of convergence mechanisms proposed by the sciences and then analytically evaluated and interpreted with regression analyses of two independent, quantitative studies. The results identify independent problem-solving, peer pressure and international harmonization as the most important causal mechanisms. Membership of the EU is shown to be a strong privatization factor, and on the OECD level, party affiliation of the government is identified as an important intervening variable.
The research venture focuses a debate that has intensified gradually. The dispute takes center stage with the increasing current political issues. It is about the lamented alleged lack of the German representative political system and the question whether it can contribute to implement direct democratic forms of participation to solve the problems or it should rather be classified as an inhibiting innovation and we do not drift into a „democracy of discussion“ step by step. The debate shows, for example, its „explosive effect“ in the controversy on Stuttgart 21. The project confronts the arguments of representative and direct democratic forms and works to achieve a symbiosis. This is done by a theoretical classification of the current situation, coupled with theoretical solution offerings. It turns out that a highly differentiated discourse is necessary to get closer to the problem.
The research venture focuses on two public sector projects, which build on each other and which are linked of a community leader from the Federal State of Baden-Wuerttemberg. At first the implemen-tation of e-Government in Stuttgart will be examined. The State Capital of Stuttgart is a very good example with its e-government projects in the Federal Republic of Germany. On the other side we recognize, beside such innovative and still relatively young modernization trends and some evergreens also rather marginal examined concepts so far. Therefore the venture focuses consequently also the Stuttgart Shared Service Center Project and explicitly in the field of e-Procurement. The concept can be considered as a necessary consequence of the aforementioned successful project.
Structures of German Administration Districts (North Rhine-Westphalia, Bavaria, Baden-Wuerttemberg, Lower Saxony, Hesse, Rhineland-Palatinate)
This research venture focuses on the larger, western provinces and their district governments. Since recently, more and more people are of the opinion that the medium regional government level in its classical form is obsolete. These government levels come under pressure because many actors demand an entirely new form of regional government. It needs to concentrate provincial and municipal functions and it is to be relieved of vertical control and permission processes. These reforms however get stuck in most provinces in initial stages. This article shows that radical and hence successful modernization politics is not only possible but it can also be explained by only a few factors.
Reform of the Medium Regional Government Level in Germany (German federal states)
In many German provinces people are thinking again about a reform of the medium regional government level. These government levels come under pressure because many actors demand an entirely new form of regional government. It needs to concentrate provincial and municipal functions and it is to be relieved of vertical control and permission processes. This venture is about the most recent reforms on the regional government level especially in four „western“ German provinces: Bavaria (BY), Baden-Wuerttemberg (BW), North Rhine-Westphalia (NRW) and Lower Saxony (NdS). Our main concern is to find the main factors that promote a radical - i.e. an all encompassing and fast - structural change and those factors that are of hindrance.
Administrative Structures of Saxony
Saxony wants to rebuild its administrative structures. The existing administrative structure in the Eastern federal states reminds of the structural import from the Western Germany federal states in the early 1990s. When setting up the federal state of Saxony over 20 years before, a decentralized structure stood in the foreground. Based on modified conditions and after the state has attained a high degree of self-confidence, it is now more concerned with effects of centralization. For this the Saxon government wants a new organization of the location conception. Moreover they aspire to reduce its three regional governments to one regional government. The process is construed in a long term for ten years. It is questionable what can be attributed to these measures and whether the government is pursuing the right course. On the other hand it is important to know whether the project is enforceable. To this the article also gives a cursory comparative glance at other federal states.
Administrative Structures of Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania
The study deals with the district reform in Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania in 2011. Building on policy analysis model - the so called multiple streams approach - this study analyses the problems and challenges Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania faces in times of demographic change as well as the policy alternatives presented to fix these problems and the political process that leads from recognition of these problems until the decision on a solution. It is to argue, that the heavy demands towards the old district structure made it inevitable to restructure the district level. This reform was pushed by the Social democrats and their governors within the political process. The Process was influenced by the state’s Supreme Court which intervened on the first reform approach and shaped the political process into a process of negotiation. The perception of problems, the accepted and workable solution, the reform-based political climate and the change of government have provided an opportunity to reform. The Social democrats seized the opportunity to implement their policy as the largest ruling party with the coalition partner.
The New Steering was not only a failed large-scale project in the federal state of Baden-Wuerttemberg. The venture points out the reasons for these failures in a selected policy, which can be transferred to other policies and other federal states. On the one hand the model-theoretic considerations cannot be accepted without reproach to the public sector, because the rationalities of the private economical sector are not transferable. On the other hand specific structural complexities and network configu-rations and in particular micro-political determinants often speak against such a steering philosophy. It is therefore an inevitable consequence that the New Steering has lost its meaning and a new age of governance has been established, which deals more with the institutional conditions of a state to steer the society appropriately under the consideration of democracy and legitimacy. In political and administrative science context there is often spoken about a double-organized irresponsibility. The author's thesis provokes a three-way organized irresponsibility, which brings up for discussion, beside a diffusion of responsibility and an over-organization, an over-regulation and over-steering of the state. Under such conditions governance becomes increasingly complex and thus governability becomes more and more a theoretical venture.
Subjectivation and Public Sector Reforms
Based on the assumption that the management vision is going to prevail in the public sector, it seems interesting to ask for the impact of that development on political and administrative individuals. This requires an expanded analysis perspective to the functioning of institutions and organizations of modern management systems. Helpful at this is the cursory comparison of classical institutional and organizational theorems, for example in the course of New Public Management with post-structuralist arguments. In this context approaches are productive, which realize state modernization indeed as structural change processes, which often cannot be planned, but always also as a process of social change of collective learning.
The Federal Reforms I and II heralded a comprehensive modernization of the state. Together they impact the work of the Bundesrat (Federal Council), the upper house of the German Parliament. In this context, it can be assumed that compatible majorities between the Bundestag (Federal Parliament), the lower house of the German Parliament, and the Federal Council expedite the legislative process and opposing majorities block the process. But, to what extent does the Federal Council, in fact, assume the role of a destructive veto player? This study deepens and extends the insights into this research question with a differentiated, holistic and exclusive analysis of the data material. To describe the institution as a destructive veto player in opposing majorities does not correspond with the empirical analysis. The Federal Council may from time to time behave like a destructive veto player, because the ability to influence the process is derived from the constitutionally entrenched potential to prevent a law. Primarily, however, the Federal Council operates on the level of compromises in the cooperative federal state, in which the process is embedded in a comprehensive, often time-consuming, negotiation mechanism between the Federal Government and the states.