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Parliamentary groups

A semi-circular pie chart shows the distribution of the parliamentary groups in the Hamburg Parliament.
© Hamburgische Bürgerschaft

Parliamentary groups are usually made up of Members of Parliament from the same party. At least six Bürgerschaft Members are needed to form a parliamentary group (Fraktion in German). Independent Members may also join a group if they agree with its political goals. Members who do not belong to any group are called non-attached.

It makes a big difference to practical parliamentary work whether or not a Member is part of a group. Parliamentary groups have more rights than single Members. For example, some measures can only be initiated by a parliamentary group or by a minimum of five Members. This is the case for tabling bills and major interpellations (written questions to the government that are also debated in parliament). The size of a parliamentary group also determines how many seats it can have on a committee and how much power it has as a result. But the organisation of Members into groups is necessary, too, because otherwise it would be almost impossible to pass legislation on time, given the wide range of questions to be discussed and Parliament’s extensive workload.

The main task of the parliamentary groups is to prepare decisions and positions for the work of the committees and for the debates in the plenary sitting (full meeting of Parliament). The parliamentary groups form working parties to prepare the coming topics in detail. It is their task to prepare motions, major interpellations and bills. The results of discussions in the working parties are often very important for developing the political objectives of the parliamentary groups. They contain recommendations about the resolutions to be passed by the parliamentary groups.

Thus the real political debate and opinion-forming in the parties takes place within the parliamentary groups and their working parties. Majority voting establishes the line the parliamentary group will take in the full Parliament and committee sessions. When a topic is debated in the plenary sitting, the different standpoints taken by members of the parliamentary group during the preparatory discussions are mostly no longer visible. Externally, parliamentary groups try to present a united front.

Members of Parliament therefore usually obey party discipline during votes in the plenary sitting, in other words they follow the majority view of their parliamentary group even if they have a different view. Members submit to party discipline voluntarily, as the principle of the independent mandate applies within the parliamentary group, too.

There are five parliamentary groups in the Bürgerschaft in the current legislative period:

  • SPD parliamentary group (53 Members)
  • GRÜNE parliamentary group (33 Members)
  • CDU parliamentary group (15 Members)
  • DIE LINKE parliamentary group (ten Members)
  • AfD parliamentary group (six Members)

There are six non-attached Members.