The Landtag Election and the Position of the MPs
Members of parliament must be of legal age, possess German citizenship and have been permanently or habitually reside in Brandenburg for at least three months. Through their work for the population, they bear a high level of responsibility. In order to be able to fulfil this responsibility, they hold a special legal status.
By accepting the election, the members of the Landtag acquire rights of protection, participation and consultation, but also corresponding duties, which are regulated in the Land constitution, in the Act on Members of Parliament (Abgeordnetengesetz) and in the Rules of Procedure of the Landtag.
The protective rights set out in Articles 57 to 59 of the constitution of the Land of Brandenburg are intended to safeguard the independence of MPs and the freedom of their decisions. These rights include, among others, the right to indemnity, according to which a member of parliament may not be prosecuted in a court of law or subjected to disciplinary action because of his/her vote cast or a statement made in the Landtag, in one of its committees or in a parliamentary group. Defamatory insults are excluded from this protection. The right to immunity, which MPs enjoy under certain conditions, includes protection against criminal prosecution and execution measures if they adversely affect the parliamentary work. In Brandenburg – unlike in other Länder, which assume the fundamental existence of immunity – a special Landtag resolution is required to protect a member of parliament from prosecution during the electoral term.
The right to refuse to give evidence entitles the members of the Landtag to refuse to testify about all information that they have received in their capacity as a member of parliament as well as about all relevant informants; no document relating to such information or informants may be seized. This right continues to exist after the expiry of the mandate.
The so-called participation and co-determination rights of the MPs are set out in Article 56 of the Brandenburg constitution:
- Members of parliament may take the floor in the Landtag and its committees.
- Members of parliament have the right to table motions.
- Members of parliament have the right to put questions to the Land government, which are to be answered promptly, to the best of their knowledge and completely.
- Members of parliament are entitled to cast their votes in elections and resolutions.
- Members of parliament have a right of access to authorities and to the presentation of files. The information and the presentation of files and other official documents are to be provided immediately and in full.
The special rights of members of the Landtag also include their entitlement to compensation (from the Latin dietae – daily allowances) – as formulated in Article 60 of the Land constitution – which is commensurate with their responsibility and safeguards their independence. According to the so-called Diet Ruling of the Federal Constitutional Court of 1975, the compensation for MPs has to provide sufficient means of subsistence for the duration of their membership in parliament and must also do justice to the importance of the office, taking into account the responsibility and burden associated with it. The background to this decision is the preservation of the independence of the bearer of a free mandate in that, due to the level of remuneration, he or she is immune to attempts at extra-parliamentary influence.