|People's Chamber |
|Legislature of German Democratic Republic (East Germany)|
|Preceded by||Reichstag (1933-1945)|
|Succeeded by||Bundestag (1990-today)|
|18 March 1990|
|Palast der Republik|
|This article is part of a series on the|
politics and government of
The People's Chamber (German: Volkskammer) was the unicameral legislature of the German Democratic Republic (East Germany). From its founding in 1949 until the first competitive elections on 18 March 1990, all members of the Volkskammer were elected via a list called the National Front. In addition, seats were also allocated to various mass organizations affiliated with the SED, such as the Free German Youth.
Initially, it was the lower house of a bicameral legislature. The upper chamber was the Chamber of States, or Länderkammer, but in 1952 the states of East Germany were dissolved, and the chamber was abolished in 1958.
Constitutionally, the Volkskammer was the highest organ of state power in the GDR, both constitutions vested it with great lawmaking powers. By 1960, the chamber appointed the Council of the State, the Council of Ministers, and the National Defence Council. All other branches of government, including the judiciary, were theoretically responsible to it.
In practice, the People's Chamber was a rubber stamp that did little more than pass decisions already made by the Socialist Unity Party of Germany (SED) and its Politburo. All parties were expected to respect the principles of democratic centralism and the leading role of the SED. As a result, all but two measures put before it prior to the Peaceful Revolution passed unanimously.
The members of the chamber were elected in multi member constituencies, with four to eight seats to be elected, to be elected - a candidate needed to receive half of the valid votes cast in their constituency. If, within a constituency, an insufficient number of candidates obtained the required absolute majority needed to fill all the seats, a second ballot is held within 90 days. If the number of candidates winning this majority exceeds the number of seats in the respective constituency, the order of the candidates on the election list is decisive. Elected candidates who, on this basis, received no seat became successor candidates who would fill vacancies in the Chamber which occurred during a legislative period.
The table below shows an overview of the reported results of all parliamentary elections before 1990, with the resulting disposition of parliamentary seats.
|Election date||Participation||Agree||Distribution of parliamentary seats|
|19 October 1950||98.53%||99.9%||110||67||66||33||35||49||25||24||20||6||12||19|
|17 October 1954||98.51%||99.4%||117||52||52||52||52||55||29||29||18||12|
|16 November 1958||98.90%||99.9%||127||52||52||52||52||55||29||29||18||12|
|20 October 1963||99.25%||99.9%||127||52||52||52||52||68||55||35||22|
|2 July 1967||99.82%||99.9%||127||52||52||52||52||68||55||35||22|
|14 November 1971||98.48%||99.5%||127||52||52||52||52||68||55||35||22|
|7 October 1976||98.58%||99.8%||127||52||52||52||52||68||55||35||22|
|14 June 1981||99.21%||99.9%||127||52||52||52||52||68||55||35||22|
|8 June 1986||99.74%||99.9%||127||52||52||52||52||68||37||21||32||14|
1Eastern Bureau of the Social Democratic Party of Germany
In 1976, the Volkskammer moved into a specially-constructed building on Marx-Engels-Platz (now Schloßplatz again), the Palast der Republik (Palace of the Republic). Prior to the opening of the Palast der Republik the Volkskammer meet at Langenbeck-Virchow-Haus in the Mitte district of Berlin.
Initially, voters in East Berlin could not take part in elections to the Volkskammer, in which they were represented by indirectly-elected non-voting members, but in 1979 the electoral law was changed, to provide for 66 directly elected deputies with full voting rights.
After the 1990 election, the disposition of the parties was as follows:
|Alliance for Germany||CDU, DA, DSU||192|
|Social Democratic Party of Germany||SPD||88|
|Party of Democratic Socialism||PDS, former SED||66|
|Association of Free Democrats||DFP, FDP, LDP||21|
|East German Green Party and Independent Women's Association||Grüne, UFV||8|
|National Democratic Party of Germany||NDPD||2|
|Democratic Women's League of Germany||DFD||1|
Presidents of the People's Chamber
The presidency of the People's Chamber was held by a non-Communist for most of that body's existence; only one SED member ever held the title. The president of the People's Chamber was the third-highest post in the GDR and was ex-officio vice president of the country.
|Name||Entered office||Left office||Party|
|Johannes Dieckmann||7 October 1949||22 February 1969||LDPD|
|Gerald Götting||12 May 1969||29 October 1976||CDU|
|Horst Sindermann||29 October 1976||13 November 1989||SED|
|Günther Maleuda||13 November 1989||5 April 1990||DBD|
|Sabine Bergmann-Pohl||5 April 1990||2 October 1990||CDU|
The last president of the People's Chamber, Sabine Bergmann-Pohl, was also interim head of state during the last six months of East Germany's existence due to the State Council having been abolished.
- Longman Companion to Germany since 1945, Adrian Webb, Routledge, 2014
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to People's Chamber of the German Democratic Republic.|