Assessing the functioning of local councils in North Rhine-Westphalia

On behalf of the Ministerium für Heimat, Kommunales, Bau und Gleichstellung Nordrhein-Westfalen the project aims at clarifying the functioning in North Rhine-Westphalian local councils focussing on potential functional problems. The reason for analysing the councils' functionality is the introduction of an electoral threshold for local council elections which - according to the North Rhine-Westphalian Constitutional Court - has to be justified on grounds of severe functional deficits which can be definitely attributed to a missing electoral threshold. Existing evaluations concentrated solely on the higher level of council fragmentation and associated difficulties regarding negotiation and decision-making processes due to a missing threshold which, in the Court's perspective, is not sufficient in justifying the threshold introduction. Therefore this project focuses on identifying systematic and narrowly defined functional problems by using a comprehensive survey, and, in a second step, reconstructing decision-making processes in selected cases by means of document analyses and expert interviews. Based on these findings, a qualified recommendation regarding the introduction of an electoral threshold at the local level or potential institutional alternatives will be provided.