Famous for its remarkable architecture and its art scene, Düsseldorf is one of Germany’s largest cities and the capital of the federal state of North Rhine-Westphalia. As part of the seminar organised by Friedrich Naumann Foundation, we were lucky enough to be given a tour of the Landtag – the state parliament that convenes in Düsseldorf. Group tours of the State Parliament can be booked by anyone interested in visiting and, you’ll be pleased to know, they’re completely free.
The building itself is beautiful, particularly if you’re fortunate enough to witness a bird’s eye view from the nearby Rheinturm (Rhine Tower), which is an iconic landmark and the tallest building in Düsseldorf. The guided tour through the Landtag’s interior will give you an insight into Germany’s political process which is made even more interesting with the knowledge that the federal state of North Rhine-Westphalia is larger than some European countries! The purpose each room serves, which of the parties have the majority of seats and other interesting trivia are part of the tour.
For me, the highlight were the three doors providing an alternate entrance to the plenary chamber. Labelled Ja (yes), Nein (no) and Enthaltung (abstention), we were told that these are used in case of a division of votes where an undisputed majority can not be established through raising of hands etc. The president can then call for Hammelsprung (literal translation: wether’s leap) which is a voting method where all the MPs leave the plenary chamber and re-enter through the door that represents their vote. Mentally drawing comparisons with the dysfunctional “democracy” we have in Pakistan, it was fascinating to learn the ins-and-outs of a democratic system that has been built from the ground up post the second World War, around the same time that Pakistan achieved independence.