Petitions and Complaints
“All of Bavaria’s inhabitants have the right to approach the responsible authorities or the Landtag in writing petitions or complaints." (Article 115 paragraph 1 Bavarian Constitution)
In the Parliament, 180 members take vital decisions affecting the whole of Bavaria. The members perform these tasks on a vicarious basis: citizens have elected the members to be “representatives of the people”. And the citizens also have the authority to decide again after every legislative period. Yet a feeling of unease with politics occasionally prevails among the population: lack of transparency, the marginal scope of influence between elections or political “remoteness from the citizens” are complained about. The members take these criticisms seriously and try to find a remedy. A “hotline” from the people to the Parliament helps to enforce the fundamental right to petitions and complaints guaranteed in the constitution.
About 11,000 “petitions” (literally requests, demands) have reached the Bavarian Landtag in the past legislative period. Behind this number are more than 500,000 people who also support these concerns.
Every petition is scrutinised and handled in the Parliament. The petitions play an important role for the members because they facilitate direct contact between the population and politics. They offer an effective way to exert direct influence through the population in those matters that are of particular importance to them. And they often make it very clear to members what matters the people are actually concerned about!
The fundamental right to petitions and complaints (right to petition) is anchored in the Bavarian Constitution of 1946. But the Bavarian Constitution only rudimentarily reflects the full impact of the right to petition.
The Bavarian Petition Act of 1993 (“Law on the handling of petitions and complaints to the Bayerischer Landtag pursuant to Article 115 of the Bavarian Constitution”) provides further information. This law states that the right to petitions and complaints also applies to people not residing in the State of Bavaria. It can be used by all Germans, but also by people from other countries. Not only adults but also minors can submit a petition to the Landtag. Detainees, legally incapacitated persons and persons in the care of a guardian as well as legal entities are also given the opportunity to file a complaint with Parliament. The Bavarian right to petition is also “generous” in another way: for instance, it allows complaints to be formulated and submitted on behalf of other persons such as the disabled, people in need of care or small children. The procedure is free of charge for the petitioners.
The fundamental right to petitions and complaints is not ultimately tied to one individual. Citizens frequently submit petitions collectively to the Landtag. Sometimes, even mass petitions find their way to Parliament. The Bavarian Constitution and the Petition Act also explicitly allow this. The concerns of tens of thousands of citizens are actually underpinned by approx. 2,200 annual petitions and complaints. This clearly demonstrates that the people can approach their members directly via the right to petition.
The importance of a petition ranges from the expectation of legal advice to a lifeline in a seemingly hopeless situation. Conversely, the complaints received enable members to gain a very precise idea of the moods and anxieties prevailing in the population. They learn how the laws they have enacted actually function in practice. And members can perform their control function vis-à-vis the government and administration in very specific ways.
Prerequisites for the submission of a petition
The Bayerischer Landtag deals with all petitions and complaints relating to Bavarian laws and authorities. But petitions addressed to public bodies (e.g. municipalities, universities) are also subject to scrutiny by the Landtag, when state supervision covers these bodies. A petition that requires action by state authorities or other public administration bodies may only be handled if an appropriate request has been submitted to the responsible agency beforehand.
Conversely, the Bayerischer Landtag is not the point of contact for complaints if, for instance, the petition is addressed to authorities of other federal states or the federal government.
The Petitions Committee of the German Bundestag (postal address: Deutscher Bundestag, Petitionsausschuss, Platz der Republik 1, D11011 Berlin; eMail:
vorzimmer.peta(at)bundestag.de) or the respective federal state is responsible in such cases.