Diversity in Germany’s Political Life? Immigrants in City Councils

by Karen Schönwälder and Christiane Kofri

Working Papers WP 10-17
December 2010
ISSN 2192-2357 (MMG Working Papers Print)

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The incorporation of persons with a migration background into political life in Germany is an under-researched theme. This paper will help to fill this gap by analyzing the political incorporation of immigrants at the local level in North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany’s largest regional state; a Bundesland in which immigrants make up a large share of the population and a very considerable portion of the eligible voting population. Despite their weighty presence, immigrants come nowhere close to parity representation in the 29 big cities of NRW. Although Germany has come to see itself as a country of immigration, it is far from achieving the equal political incorporation of all of its citizens. Still, overall levels of immigrant representation are on the rise. Notwithstanding this overall pattern, there are strong variations both between different  municipalities and between the different political parties. This paper offers a detailed picture of these phenomena and develops several hypotheses about the dynamics of political participation and political representation.

Karen Schönwälder is Research Group Leader at the Max Planck Institute for the Study of Religious and Ethnic Diversity (MMG), Department of Socio-Cultural Diversity, Göttingen.

Christiane Kofri is a political scientist and member of staff at the Max Planck Institute for the Study of Religious and Ethnic Diversity. Her PhD research focuses on the political incorporation of migrants at the local level in Germany.

Apart from the authors, other people have contributed to the research reported in this paper: Thorsten Walbott, Anne Kühn, Gülten Kara and Ufuk Olgun helped compile candidate lists and analyze newspapers. Sören Petermann provided indispensable advice on the design and analysis of our survey.