In the end, it was an overwhelming majority. Only seven members of parliament voted last Friday (21 February 2014) against toughening up German regulations to stop bribery of parliamentarians. 582 voted for it. The issue is the last major obstacle to Germany’s ratification of the United Nations Convention against Corruption (UNCAC). We now expect Germany to ratify before the summer.
It has taken 11 years and three different governments to finally reach this breakthrough. Why did it take so long? Many parliamentarians feared that the wide definition of corruption in the convention might lead to more investigations, destroying their reputations and even ending careers – even if investigations never make it to the courts. It’s no surprise that the law which was finally accepted still has a very narrow definition of bribery, but it does satisfy the recommendations of the UNCAC.
One could already see in December that there was finally some political movement towards ratification. The two parties forming the ruling coalition under Chancellor Angela Merkel had agreed in its coalition contract that the law on the bribery of parliamentarians should be tightened.
Credit goes to the Social Democrats which pushed the issue and persuaded the sceptical Christian Democrats. But not many observers expected it to happen so fast.
The ruling parties connected the issue to the 10 per cent increase in their remuneration. Newspaper commentators were critical about this; as if the parliamentarians needed more money not to be led into temptation.
The law is now on the agenda of the second chamber of the German parliament, the Bundesrat, which represents the 16 states. No alterations are expected.
Once the law is signed by the president and published in the Federal Law Gazette, UNCAC ratification might finally happen. Then Germany will not have to sit in the last row of the Conference of State Parties to the UNCAC and instead, can use its full political weight to advocate tougher corruption prevention all around the world.
Carousel image: Creative commons, Flickr / baracoder