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East Germany Table of Contents

East Germany

District and Local Government

East Germany has three territorial levels below the national level: 15 districts (Bezirke), 219 counties (Kreise), and some 90,000 towns and communities (Gemeinde). Each organ has an elected assembly (whose composition is controlled by local National Front committees) and a council, which acts as the executive. Each assembly in turn features a structure of committees, composed of deputies and nondeputies, and organized around local policy issues such as local trade, supply, finances, construction, housing, traffic, transportation, health, socialist education, culture, youth, and sports. Over 400,000 citizens serve on assembly committees at some level, and 206,652 are deputies.

The district assembly is the highest government organ in the district; it is elected every five years by the district electorate; the number of deputies in the assembly ranges from 190 to 210, depending on the size of the district electorate. The district council usually consists of some eighteen to twenty members; as a rule, SED members outnumber representatives of other political parties. Counties, as subdivisions of districts, replicate the district government structure on a smaller scale. In 1985 there were 191 urban counties (Stadtkreise) and 28 rural counties (Landkreise). The smallest unit of local government with an assembly and a council is the community, of which there were 7,567 in 1985. East German officials are quick to point out that citizen participation in local government exceeds that of Western democracies. However, the power of local government executives, who are selected by higher officials, and the narrow parameters of action set by the central government strictly circumscribe the effectiveness of citizen participation. Local governments have little independence in initiating policies; as a rule, local policy is derived from authorizing legislation or a ministerial order at the national level.

On September 1, 1985, the Community Constitution (Gemeindeverfassung) was passed. This document strengthened democratic centralism on the local level. However, the central control of the state apparatus, described as a "unified state power," was not relaxed, and the power of the districts increased somewhat at the expense of the role of communities and towns.

Data as of July 1987