Germany’s parliament: Order, order!

Gripped by question time

GERMANY’S parliament, the Bundestag, has produced some memorable moments over the years. Whether they qualify as oratory is less clear. In 1984 a young Joschka Fischer (nobody dreamt of a Green foreign minister just 14 years later) yelled: “With your permission, Mr President, you are an arsehole!” Herbert Wehner, a leading member in the 1960s and 70s, told one opponent to “go wash yourself first” and another that “you are a pig, do you know that?”Those members attempting wit—and there are some—face a more humdrum reality. Often they address a chamber that is mostly empty. Chancellor Angela Merkel and her ministers, if present at all, sit diagonally behind the orators, so that they can ignore them and catch up on some reading. This may explain why many of Berlin’s political wonks go online for their thrills, watching prime minister’s questions in Britain’s House of Commons. How else to have fun?Certainly not during the two Bundestag slots allotted to “question time”. One, on the first Wednesday of a parliamentary session, is billed as an interrogation of the government. But the government chooses the topic,…

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