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Multilevel Systems and Sub-National Constitutional Politics in Germany: a Qualitative Comparative Analysis

Are sub-national constitutional politics shaped by multilevel structures or by sub-national factors? That is the question I am tackling with in this paper. In order to answer this question I will examine 23 decision-making processes in German Länder and try to find out how far their outcome has been determined by multilevel and / or sub-national factors. Notably, I will refer to three policy areas in which the two levels of the German federal system interact in different ways. While the Basic Law determines the sub-national constitutional space with regard to capital punishment and the debt brake comprehensively and in detail, the Länder have significant constitutional leeway with regard to European integration. In addition – and maybe even more importantly – the paper explores unknown methodological territory. I apply a new empirical tool to the research question at hand by using Qualitative Comparative Analysis (QCA). Qualitative – or Configurational – Comparative Analysis is supposed to better contextualize the effects of causes for an outcome than conventional quantitative methods. Overall the study will bring to the fore that as far as political science is concerned the analysis of constitutional politics in the German Länder is still in its infancy. We have to refine our theoretical models and improve our empirical tools. Only then we will be able to better understand how the multilevel system, party politics, and constitutional features impact on sub-national constitutional politics.
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