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