Marcel Solar is a NRW School of Governance/AICGS Fellow and a research assistant at the Institute for Political Science and Sociology of the University of Bonn (Germany). He graduated from the University of Bonn with a graduate degree in Political Science. In his graduate thesis, he compared political culture in the eastern and the western parts of Germany after reunification. He teaches courses on comparative politics and is working on a dissertation thesis on direct democratic instruments at the state level in Germany and their implications for the political decision-making process.

Further research interests include party government in Western Europe, coalition government and the political system of Germany at the federal and state levels. Upcoming publications focus on the prevailing differences in political culture in West and East Germany – Politische Kultur im vereinigten Deutschland: Eine vergleichende Analyse der politischen Orientierungen in Ost und West (Wiesbaden: VS Verlag 2010, forthcoming) – and on the development of the party system in North Rhine-Westphalia, “Nordrhein-Westfalen: Das Erbe des politischen Katholizismus und der Mythos vom sozialdemokratischen Stammland,” in Andreas Kost et. al., ed., Parteien in den deutschen Ländern: Geschichte und Gegenwart (Munich: C.H. Beck 2010, forthcoming).

Project Description:
While at AICGS, Mr. Solar will conduct research on the initiative and referendum (I&R) process in the United States at the state level. Since the introduction of the I&R-process in South Dakota in 1898, twenty-six additional states have granted their citizens the right to collect signatures on a petition in order to place advisory questions, statutes, or constitutional amendments on a ballot for the voters to adopt or reject (initiatives) and/or to provide for referenda in which laws and amendments proposed by the state legislature may be placed before the voters for approval or rejection (referenda). In those twenty-seven states the I&R-process is more or less (depending on the respective rules and the use) an inherent part of their political system and their political culture. That is not the case in Germany; the initiative process in Germany is legally anchored in the constitutions of all sixteen Bundesländer, but is seldom used, mainly due to the strict and often not very ‘user-friendly’ requirements.

In his research Mr. Solar will analyze the proceedings and the experience with I&R in the U.S. in order to draw conclusions for the emerging debate in Germany concerning the reform of direct democratic instruments. After examining essential provisions of the I&R-process in the U.S., certain aspects shall be dealt with in more detail regarding the case of Massachusetts:

What is the role of the legislature in the process?
In which ways are courts integrated?
Are there topics that are excluded from the I&R-process?
How can citizens get information about ballot measures?