Tübingen Debating Style


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The Open Parliamentary Debate is an academic debating format suitable for tournaments that combines the sportiness of parliamentary debate and the realism of public debate. It provides space for the development and improvement of well-understood rhetoric under the conditions of productive agonality.

Unlike academic debates, it does not claim to find the truth; rather, it is about bringing controversial positions to a decision under everyday conditions of incomplete information and finite time (cf. Herrmann/Hoppmann/Mattes/Nesyba 2011).


For each debate, two teams of three compete against each other with the aim of drawing the non-attached speakers to their side (see graphic). All speakers must follow up on arguments previously made and must not contradict their own side. The positions of the teams are drawn by lot (cf. ibid.).

  1. The government’s opening speaker: He fleshes out the wording of the present question by means of a precisely defined motion. (Speaking time: 7 minutes)
  2. The opposition’s opening speaker: He replies to the government’s opening speaker. He states the opposition’s counter-arguments and tries here and through interjections (see interjection) to win over the non-attached speakers to reject the government’s motion. (Speaking time: 7 minutes)
  3. The supplementary speakers from the government and the opposition: They add to the arguments of their opening speakers or deepen the points of view already presented. They address interlocutory questions to the opposing side, make interlocutory speeches if necessary and refute their arguments (cf. ibid.). (Speaking time: 7 minutes)
  4. The three non-attached speakers: They examine the arguments and rebuttals of the political group speakers and may ask interposed questions. Following the opening statements, they speak on the government’s motion in a predetermined order. In doing so, they clearly indicate within the first minute whether they support the government or the opposition and contradict the respective opposing side. They should bring new arguments, but must not thereby get into direct contradiction with arguments already mentioned by the side they support. (Speaking time: 3.5 minutes)
  5. The final speaker of the opposition checks the argumentative consistency of the government including its free speakers by interposed questions. He summarises the arguments of the opposition including its Free Speakers and concludes by pleading against the approval of the question. He may not introduce any new arguments (cf. ibid.).
    The tasks of the government’s closing speaker are determined analogously to those of the opposition’s closing speaker. He has the last word on the subject.
  6. President: The President is in charge of the debate: He monitors the observance of the rules during the debate and calls on the speakers to make their contributions according to their order.
  7. Audience: Interjections, interposed questions and heckling (cf. ibid.).

Course of the debate

The President shall open the debate and give the floor to each speaker. Speaking time begins with the speaker’s first word. During the speech, he shall mark the beginning and end of the time for interposed questions with a single hammer blow. The end of the speaking time is marked with a double hammer blow. If a speaker exceeds his allotted speaking time by more than fifteen seconds, the President shall stop the speaker from exceeding his allotted time by striking the bell. If the time limits for interposed questions are exceeded, the President shall ring the bell immediately (cf. Streitkultur 2015a).

The speakers of the parliamentary groups each receive seven minutes speaking time. The first and last minute of this time is protected against interposed questions. The non-attached speakers each receive three and a half minutes of speaking time. The first minute and the last thirty seconds of their speaking time are protected against interposed questions. During the remaining speaking time, all opposing group speakers have the right to ask interposed questions (cf. ibid.).

The speech of each non-attached speaker is followed by an interjection by the opposing opening or supplementary speaker of a maximum of one minute of protected speaking time throughout. This is followed by the speech of the next Free Speaker. The interlocutory speech on the statement of the last non-attached speaker is followed by the pleas of the closing speakers of the government and the opposition. Interposed questions by the opposing parliamentary group speakers and all non-attached speakers are permitted in relation to the closing statements (cf. ibid.).

The debate is followed by an open vote on whether the audience would now answer the question in dispute with a yes or no vote. The speaker’s side with the largest increase in votes wins (cf. ibid.).


This is a means used by all debaters and the audience to point out inconsistencies, argumentative gaps, aberrations and the like to the speaker and to encourage clarification (cf. Herrmann/Hoppmann/Mattes/Nesyba 2011).

  1. Interjections are the means for political groups to comment on the speeches of opposing non-attached speakers. Interjections are limited to one minute and are made from the floor.
  2. Interjections are the opposing side’s means of getting a speaker to define his position and arguments more precisely (cf. ibid.). (Speaking time: max. 15 seconds)
  3. Interjections are a means used by all debaters and the audience to point out inconsistencies, argumentative gaps, aberrations and the like to the speaker and to encourage clarification. Interjections must not exceed seven words in length. Dialogues are not permitted (cf. ibid.).


Herrmann, Markus; Hoppmann Michael; Leopold, Pauline; Nesyba, Thea; Mattes, Anna (2011): Kurzregeln für die Offene Parlamentarische Debatte. Tübingen. In: http://www.streitkultur.net/wp-content/uploads/2015/01/OPD-Kurzregeln-V09.pdf [Access on 09.10.2015].

Streitkultur a (2015): Die Tübinger Debatte. In: http://www.streitkultur.net/wp-content/uploads/2011/03/Tübinger-Debatte-Regelflyer-2009.pdf [Access on 09.10.2015].