The German Bundesrat (literally "Federal Council"; pronounced [ˈbʊndəsʁaːt]) is a legislative body[a] that represents the sixteen Länder (federated states) of Germany at the national level. The Bundesrat meets at the former Prussian House of Lords in Berlin. Its second seat is located in the former West German capital of Bonn.
The Bundesrat participates in legislation, alongside the Bundestag, the directly elected representation of the people of Germany, with laws affecting state competences and all constitutional changes requiring the consent of the body. For its similar function, it is sometimes described as an upper house of parliament along the lines of the US Senate, the Canadian Senate or the British House of Lords.[a]
Bundesrath (from 1901 on: Bundesrat, according to a general spelling reform) was the name of similar bodies in the North German Confederation (1867) and the German Empire (1871). Its predecessor in the Weimar Republic (1919–1933) was the Reichsrat.
The political makeup of the Bundesrat is affected by changes in power in the states of Germany, and thus by elections in each state. Each state delegation in the Bundesrat is essentially a representation of the state government and reflects the political makeup of the ruling majority or plurality of each state legislature (including coalitions). Thus, the Bundesrat is a continuous body and has no legislative periods. But for organizational reasons the Bundesrat structures its legislative calendar in years of business (Geschäftsjahre), beginning each year on 1 November. Each year of business is congruous with the term of the presidium. The sessions are counted continuously since the first session on 7 September 1949: The session on 19 October 2018, the last session of the 69th year of business, has been the 971st session of the Bundesrat.
|70th year of business|
|Founded||23 May 1949|
First Vice President
Second Vice President
Dietmar Woidke, SPD
since 1 November 2018
|Former Prussian House of Lords building, Berlin|
The historical predecessor of the Bundesrat was the Federal Convention (Confederate Diet) of the German Confederation (1815–1848, 1850/1851–1866). That Federal Convention consisted of the representatives of the member states. The first basic law (Bundesakte) of the German Confederation listed how many votes a member state had, for two different formations of the diet. The diet was the only organ, there was no division of powers. The diet was chaired by the Austrian representative.
In the revolution year of 1848, the Bundestag transferred its powers to the Imperial Regent and was reactivated only in 1850/1851. In several other attempts to reform the Confederation, it was the idea to keep the Bundestag but install also a parliament and a court. One of these attempts, the (proposed) reform act of 1863, already introduced the term Bundesrath. With the dissolution of the Confederation in August 1866, the diet and the federal law ended.
On July 1, 1867, the North German Confederation was established as a federative state. The Reichstag, elected by the North German men, was one legislative body. The other one was the Bundesrath (old spelling). This organ was expressly modelled after the old diet. When the federative state was renamed Deutsches Reich (German Empire) in 1871, the Bundesrat kept its name.
Whilst appointed by state governments just as today, the delegates of the original Bundesrat—as those of the Reichsrat—were usually high-ranking civil servants, not cabinet members. The original Bundesrat was very powerful; every bill needed its consent, equaling it to the popularly elected Reichstag. It could also, with the Emperor's agreement, dissolve the Reichstag.
In the revolution of 1918, the revolutionary organ Rat der Volksbeauftragten limited the power of the Bundesrat to its administrative functions. A Staatenausschuss (committee of states) accompanied the reform of Germany but had no official role in installing the new constitution. Under that Weimar Constitution, August 1, 1919, it was replaced by the Reichsrat (1919–1934).
The Reichsrat of the Weimar Republic (1919-1934) had considerably less influence, since it could only veto bills—and even then be overruled by the Reichstag. However, overruling the Reichsrat needed a majority of two-thirds in the Reichstag, which consisted of many parties differing in opinion. So, in most cases, bills vetoed by the Reichsrat failed due to the lack of unity among the Reichstag's constituent parties. The Reichsrat was abolished by a national socialist law in 1934, roughly a year after Hitler had come to power.
The Bundesrat met in the same building as the Reichstag, since 1894 in the building that is today known as Reichstagsgebäude. After 1949, the Bundesrat gathered in the Bundeshaus in Bonn, along with the Bundestag, at least most of the time. It had a wing of the Bundeshaus especially erected for the Bundesrat.
In 2000 the Bundesrat moved to Berlin, just as the Bundestag one year before. The Berlin seat of the Bundesrat is the former Prussian House of Lords. The Bundesrat wing in Bonn is still used as a second seat.
For the Federal Diet of 1815, the basic law (Bundesakte) established two different formations. In the Plenary, for the most important decisions, every state had at least one vote. The larger states Austria, Prussia, Bavaria, Saxony, Hannover and Württemberg had each four votes, and the lesser states three or two. Of the 39 states, 25 had only one vote.
The North German Confederation was a different entity than the German Confederation. But it can also be regarded as the brain child of a long lasting reform debate within the German Confederation. The new Bundesrat even referred to the old diet in art. 6, when it newly distributed the votes for the single states. Prussia with its original four votes received additionally the votes of the states it had annected in 1866, i.e. Hanover, Hesse-Kassel, Holstein, Nassau and Frankfurt, adding up to 17 votes. The total number of votes in 1867 was 43 votes.
When the South German states joined in 1870/71, the revised federal constitutions allocated new votes for them. Bavaria had 6 votes, Württemberg 4, Baden 3 and (the whole of) Hesse-Darmstadt 3. The total number went up to 58 votes, and in 1911 with the three votes for Alsace-Lotharingia to 61 votes. The Prussian votes remained 17.
To put the Prussian votes in context: 80% of the North Germans lived in Prussia and roughly two thirds of the Germans. Prussia was always underrepresented in the Bundesrat.
|Prussia||(including states annexed in 1866)||17|
|17 other small states||each with 1 vote||17|
The Reichsrat, as a first, had no fixed numbers of votes for the member states. Instead, it introduced the principle that the number depended on the actual number of inhabitants. Originally, for every 1 million of inhabitants the state had one vote. In 1921, this was reduced to 700,000.
No state was allowed to have more than 40 percent of the votes. This was regarded as a clausula antiborussica, counterbalancing the dominant position of Prussia which still provided roughly two thirds of the German population. Also since 1921, half of the Prussian votes were not cast by the Prussian state government but by the administrations of the Prussian provinces.
For example, of the 63 votes in 1919, Prussia had 25 votes, Bavaria seven and Saxony five. 12 states had only 1 vote each.
The composition of the Bundesrat is different from other similar legislative bodies representing states (such as the Russian Federation Council or the U.S. Senate). Bundesrat members are not elected—either by popular vote or by the state parliaments—but are delegated by the respective state government. They do not enjoy a free mandate and serve only as long as they are representing their state, not for a fixed period of time.
Normally, a state delegation consists of the Minister President (called Governing Mayor in Berlin, President of the Senate in Bremen and First Mayor in Hamburg) and other cabinet ministers (called senators in Berlin, Bremen and Hamburg). The state cabinet may appoint as many delegates as the state has votes (all other ministers/senators are usually appointed as deputy delegates), but may also send just a single delegate to exercise all of the state's votes. In any case, the state has to cast its votes en bloc, i.e., without vote splitting. As state elections are not coordinated across Germany and can occur at any time, the majority distributions in the Bundesrat can change after any such election.
The number of votes a state is allocated is based on a form of degressive proportionality according to its population. This way, smaller states have more votes than a distribution proportional to the population would grant. The allocation of votes is regulated by the German constitution (Grundgesetz). All of a state's votes are cast en bloc—either for or against or in abstention of a proposal. Each state is allocated at least three votes, and a maximum of six. States with more than
By convention, SPD-led Länder are summarized as A-Länder, while those with governments led by CDU or CSU are called B-Länder.
|next regular election||Presidency|
|Baden-Württemberg||10,879,618||6 █ █ █ █ █ █||1,813,270||Greens, CDU (N)||2021||2028/29|
|Bavaria||12,843,514||6 █ █ █ █ █ █||2,140,586||CSU, FW (N)||2023||2027/28|
|Berlin||3,520,031||4 █ █ █ █||880,008||SPD, Left, Greens (N)||2021||2033/34|
|Brandenburg||2,484,826||4 █ █ █ █||621,207||SPD, Left (N)||2019||2019/20|
|Bremen||671,489||3 █ █ █||223,830||SPD, Greens (N)||2019||2025/26|
|Hamburg||1,787,408||3 █ █ █||595,803||SPD, Greens (N)||2020||2022/23|
|Hesse||6,176,172||5 █ █ █ █ █||1,235,234||CDU, Greens (N)||2023||2030/31|
|Lower Saxony||7,926,599||6 █ █ █ █ █ █||1,321,100||SPD, CDU (G)||2022||2029/30|
|Mecklenburg-Vorpommern||1,612,362||3 █ █ █||537,454||SPD, CDU (G)||2021||2023/24|
|North Rhine-Westphalia||17,865,516||6 █ █ █ █ █ █||2,977,586||CDU, FDP (N)||2022||2026/27|
|Rhineland-Palatinate||4,052,803||4 █ █ █ █||1,013,201||SPD, FDP, Greens (N)||2021||2032/33|
|Saarland||995,597||3 █ █ █||331,866||CDU, SPD (G)||2022||2024/25|
|Saxony||4,084,851||4 █ █ █ █||1,021,213||CDU, SPD (G)||2019||2031/32|
|Saxony-Anhalt||2,245,470||4 █ █ █ █||561,368||CDU, SPD, Greens (N)||2021||2020/21|
|Schleswig-Holstein||2,858,714||4 █ █ █ █||714,679||CDU, Greens, FDP (N)||2022||current|
|Thuringia||2,170,714||4 █ █ █ █||542,679||Left, SPD, Greens (N)||2019||2021/22|
In contrast to many other legislative bodies, the delegates to the Bundesrat from any one state are required to cast the votes of the state as a single bloc (since the votes are not those of the respective delegate). The delegates are not independent members of the Bundesrat but instructed representatives of the federated states' governments. If the members of a delegation cast different votes then the entire vote of the respective state is invalid. This tradition stems from the 1867 Bundesrat.
The delegates of a state are equal to one other in the Bundesrat, hence the minister-president has no special rights compared to his ministers. But it is possible (and even customary) that one of the delegates (the Stimmführer, "leader of the votes"—normally the minister-president) casts all votes of the respective state, even if the other members of the delegation are present.
Because coalition governments are common, states frequently choose to abstain if their coalition cannot agree on a position. As every decision of the Bundesrat requires a majority of all possible votes, not just a majority of votes cast or a majority of delegates present, abstaining has the same effect as voting against a proposal.
Originally from 1867 to 1918, the Bundesrat was chaired by the chancellor, although he was not a member and had no vote. This tradition was kept to a degree when since 1919 the Reichsrat still had to be chaired by a member of the imperial government (often the minister of the interior).
Since 1949, the presidency rotates annually among the Ministers President of each of the states. This is fixed by the Königsteiner Abkommen, starting with the federated state with the largest population going down. On the other hand, the office of the vice-president started with the federated state with the smallest population going up. The President of the Bundesrat convenes and chairs plenary sessions of the body and is formally responsible for representing Germany in matters of the Bundesrat. He or she is aided by two Vice Presidents who play an advisory role and deputise in the president's absence; the predecessor of the current President is first, his successor second Vice President. The three together make up the Bundesrat's executive committee.
The President of the Bundesrat ("Bundesratspräsident"), is fourth in the order of precedence after the Federal President, the President of the Bundestag (No 2 just for ceremonies of interior character – otherwise No 3)., the Chancellor (No. 2 for ceremonies of exterior character) and before the President of the Federal Constitutional Court. The President of the Bundesrat becomes acting Federal President of Germany, in case that the office of the Federal President should be vacant.
Because the Bundesrat is so much smaller than the Bundestag, it does not require the extensive organizational structure of the Bundestag. The Bundesrat typically schedules plenary sessions once a month for the purpose of voting on legislation prepared in committee. In comparison, the Bundestag conducts about fifty plenary sessions a year.
The voting Bundesrat delegates themselves rarely attend committee sessions; instead, they delegate that responsibility to civil servants from their ministries, as allowed for in the Basic Law (art. 52,2). The delegates themselves tend to spend most of their time in their state capitals, rather than in the federal capital. The delegations are supported by the Landesvertretungen, which function basically as embassies of the states in the federal capital.
The legislative authority of the Bundesrat is subordinate to that of the Bundestag, but it nonetheless plays a vital legislative role. The federal government must present all its legislative initiatives first to the Bundesrat; only thereafter can a proposal be passed to the Bundestag.
Further, the Bundesrat must approve all legislation affecting policy areas for which the Basic Law grants the Länder concurrent powers and for which the Länder must administer federal regulations. This approval (Zustimmung) requires a majority of actively used "yes" votes, so that a state coalition with a divided opinion on a bill votes—by its abstention—effectively against the bill. The Bundesrat has increased its legislative responsibilities over time by successfully arguing for a broad, rather than a narrow, interpretation of what constitutes the range of legislation affecting Land interests. In 1949, only 10 percent of all federal laws, namely, those directly affecting the Länder, required Bundesrat approval. In 1993 close to 60 percent of federal legislation required the Bundesrat's assent. The Basic Law also provides the Bundesrat with an absolute veto of such legislation.
Constitutional changes require an approval with majority of two thirds of all votes in Bundestag and Bundesrat, thus giving the Bundesrat an absolute veto against constitutional change.
Against all other legislation the Bundesrat has a suspensive veto (Einspruch), which can be overridden by passing the law again, but this time with 50% plus one vote of all Bundestag members, not just by majority of votes cast, which is frequent in daily parliamentary business. Because most legislation is passed by a coalition that has such an absolute majority in the Bundestag, this kind of suspensive veto rarely stops legislation. As an added provision, however, a law vetoed with a majority of two thirds must be passed again with a majority of two thirds in the Bundestag. The Einspruch has to be passed with active "no" votes, so that abstentions count as votes against the veto, i.e. to let the law pass.
If the absolute veto is used, the Bundesrat, the Bundestag, or the government can convene a joint committee to negotiate a compromise. That compromise cannot be amended and both chambers (Bundesrat and Bundestag) are required to hold a final vote on the compromise as is.[a] The political power of the absolute veto is particularly evident when the opposition party or parties in the Bundestag have a majority in the Bundesrat, which was the case almost constantly between 1991 and 2005. Whenever this happens, the opposition can threaten the government's legislative program. Such a division of authority can complicate the process of governing when the major parties disagree, and, unlike the Bundestag, the Bundesrat cannot be dissolved under any circumstances. Such stalemates are not unlike those that may be experienced under cohabitation in other countries.
Some observers claim that the opposing majorities lead to an increase in backroom politics, where small groups of high-tier leaders make all the important decisions and the Bundestag representatives have a choice only between agreeing with them or not getting anything done at all. The German "Federalism Commission" was looking into this issue, among others. There have been frequent suggestions of replacing the Bundesrat with a US-style elected Senate, which would be elected at the same date as the Bundestag. This is hoped to increase the institution's popularity, reduce Land bureaucracy influence on legislation, make opposing majorities less likely, make the legislative process more transparent, and generally set a new standard of democratic, rather than bureaucratic leadership.
Other observers emphasize that different majorities in the two legislative bodies ensure that all legislation, when approved, has the support of a broad political spectrum, a particularly valuable attribute in the aftermath of unification, when consensus on critical policy decisions is vital. The formal representation of the states in the federal government, through the Bundesrat, provides an obvious forum for the coordination of policy between the states and the federal government. The need for such coordination, particularly given the specific, crucial needs of the eastern states, has become only more important.
Supporters of the Bundesrat claim that the Bundesrat serves as a control mechanism on the Bundestag in the sense of a system of checks and balances. Since the executive and legislative functions are closely intertwined in any parliamentary system, the Bundesrat's ability to revisit and slow down legislative processes is often seen as making up for that loss of separation.
Im Ausland wird ein solches parlamentarisches System im Allgemeinen als Zweikammer- System bezeichnet. Für Bundestag und Bundesrat ist dagegen eine gemeinsame Bezeichnung nicht allgemein üblich, und es ist sogar umstritten, ob der Bundesrat eine Zweite Kammer ist. (English: Abroad, such a parliamentary system is in general called a bicameral one. For Bundestag and Bundesrat such a common designation is not usual and it is even contentious whether the Bundesrat is a second chamber at all.)
If the Federal Government or the Bundestag (lower house of the German parliament) divides a subject-matter between a number of statutes in order to prevent the Bundesrat (upper house of the German parliament) from preventing provisions that in themselves are not subject to its consent, this is constitutionally unobjectionable.
The Unification Treaty was signed by the federal government and the government of the German Democratic Republic on 31 August 1990. The Bundestag (lower house of the German parliament) and the Bundesrat (upper house of the German parliament) approved this Treaty, the Protocol, the Annexes I to III and the agreement of 18 September 1990 by the Act of 23 September 1990 – the Unification Treaty Act (Federal Law Gazette II p. 885).
In federal states, such marked imbalances are, as a general rule, only tolerated for the second chamber existing beside the parliament; in Germany and Austria, the second chamber is the Bundesrat , in Australia, Belgium and the United States, it is the Senate.
On 27 March 1966, elections for members of the sixth legislative period of the Hamburg Parliament (Hamburgische Bürgerschaft) after the Second World War were held in the German state of Hamburg. There were 1,375,491 eligible voters.1993 Hamburg state election
On September 19, 1993, Hamburg state elections for members of the 15th legislative period of the Hamburg Parliament after the Second World War were held in the German state of Hamburg. There were 1,240,259 eligible voters.1997 Hamburg state election
On September 21, 1997, Hamburg state elections for members of the 16th legislative period of the Hamburg Parliament after the Second World War were held in the German state of Hamburg. There were 1,211,312 eligible voters.2008 Hamburg state election
On 24 February 2008 state elections were held in Hamburg, Germany, for the 19th legislative period of the Hamburg Parliament. The four parties having more than 5 percent (minimum to qualify) are the conservative CDU, the social-democratic SPD, the left-wing Die Linke and the ecological Green Party (GAL). CDU and GAL formed a coalition and Ole von Beust continued as Minister-President.Bundesrat
Bundesrat is a German word that means federal council and may refer to:
Federal Council (Austria)
Bundesrat of Germany
Federal Council (Switzerland)
Bundesrat (German Empire)Constitution of Hamburg
The Constitution of the Free and Hanseatic city of Hamburg (German: Verfassung der Freien und Hansestadt Hamburg) is the basic governing document of the German city-state of Hamburg. It was approved on 6 June 1952. It is the fourth constitution that the state has had, consists of 76 articles, and has been amended 34 times.December 1982 Hamburg state election
The Hamburg state election, December 1982 was an election held on 19 December 1982. The Social Democratic Party won unexpectedly against the Christian Democratic Union.Elections in Hamburg
The number of elections in Hamburg varies. Hamburg has a state election every four years, the elections for the state parliament. There are also elections to the federal diet (the lower house of the federal parliament) of Germany, the local elections of the diet of the boroughs (Bezirksversammlungen) and every five years to the European Parliament. All elections take place by universal adult suffrage and are regulated by law.Eva Lohse
Eva Lohse (née Müller-Tamm; born 23 January 1956 in Ludwigshafen) is a German politician of the Christian Democratic Union (CDU). She was the mayor (Oberbürgermeisterin) of Ludwigshafen from 2002 to 2017.
In addition to her work as Mayor, Lohse served as president of the Deutscher Städtetag from June 2015 to December 2017. The group is the head organization and lobby group for 3400 German cities vis-à-vis the Cabinet of Germany, the German Bundestag, the Bundesrat of Germany, the European Union (EU) and many organizations.First Adenauer cabinet
The first cabinet led by Konrad Adenauer was sworn in on 20 September 1949, and laid down its function on 20 October 1953.
The cabinet was formed after the 1949 elections. It laid down its function after the formation of the Second Adenauer cabinet, which was formed following the 1953 elections.Hans A. Engelhard
Hans Arnold Engelhard (16 September 1934 – 11 March 2008) was a German jurist. A member of the Free Democratic Party, he served as German Federal Minister of Justice in the Cabinet Kohl I, II, and III, between 1982 and 1991.
Born in Munich, Engelhard studied law at the University of Erlangen and the Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich, and received his second Staatsexamen in 1963.
Having joined the Free Democratic Party in 1954, Engelhard won a seat in the Bundestag in the German federal election, 1972.
In 1982 he succeeded Jürgen Schmude as Federal Minister of Justice of Germany, and served until 1992.Mitte (locality)
Mitte (German pronunciation ) (German for "middle, centre", commonly used without an article) is a central locality (Ortsteil) of Berlin in the homonymous district (Bezirk) of Mitte. Until 2001 it was itself an autonomous district.
It comprises the historic centre of Alt-Berlin around the churches of St. Nicholas and St. Mary, renowned Museum Island, the city hall Rotes Rathaus, the city administrative building Altes Stadthaus, the famous Fernsehturm, Brandenburg Gate at the end of the central boulevard Unter den Linden and more main tourist attractions of the city. For these reasons Mitte is considered the "heart" of Berlin.Penrose method
The Penrose method (or square-root method) is a method devised in 1946 by Professor Lionel Penrose for allocating the voting weights of delegations (possibly a single representative) in decision-making bodies proportional to the square root of the population represented by this delegation. This is justified by the fact, that due to the square root law of Penrose, the a priori voting power (as defined by the Penrose–Banzhaf index) of a member of a voting body is inversely proportional to the square root of its size. Under certain conditions, this allocation achieves equal voting powers for all people represented, independent of the size of their constituency. Proportional allocation would result in excessive voting powers for the electorates of larger constituencies.
A precondition for the appropriateness of the method is en bloc voting of the delegations in the decision-making body: a delegation cannot split its votes; rather, each delegation has just a single vote to which weights are applied proportional to the square root of the population they represent. Another precondition is that the opinions of the people represented are statistically independent. The representativity of each delegation results from statistical fluctuations within the country, and then, according to Penrose, "small electorate are likely to obtain more representative governments than large electorates." A mathematical formulation of this idea results in the square root rule.
The Penrose method is not currently being used for any notable decision-making body, but it has been proposed for apportioning representation in a United Nations Parliamentary Assembly, and for voting in the Council of the European Union. Other bodies where the Penrose method could be appropriate include the US Presidential Electoral College and the Bundesrat of Germany.Petra Roth
Petra Roth (born 9 May 1944 in Bremen) is a German politician of the Christian Democratic Union (CDU). She was the mayor of Frankfurt am Main from 1995 to 2012. In addition she twice served as president of the Deutscher Städtetag, resuming her previous post there in 2009. The group is the head organization and lobby group for all German cities vis-à-vis the Cabinet of Germany, the German Bundestag, the Bundesrat of Germany, the European Union (EU) and many organizations.President of the German Bundesrat
In Germany, the President of the Bundesrat or President of the Federal Council (German: Bundesratspräsident) is the chairperson or speaker of the Bundesrat (Federal Council). He or she is elected by the Bundesrat for a term of one year (usually from November 1 to October 31 in the next year). Traditionally, the Presidency of the Bundesrat rotates among the leaders of the sixteen state governments (most of them hold the title Minister President, the head of government of Berlin holds the title Governing Mayor, the head of government of Hamburg holds the title First Mayor and the head of government of Bremen holds the title President of the Senate and Mayor). This is however only an established praxis, theoretically the Bundesrat is free to elect any member it chooses, and a President could also be re-elected. As well as acting as a chairperson the President of the Bundesrat is ex officio deputy of the President of Germany.
The President of the Bundesrat convenes and chairs plenary sessions of the body and is formally responsible for representing the Federal Republic in the Bundesrat. He or she is aided by two vice-presidents who play an advisory role and deputise in the president's absence. The three together constitute the Präsidium of the Bundesrat.
The 73rd and current President of the Bundesrat is Daniel Günther, the Minister President of Schleswig-Holstein, whose one-year term started on 1 November 2018.Presidium
A presidium or praesidium is a council of executive officers in some political assemblies that collectively administers its business, either alongside an individual president or in place of one.Presidium of the Bundesrat
The Präsidium of the Bundesrat in Germany is responsible for various functions, including the Bundesrat's budget allocation and other internal matters. The current President of the Bundesrat is Daniel Günther, the Minister President of Schleswig-Holstein, whose one-year term started on 1 November 2018. The President convenes and chairs plenary sessions of the body and is formally responsible for representing the Bundesrat of Germany. He or she is aided by two vice-presidents who play an advisory role and deputise in the president's absence. The three constitute the Präsidium of the Bundesrat.If the office of Federal President of Germany is vacant, the President of the Bundesrat serves as acting Federal President.Second Adenauer cabinet
The second cabinet led by Konrad Adenauer was sworn in on 20 October 1953 after the 1953 elections. It laid down its function after the formation of the Cabinet Adenauer III on 29 October 1957, which was formed following the 1957 elections.