The Bundestag (German pronunciation: [ˈbʊndəstaːk], "Federal Diet") is the German federal parliament. It can be compared to the chamber of deputies along the lines of the United States House of Representatives or the House of Commons of the United Kingdom. Through the Bundesrat, a separate institution, the individual states of Germany participate in legislation similar to a second house in a bicameral parliament.
The Bundestag was established by article III of the Basic Law for the Federal Republic of Germany (Constitution) in 1949 as one of the legislative bodies of Germany and thus the historical successor to the earlier Reichstag.
Since 1999 it has met in the Reichstag Building in Berlin. Wolfgang Schäuble is the current President of the Bundestag. Members of the Bundestag (Mitglieder des Bundestages) are usually elected every four years by all adult German citizens in a mixed system of constituency voting and list voting. The constitutional minimum number of seats is 598; with overhang and leveling seats there are currently 709 seats. The Election Day can be called earlier than four years after the last if the Federal Chancellor (Bundeskanzler) loses a vote of confidence and asks the Federal President (Bundespräsident) to dissolve the Bundestag in order to hold new general elections.
In the 19th century, the name Bundestag was the unofficial designation for the assembly of the sovereigns and mayors of the Monarchies and Free Cities which formed the German Confederation (1815–1866). Its seat was in the Free City of Frankfurt on the Main.
German Federal Diet
|Preceded by||Reichstag 1933–1945|
Volkskammer (East Germany) 1949–1990
|Mixed-member proportional representation (MMP)|
|24 September 2017|
Mitte, Berlin, Germany
With the dissolution of the German Confederation in 1866 and the founding of the German Empire (Deutsches Reich) in 1871, the Reichstag was established as the German parliament in Berlin, which was the capital of the then Kingdom of Prussia (the largest and most influential state in both the Confederation and the empire). Two decades later, the current parliament building was erected. The Reichstag delegates were elected by direct and equal male suffrage (and not the three-class electoral system prevailing in Prussia until 1918). The Reichstag did not participate in the appointment of the Chancellor until the parliamentary reforms of October 1918. After the Revolution of November 1918 and the establishment of the Weimar Constitution, women were given the right to vote for (and serve in) the Reichstag, and the parliament could use the no-confidence vote to force the chancellor or any cabinet member to resign. In March 1933, one month after the Reichstag fire, the then President of the Weimar Republic, Paul von Hindenburg, a retired war hero, gave Adolf Hitler ultimate power through the Decree for the Protection of People and State and the Enabling Act of 1933, although Hitler remained at the post of Federal Government Chancellor (though he called himself the Führer). After this, the Reichstag met only rarely, usually at the Krolloper (Kroll Opera House) to unanimously rubber-stamp the decisions of the government. It last convened on 26 April 1942.
With the new Constitution of 1949, the Bundestag was established as the new West German parliament. Because West Berlin was not officially under the jurisdiction of the Constitution, a legacy of the Cold War, the Bundestag met in Bonn in several different buildings, including (provisionally) a former waterworks facility. In addition, owing to the city's legal status, citizens of West Berlin were unable to vote in elections to the Bundestag, and were instead represented by 22 non-voting delegates chosen by the House of Representatives, the city's legislature.
The Bundeshaus in Bonn is the former parliament building of Germany. The sessions of the German Bundestag were held there from 1949 until its move to Berlin in 1999. Today it houses the International Congress Centre Bundeshaus Bonn and in the northern areas the branch office of the Bundesrat ("Federal Council"), which represents the Länder – the federated states). The southern areas became part of German offices for the United Nations in 2008.
The former Reichstag building housed a history exhibition (Fragen an die deutsche Geschichte) and served occasionally as a conference center. The Reichstag building was also occasionally used as a venue for sittings of the Bundestag and its committees and the Bundesversammlung (Federal Assembly), the body which elects the German Federal President. However, the Soviets harshly protested against the use of the Reichstag building by institutions of the Federal Republic of Germany and tried to disturb the sittings by flying supersonic jets close to the building.
Since April 19, 1999, the German parliament has again assembled in Berlin in its original Reichstag building, which was built in 1888 based on the plans of German architect Paul Wallot and underwent a significant renovation under the lead of British architect Lord Norman Foster. Parliamentary committees and subcommittees, public hearings and parliamentary group meetings take place in three auxiliary buildings, which surround the Reichstag building: the Jakob-Kaiser-Haus, Paul-Löbe-Haus and Marie-Elisabeth-Lüders-Haus.
In 2005, a small aircraft crashed close to the German Parliament. It was then decided to ban private air traffic over Central Berlin.
Although most legislation is initiated by the executive branch, the Bundestag considers the legislative function its most important responsibility, concentrating much of its energy on assessing and amending the government's legislative program. The committees (see below) play a prominent role in this process. Plenary sessions provide a forum for members to engage in public debate on legislative issues before them, but they tend to be well attended only when significant legislation is being considered.
The Bundestag members are the only federal officials directly elected by the public; the Bundestag in turn elects the Chancellor and, in addition, exercises oversight of the executive branch on issues of both substantive policy and routine administration. This check on executive power can be employed through binding legislation, public debates on government policy, investigations, and direct questioning of the chancellor or cabinet officials. For example, the Bundestag can conduct a question hour (Fragestunde), in which a government representative responds to a previously submitted written question from a member. Members can ask related questions during the question hour. The questions can concern anything from a major policy issue to a specific constituent's problem. Use of the question hour has increased markedly over the past forty years, with more than 20,000 questions being posed during the 1987-90 term. Understandably, the opposition parties are active in exercising the parliamentary right to scrutinize government actions.
Constituent service does also take place in the form of the Petition Committee. In 2004, the Petition Committee received over 18,000 complaints from citizens and was able to negotiate a mutually satisfactory solution to more than half of them. In 2005, as a pilot of the potential of internet petitions, a version of e-Petitioner was produced for the Bundestag. This was a collaborative project involving The Scottish Parliament, International Teledemocracy Centre and the Bundestag ‘Online Services Department’. The system was formally launched on 1 September 2005, and in 2008 the Bundestag moved to a new system based on its evaluation.
The Bundestag is elected for four years, and new elections must be held between 46 and 48 months after the beginning of its electoral term, unless the Bundestag is dissolved prematurely. It's term ends when the next Bundestag convenes, which must occur within 30 days of the election. Prior to 1976, there could be a period where one Bundestag had been dissolved and the next Bundestag could not be convened; during this period, the rights of the Bundestag were exercised by a so-called "Permanent Committee".
Members serve four-year terms, with elections held every four years, or earlier in the relatively rare case that the Bundestag is dissolved prematurely by the president. The Bundestag can be dissolved by the president on the recommendation of the chancellor if the latter has lost a vote of confidence in the Bundestag if the recommendation is made and accepted before the Bundestag acts to elect a new Chancellor. This has happened three times: 1972 under Chancellor Willy Brandt, 1983 under Chancellor Helmut Kohl and 2005 under Chancellor Gerhard Schröder. The procedures for these situations are governed by Articles 67 and 68 of the Basic Law of the Federal Republic of Germany. The Law regarding the election procedure itself is the Federal Election Act 1956 (Bundeswahlgesetz/BWahlG)
All candidates must be at least eighteen years old; there are no term limits. The election uses the MMP electoral system. In addition, the Bundestag has a minimum threshold of either 5% of the national party vote or three (directly elected) constituency representatives for a party to gain additional representation through the system of proportional representation. Thus, small minority parties cannot easily enter the Bundestag and prevent the formation of stable majority governments as they could under the Weimar constitution.
The most recent election, the German federal election, 2017, was held on 24 September 2017.
Half of the Members of the Bundestag are elected directly from 299 constituencies (first-past-the-post system), the other half are elected from the parties’ Land lists in such a way as to achieve proportional representation for the total Bundestag (if possible).
Accordingly, each voter has two votes in the elections to the Bundestag. The first vote, allowing voters to elect their local representatives to the Bundestag, decides which candidates are sent to Parliament from the constituencies.
The second vote is cast for a party list; it determines the relative strengths of the parties represented in the Bundestag.
At least 598 Members of the Bundestag are elected in this way. Parties that gain more than 5% of the second votes or win at least 3 direct mandates are allocated seats in the Bundestag in proportion to the number of votes it has received (d'Hondt method until 1987, largest remainder method until the 2005 election, now Sainte-Laguë method).
In addition to this, there are certain circumstances in which some candidates win what are known as overhang seats when the seats are being distributed. If a party has gained more direct mandates in a Land than it is entitled to according to the results of the second vote, it does not forfeit these mandates because all directly elected candidates are guaranteed a seat in the Bundestag. The other parties are then compensated by getting additional seats as well, the balance seats, so proportionality is preserved.
The last Federal elections were held on Sunday, 24 September 2017, to elect the members of the 19th Bundestag.
The election saw the CDU/CSU win 33% of the vote, a drop of more than 8% and its lowest share of the vote since 1949, while the SPD achieved its worst result since the Second World War with just 20% of the vote. Alternative for Germany (AfD)—which was previously unrepresented in the Bundestag—became the third party in the Bundestag with 12.6% of the vote and a plurality of the vote in Saxony. No party won an outright majority in any state, including Bavaria, where the CSU often wins majorities and won a majority of the vote in 2013.
|Christian Democratic Union (CDU)[b]||14,030,751||30.2||185||12,447,656||26.8||15||200||−55|
|Social Democratic Party (SPD)||11,429,231||24.6||59||9,539,381||20.5||94||153||−40|
|Alternative for Germany (AfD)||5,317,499||11.5||3||5,878,115||12.6||91||94||+94|
|Free Democratic Party (FDP)||3,249,238||7.0||0||4,999,449||10.7||80||80||+80|
|The Left (DIE LINKE)||3,966,637||8.6||5||4,297,270||9.2||64||69||+5|
|Alliance 90/The Greens (GRÜNE)||3,717,922||8.0||1||4,158,400||8.9||66||67||+4|
|Christian Social Union in Bavaria (CSU)[b]||3,255,487||7.0||46||2,869,688||6.2||0||46||−10|
|Human Environment Animal Protection||22,917||0.0||0||374,179||0.8||0||0||0|
|National Democratic Party||45,169||0.1||0||176,020||0.4||0||0||0|
|Pirate Party Germany||93,196||0.2||0||173,476||0.4||0||0||0|
|Ecological Democratic Party||166,228||0.4||0||144,809||0.3||0||0||0|
|Basic Income Alliance||–||–||–||97,539||0.2||0||0||New|
|Democracy in Motion||–||–||–||60,914||0.1||0||0||New|
|Animal Protection Alliance||6,114||0.0||0||32,221||0.1||0||0||New|
|Marxist–Leninist Party of Germany||35,760||0.1||0||29,785||0.1||0||0||0|
|German Communist Party||7,517||0.0||0||11,558||0.0||0||0||New|
|Magdeburger Garden Party||2,570||0.0||0||5,617||0.0||0||0||New|
|Alliance for Germany||6,316||0.0||0||9,631||0.0||0||0||0|
|Socialist Equality Party||903||0.0||0||1,291||0.0||0||0||0|
|Bergpartei, die "ÜberPartei"||672||0.0||0||911||0.0||0||0||New|
|Party of Reason||242||0.0||0||533||0.0||0||0||0|
|The Violets – for Spiritual Politics||2,176||0.0||0||–||–||–||0||0|
|Seat distribution in the German Bundestag (at the beginning of each session)|
|Session||Election||Seats||CDU/CSU||SPD||FDP||GRÜNE1||DIE LINKE2||DP / AfD||Others|
1 1983 to 1994 The Greens and 1990 to 1994 Alliance 90, since 1994 Alliance 90/The Greens
2 1990 to 2005 PDS (Party of Democratic Socialism), 2005 to 2007 The Left Party.PDS, since 2007 The Left
3 BP 17, KPD 15, WAV 12, Centre Party 10, DKP-DRP 5, SSW 1, Independents 3
4 GB-BHE 27, Centre Party 3
|Name||Party||Beginning of term||End of term||Length of term|
|1||Erich Köhler* (1892–1958)||CDU||7 September 1949||18 October 1950||1 year, 41 days|
|2||Hermann Ehlers** (1904–1954)||CDU||19 October 1950||29 October 1954||4 years, 10 days|
|3||Eugen Gerstenmaier*** (1906–1986)||CDU||16 November 1954||31 January 1969||14 years, 76 days|
|4||Kai-Uwe von Hassel (1913–1997)||CDU||5 February 1969||13 December 1972||3 years, 312 days|
|5||Annemarie Renger† (1919–2008)||SPD||13 December 1972||14 December 1976||4 years, 1 day|
|6||Karl Carstens§ (1914–1992)||CDU||14 December 1976||31 May 1979||2 years, 168 days|
|7||Richard Stücklen (1916–2002)||CSU||31 May 1979||29 March 1983||3 years, 363 days|
|8||Rainer Barzel*** (1924–2006)||CDU||29 March 1983||25 October 1984||1 year, 210 days|
|9||Philipp Jenninger*** (1932-2018)||CDU||5 November 1984||11 November 1988||4 years, 6 days|
|10||Rita Süssmuth (b. 1937)||CDU||25 November 1988||26 October 1998||9 years, 335 days|
|11||Wolfgang Thierse (b. 1943)||SPD||26 October 1998||18 October 2005||6 years, 357 days|
|12||Norbert Lammert (b. 1948)||CDU||18 October 2005||24 October 2017||12 years, 6 days|
|13||Wolfgang Schäuble (b. 1942)||CDU||24 October 2017||present||1 year, 178 days|
*resigned for medical reasons
**died in office
***resigned for political reasons
†first woman to hold the post
§ resigned when he became President of Germany
The most important organisational structures within the Bundestag are parliamentary groups (Fraktionen; sing. Fraktion), which are traditionally formed by political parties who win at least 5% of the "second vote." The CDU and CSU have always formed a single united Fraktion. The size of a party's Fraktion determines the extent of its representation on legislative committees, the time slots allotted for speaking, the number of committee chairs it can hold, and its representation in executive bodies of the Bundestag. The Fraktionen, not the members, receive the bulk of government funding for legislative and administrative activities.
The leadership of each Fraktion consists of a parliamentary party leader, several deputy leaders, and an executive committee. The leadership's major responsibilities are to represent the Fraktion, enforce party discipline and orchestrate the party's parliamentary activities. The members of each Fraktion are distributed among working groups focused on specific policy-related topics such as social policy, economics, and foreign policy. The Fraktion meets every Tuesday afternoon in the weeks in which the Bundestag is in session to consider legislation before the Bundestag and formulate the party's position on it.
Parties that do not cross the 5% threshold but win at least three seats by direct elections (i.e. which have at least three MPs representing a constituency seat) can be granted the status of a group in the Bundestag. This applied to the Party of Democratic Socialism (PDS) from 1990-1998. This status entails some privileges which are in general less than those of a Fraktion. In the current Bundestag, there are no such groups (the PDS had only two constituency MPs in parliament until 2005 and could thus not even considered a group anymore; the party—now The Left—has held full Fraktion status in the Bundestag since 2005).
The Bundestag's executive bodies include the Council of Elders and the Presidium. The council consists of the Bundestag leadership, together with the most senior representatives of each fraktion, with the number of these representatives tied to the strength of the Parliamentary groups in the chamber. The council is the coordination hub, determining the daily legislative agenda and assigning committee chairpersons based on Parliamentary group representation. The council also serves as an important forum for interparty negotiations on specific legislation and procedural issues. The Presidium is responsible for the routine administration of the Bundestag, including its clerical and research activities. It consists of the chamber's president (usually elected from the largest fraktion) and vice presidents (one from each fraktion).
Most of the legislative work in the Bundestag is the product of standing committees, which exist largely unchanged throughout one legislative period. The number of committees approximates the number of federal ministries, and the titles of each are roughly similar (e.g., defense, agriculture, and labor). There are, as of the current eighteenth Bundestag, 23 standing committees. The distribution of committee chairs and the membership of each committee reflect the relative strength of the various Parliamentary groups in the chamber. In the current eighteenth Bundestag, the CDU/CSU chaired twelve committees, the SPD seven, The Left (Die Linke) two, and the Greens (Bündnis 90/Die Grünen), two. Members of the opposition party can chair a significant number of standing committees (e.g. The budget committee is always chaired by the biggest opposition party). These committees have either a small staff or no staff at all.
As is the case with some other parliaments, the Bundestag is subject to the principle of discontinuation, meaning that a newly elected Bundestag is legally regarded to be a body and entity completely different from the previous Bundestag. This leads to the result, that any motion, application or action submitted to the previous Bundestag, e.g. a bill referred to the Bundestag by the Federal Government, is regarded as void by non-decision (German terminology: "Die Sache fällt der Diskontinuität anheim"). Thus any bill that has not been decided upon by the beginning of the new electoral period must be brought up by the government again if it aims to uphold the motion, this procedure in effect delaying the passage of the bill. Furthermore, any newly elected Bundestag will have to freshly decide on the rules of procedure (Geschäftsordnung), which is done by a formal decision of taking over such rules from the preceding Bundestag by reference.
Any Bundestag is considered dissolved only once a newly elected Bundestag has actually gathered in order to constitute itself (Article 39 sec. 1 sentence 2 of the Basic Law), which has to happen within 30 days of its election (Article 39 sec. 2 of the Basic Law). Thus, it may happen (and has happened) that the old Bundestag gathers and makes decisions even after the election of a new Bundestag that has not gathered in order to constitute itself. For example, elections to the 16th Bundestag took place on 18 September 2005, but the 15th Bundestag still convened after election day to make some decisions on German military engagement abroad, and was entitled to do so, as the newly elected 16th Bundestag did not convene for the first time until 18 October 2005.
Federal elections were held in Germany on 18 September 2005 to elect the members of the 16th Bundestag. This became necessary after a motion of confidence in Chancellor Gerhard Schröder failed on 1 July. Following the defeat of Schröder's Social Democratic Party (SPD) in a state election, Schröder asked his supporters to abstain from the Bundestag motion, knowing the motion would fail and thus triggering an early federal election.
The opposition Christian Democratic Union (CDU) and its sister party in Bavaria, the Christian Social Union (CSU), started the federal election campaign with a 21% lead over the SPD in opinion polls. Many commentators expected the Christian Democrats to win a clear electoral victory and that CDU leader Angela Merkel would become Chancellor, forming a government with the Free Democratic Party (FDP) and displacing the governing SPD-Green coalition. However, the CDU/CSU significantly lost momentum during the campaign and ultimately won only 1% more votes and four more seats than the SPD.
Exit polls showed clearly that neither coalition group had won a majority of seats in the Bundestag, leading to a hung parliament situation. Both parties lost seats compared to 2002, as did the Greens, while only the Left Party (a partial successor of the Party of Democratic Socialism led by Gregor Gysi and former SPD chairman Oskar Lafontaine) made significant gains. Both Schröder and Merkel claimed victory, but the formation of a new government required careful negotiations. On 10 October 2005, officials from the SPD and the CDU/CSU indicated that negotiations between the two had concluded successfully and that the participating parties would form a grand coalition with Angela Merkel as Chancellor. When the Bundestag met on 22 November, 397 CDU/CSU and SPD Bundestag members duly voted for Merkel.2013 German federal election
Federal elections were held on 22 September to elect the members of the 18th Bundestag of Germany. At stake were all 598 seats to the Bundestag, plus 33 overhang seats determined thereafter. The Christian Democratic Union/Christian Social Union (CDU/CSU) of Chancellor Angela Merkel won their best result since 1990, with nearly 42% of the vote and nearly 50% of the seats (five short for an overall majority). However, their coalition partner, the Free Democrats (FDP), failed to meet the 5% vote threshold in what was their worst showing ever in a federal election, thus denying them seats in the Bundestag for the first time in their history.
Merkel's party reached a coalition agreement with the then-main opposition party, the Social Democrats (SPD), to form a grand coalition; the third in the country's history since World War II. The SPD leadership conducted a ratification vote by their broader membership before the agreement was made final.2017 German federal election
Federal elections were held in Germany on 24 September 2017 to elect the members of the 19th Bundestag. At stake were all 598 seats in the Bundestag, as well as 111 overhang and leveling seats determined thereafter.
The Christian Democratic Union/Christian Social Union (CDU/CSU), led by Chancellor Angela Merkel, won the highest percentage of the vote with 33%, though suffered a large swing against it of more than 8%. The Social Democratic Party (SPD) achieved its worst result since the Second World War with only 20% of the vote. Alternative for Germany (AfD)—which was previously unrepresented in the Bundestag—became the third party in the Bundestag with 12.6% of the vote, whilst the Free Democrats (FDP) won 10.7% of the vote and returned to the Bundestag after losing all their seats in the 2013 election. It was the first time since 1957 that a party to the right of the CDU/CSU Union gained seats in the Bundestag.
The other parties to achieve representation in the Bundestag were the Left and the Greens, who each won close to 9% of the vote. In the 709 member Bundestag, the CDU/CSU won 246 seats (200 CDU and 46 CSU), SPD 153, AfD 94, FDP 80, the Left (Linke) 69, and the Greens 67. A majority is 355.
For the second consecutive occasion, the CDU/CSU reached a coalition agreement with the SPD to form a grand coalition, the fourth in post-war German history. The new government took office on 14 March 2018. The agreement came after a failed attempt by the CDU/CSU to enter into a "Jamaica coalition" with the Greens and the Free Democrats, which the latter pulled out of citing irreconcilable differences between the parties on migration and energy policy.Alliance 90/The Greens
Alliance 90/The Greens, often simply Greens (German: Bündnis 90/Die Grünen or Grüne; [ˈbʏntnɪs ˈnɔʏntsɪç diː ˈgʁyːnən, ˈgʁyːnə]), is a green political party in Germany that was formed in 1993 from the merger of the German Green Party (founded in West Germany in 1980 and merged with the East Greens in 1990) and Alliance 90 (founded during the Revolution of 1989–1990 in East Germany). The party focuses on ecological, economic, and social sustainability. Since January 2018 Annalena Baerbock and Robert Habeck have co-led the party. In the 2017 federal elections the Greens came sixth with 8.9% of the votes and 67 out of 709 seats in the Bundestag.Angela Merkel
Angela Dorothea Merkel (, German: [aŋˈɡeːla ˈmɛɐ̯kl̩]; née Kasner; born 17 July 1954) is a German politician serving as Chancellor of Germany since 2005. She served as the leader of the centre-right Christian Democratic Union (CDU) from 2000 to 2018. Merkel has been widely described as the de facto leader of the European Union, the most powerful woman in the world, and by many commentators as the leader of the Free World.Merkel was born in Hamburg in then-West Germany and moved to East Germany as an infant when her father, a Lutheran clergyman, received a pastorate in Perleberg. She obtained a doctorate in quantum chemistry in 1986 and worked as a research scientist until 1989. Merkel entered politics in the wake of the Revolutions of 1989, and briefly served as a deputy spokesperson for the first democratically elected East German Government headed by Lothar de Maizière in 1990. Following German reunification in 1990, Merkel was elected to the Bundestag for the state of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, and has been reelected ever since. As the protégée of Chancellor Helmut Kohl, Merkel was appointed as the Federal Minister for Women and Youth in Kohl's government in 1991, and became the Federal Minister for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety in 1994. After her party lost the federal election in 1998, Merkel was elected Secretary-General of the CDU before becoming the party's first female leader two years later in the aftermath of a donations scandal that toppled Wolfgang Schäuble.
Following the 2005 federal election, Merkel was appointed Germany's first female chancellor at the head of a grand coalition consisting of the CDU, its Bavarian sister party the Christian Social Union (CSU), and the Social Democratic Party of Germany (SPD). In the 2009 federal election the CDU obtained the largest share of the vote, and Merkel was able to form a coalition government with the Free Democratic Party (FDP). At the 2013 federal election, Merkel's CDU won a landslide victory with 41.5% of the vote and formed a second grand coalition with the SPD, after the FDP lost all of its representation in the Bundestag. After the 2017 federal election the CDU was again the largest party, and she was reelected to her fourth term on 14 March 2018.In 2007, Merkel was President of the European Council and played a central role in the negotiation of the Treaty of Lisbon and the Berlin Declaration. One of Merkel's consistent priorities has been to strengthen transatlantic economic relations. Merkel played a crucial role in managing the financial crisis at the European and international level, and she has been referred to as "the decider." In domestic policy, health care reform, problems concerning future energy development and more recently her government's approach to the ongoing migrant crisis have been major issues during her Chancellorship. On 26 March 2014, Merkel became the longest-serving incumbent head of government in the European Union and she is currently the senior G7 leader. In October 2018, Merkel announced that she would not seek reelection as leader of the CDU at the party convention in December 2018 and as Chancellor in 2021.Bundesrat of Germany
The German Bundesrat (literally "Federal Council"; pronounced [ˈbʊndəsʁaːt]) is a legislative body 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.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.Bundestag (Berlin U-Bahn)
Bundestag is a Berlin U-Bahn station located on the U 55. The name of this station was changed in April 2006 from Reichstag to Bundestag after deputations from the Bundestag which sits in the Reichstag building.CDU/CSU
CDU/CSU, unofficially the Union parties (German: Unionsparteien) or the Union, is the centre-right Christian democratic political alliance of two political parties in Germany, namely the Christian Democratic Union of Germany (CDU) and Christian Social Union in Bavaria (CSU).
According to German Federal Electoral Law, members of a parliamentary group which share the same basic political aims must not compete with one another in any federal state. The CSU contests elections only in Bavaria, while the CDU operates in the other 15 states of Germany. The CSU also reflects the particular concerns of the largely rural, Catholic south. While the two Christian Democratic parties are commonly described as sister parties and have been sharing a common parliamentary group in the Bundestag, the CDU/CSU Parliamentary Group in the German Bundestag (German: CDU/CSU-Fraktion im Deutschen Bundestag) since the foundation of the Federal Republic of Germany in 1949, the parties themselves officially remain completely independent with their own leadership and only few issue- or age-based joint organisations, which makes the alliance informal. However, in practice the committees of the parties harmonise their decisions with each other and the leader of one party is usually invited to party conventions of the other party.
Both the CDU and CSU are members of the European People's Party and the International Democrat Union. Both parties sit in the European People's Party group in the European Parliament. The CDU and CSU share a common youth organisation, the Youth Union, a common pupil organisation, the Pupil Union of Germany, a common student organisation, the Association of Christian Democratic Students and a common Mittelstand organisation, the Mittelstand and Business association.Cabinet of Germany
The Cabinet of Germany (German: Bundeskabinett or Bundesregierung) is the chief executive body of the Federal Republic of Germany. It consists of the Chancellor and the cabinet ministers. The fundamentals of the cabinet's organization as well as the method of its election and appointment as well as the procedure for its dismissal are set down in articles 62 through 69 of the Grundgesetz (the Basic Law).
In contrast to the system under the Weimar Republic, the Bundestag may only dismiss the Chancellor with constructive vote of no-confidence (electing a new Chancellor at the same time) and can thereby only choose to dismiss the Chancellor with his or her entire cabinet and not simply individual ministers. These procedures and mechanisms were put in place by the authors of the Basic Law to both prevent another dictatorship and to ensure that there will not be a political vacuum left by the removal of Chancellor through a vote of confidence and the failure to elect a new one in his or her place, as had happened during the Weimar period with the Reichstag removing Chancellors but failing to agree on the election of a new one.
If the Chancellor loses a simple confidence motion (without the election of a new Chancellor by the Bundestag), this does not force him or her out of office, but allows the Chancellor, if he wishes to do so, to ask the President of Germany for the dissolution of the Bundestag, triggering a snap election within 60 days (this happened in 1972, 1983 and 2005), or to ask the President to declare a legislative state of emergency, which allows the cabinet to use a simplified legislative procedure, in which bills proposed by the cabinet only need the consent of the Bundesrat (as yet, this has never been applied). The President is however not bound to follow the Chancellor's request in both cases.
The Chancellor and the other members of the cabinet are allowed to be also members of the Bundestag, and most of them actually are.Chancellor of Germany (1949–present)
The Federal Chancellor of the Federal Republic of Germany (in German called Bundeskanzler(in), meaning 'Federal Chancellor', or Kanzler(in) for short) is, under the German 1949 Constitution, the head of government of Germany. Historically, the office has evolved from the office of chancellor (German: Kanzler, later Reichskanzler, meaning 'Chancellor of the Realm') that was originally established in the North German Confederation in 1867.
The 1949 Constitution increased the role of the chancellor compared to the 1919 Weimar Constitution by making the chancellor much more independent of the influence of the President and granting the chancellor the right to set the guidelines for all policy areas, thus making the chancellor the real chief executive. The role is generally comparable to that of a prime minister in other parliamentary democracies.
The 8th and current Chancellor of the Federal Republic of Germany is Angela Merkel, who was elected in 2005 and re-elected in 2009, 2013 and 2018. She is the first female chancellor since the establishment of the original office in 1867 and is known in German as Bundeskanzlerin, the feminine form of Bundeskanzler. Merkel is also the first chancellor elected since the fall of the Berlin Wall to have been raised in the former East Germany.Elections in Germany
Elections in Germany include elections to the Bundestag (Germany's federal parliament), the Landtags of the various states, and local elections.
Several articles in several parts of the Basic Law for the Federal Republic of Germany govern elections and establish constitutional requirements such as the secret ballot, and requirement that all elections be conducted in a free and fair manner. The Basic Law also requires that the federal legislature enact detailed federal laws to govern elections; electoral law(s). One such article is Article 38 which is regarding the election of deputies in the federal Bundestag. Article 38.2 of the Basic Law establishes universal suffrage: "Any person who has attained the age of eighteen shall be entitled to vote; any person who has attained the age of majority may be elected."
German federal elections are for all members of the Bundestag, which in turn determines who is the Chancellor of Germany. Federal elections were held in 2009, 2013 and in 2017.Father of the House
Father of the House is a title that has been traditionally bestowed, unofficially, on certain members of some legislatures, most notably the House of Commons in the United Kingdom. In some legislatures the title refers to the longest continuously-serving member, while in others it refers to the oldest member. Recently, the title Mother of the House or Mother of Parliament has also been used, although the usage varies between countries; it is simply the female alternative to Father of the House, being applied when the relevant member is a woman.Free Democratic Party (Germany)
The Free Democratic Party (German: Freie Demokratische Partei, FDP) is a liberal and classical liberal political party in Germany. The FDP is led by Christian Lindner.
The FDP was founded in 1948 by members of former liberal political parties which existed in Germany before World War II, namely the German Democratic Party and the German People's Party. For most of the German Federal Republic's history, it has held the balance of power in the Bundestag. It was a junior coalition partner to the CDU/CSU (1949–1956, 1961–1966, 1982–1998 and 2009–2013) and the Social Democratic Party of Germany (1969–1982). In the 2013 federal election, the FDP failed to win any directly elected seats in the Bundestag and came up short of the 5 percent threshold to qualify for list representation, being left without representation in the Bundestag for the first time in its history. In the 2017 federal election, the FDP regained its representation in the Bundestag, receiving 10.6% of the vote.
The FDP strongly supports human rights, civil liberties and internationalism. The party is traditionally considered centre-right. Since the 1980s, the party has firmly pushed economic liberalism and has aligned itself closely to the promotion of free markets and privatization. It is a member of Liberal International and the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe (ALDE).Kurt Georg Kiesinger
Kurt Georg Kiesinger (German: [ˈkʊɐ̯t ˈɡeːɔɐ̯k ˈkiːzɪŋɐ]; 6 April 1904 – 9 March 1988) was a German politician who served as Chancellor of Germany (West Germany) from 1 December 1966 to 21 October 1969. Before he became Chancellor he served as Minister President of Baden-Württemberg from 1958 to 1966 and as President of the Federal Council from 1962 to 1963. He was Chairman of the Christian Democratic Union from 1967 to 1971.
Kiesinger studied law and worked as a lawyer in Berlin from 1935 to 1940. To avoid conscription, he found work at the Foreign Office in 1940, and became deputy head of the Foreign Office's broadcasting department. During his service at the Foreign Office, he was denounced by two colleagues for his anti-Nazi stance. He had nevertheless joined the Nazi Party in 1933, but remained a largely inactive member. In 1946 he became a member of the Christian Democratic Union. He was elected to the Bundestag in 1949, and was a member of the Bundestag until 1958 and again from 1969 to 1980. He left federal politics for eight years to serve as Minister President of Baden-Württemberg, and subsequently became Chancellor by forming a grand coalition with Willy Brandt's Social Democratic Party.
Kiesinger was considered an outstanding orator and mediator, and was dubbed "Silver Tongue." He was an author of poetry and various books, and founded the universities of Konstanz and Ulm as Minister President of Baden-Württemberg.Politics of Germany
Germany is a democratic, federal parliamentary republic, where federal legislative power is vested in the Bundestag (the parliament of Germany) and the Bundesrat (the representative body of the Länder, Germany's regional states).
The multilateral system has, since 1949, been dominated by the Christian Democratic Union (CDU) and the Social Democratic Party of Germany (SPD). The judiciary of Germany is independent of the executive and the legislature, while it is common for leading members of the executive to be member of the legislature, as well. The political system is laid out in the 1949 constitution, the Grundgesetz (Basic Law), which remained in effect with minor amendments after German reunification in 1990.
The constitution emphasizes the protection of individual liberty in an extensive catalogue of human and civil rights and divides powers both between the federal and state levels and between the legislative, executive and judicial branches.
West Germany was a founding member of the European Community in 1958, which became the EU in 1993. It is part of the Schengen Area, and has been a member of the eurozone since 1999. It is a member of the United Nations, NATO, the G7, the G20 and the OECD.
The Economist Intelligence Unit has rated Germany as a "full democracy" in 2017.President of Germany
The President of Germany, officially the Federal President of the Federal Republic of Germany (German: Bundespräsident der Bundesrepublik Deutschland), is the head of state of Germany.
Germany has a parliamentary system of government in which the chancellor is the nation's leading political figure and de facto chief executive. The president has a mainly ceremonial role, but he can give direction to general political and societal debates and has some important "reserve powers" in case of political instability (such as those provided for by Article 81 of the Basic Law). The German presidents have wide discretion about how they exercise their official duties.Under Article 59 (1) of the Basic Law (German Constitution), the president represents the Federal Republic of Germany in matters of international law, concludes treaties with foreign states on its behalf and accredits diplomats. Furthermore, all federal laws must be signed by the president before they can come into effect, but usually they only veto a law if they believe it to violate the constitution.
The president, by their actions and public appearances, represents the state itself, its existence, legitimacy, and unity. The president's role is integrative and includes the control function of upholding the law and the constitution. It is a matter of political tradition – not legal restrictions – that the president generally does not comment routinely on issues in the news, particularly when there is some controversy among the political parties. This distance from day-to-day politics and daily governmental issues allows the president to be a source of clarification, to influence public debate, voice criticism, offer suggestions and make proposals. In order to exercise this power, they traditionally act above party politics.The 12th and current officeholder is Frank-Walter Steinmeier who was elected on 12 February 2017 and started his first five-year term on 19 March 2017.President of the Bundestag
The President of the Bundestag (German: Präsident des Deutschen Bundestages or Bundestagspräsident) presides over the sessions of the Bundestag, the federal parliament of Germany, with functions similar to that of a speaker in other countries. In the German order of precedence, his office is ranked second after the President and before the Chancellor. The 13th and current President of the Bundestag is Wolfgang Schäuble, since October 24, 2017.Reichstag building
The Reichstag (German: Reichstagsgebäude pronounced [ˈʁaɪçstaːksgəˈbɔʏdə]; officially: Deutscher Bundestag – Plenarbereich Reichstagsgebäude pronounced [ ˈdɔʏtʃɐ ˈbʊndəsˌtaːk ˈpleːnaːrbəraɪç ˈʁaɪçstaːksgəˈbɔʏdə]) is a historic edifice in Berlin, Germany, constructed to house the Imperial Diet (German: Reichstag) of the German Empire. It was opened in 1894 and housed the Diet until 1933, when it was severely damaged after being set on fire. After World War II, the building fell into disuse; the parliament of the German Democratic Republic (the Volkskammer) met in the Palast der Republik in East Berlin, while the parliament of the Federal Republic of Germany (the Bundestag) met in the Bundeshaus in Bonn.
The ruined building was made safe against the elements and partially refurbished in the 1960s, but no attempt at full restoration was made until after German reunification on 3 October 1990, when it underwent a reconstruction led by architect Norman Foster. After its completion in 1999, it once again became the meeting place of the German parliament: the modern Bundestag.
The term Reichstag, when used to connote a diet, dates back to the Holy Roman Empire. The building was built for the Diet of the German Empire, which was succeeded by the Reichstag of the Weimar Republic. The latter would become the Reichstag of Nazi Germany, which left the building (and ceased to act as a parliament) after the 1933 fire and never returned, using the Kroll Opera House instead; the term Reichstag has not been used by German parliaments since World War II. In today's usage, the word Reichstag (Imperial Diet Building) refers mainly to the building, while Bundestag (Federal Diet) refers to the institution.The Left (Germany)
The Left (German: Die Linke), also commonly referred to as the Left Party (German: die Linkspartei, pronounced [diː ˈlɪŋkspaʁˌtaɪ̯] (listen)), is a democratic socialist political party in Germany. It is considered to be left-wing populist by some researchers. The party was founded in 2007 as the result of the merger of the Party of Democratic Socialism (PDS) and the Electoral Alternative for Labour and Social Justice (WASG). Through the PDS, the party is the direct descendant of the ruling party of the former East Germany (GDR), the Socialist Unity Party of Germany (SED).Since mid-2012, its co-chairs have been Katja Kipping and Bernd Riexinger. In the Bundestag the party won 64 out of 630 seats after polling 8.6% of the vote in the 2013 federal elections and, after the Social Democrats and the CDU/CSU formed a grand coalition, became leader of the opposition. In the 2017 elections, the party acquired 69 out of 709 seats after receiving 9.2% of the vote.. Its parliamentary group is the fifth largest among the six groups in the German Bundestag, ahead of the Greens. The Left is a founding member of the Party of the European Left, and is the largest party in the European United Left–Nordic Green Left (GUE/NGL) group in the European Parliament.
The party is the most left-wing party of the six represented in the Bundestag, and has been called far-left by some news outlets, but according to the German Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution (Verfassungschutz), the party as such is not to be regarded as extremely left or a threat to democracy. However, it does monitor some of its internal factions, such as Socialist Left, as do some states' similar authorities, on account of suspected extremist tendencies.According to official party figures, the Left Party had 63,784 registered members as of December 2013, making it the fifth-largest party in Germany.The party participates in governments in the states of Brandenburg, as junior partner to the Social Democratic Party of Germany (SPD); Thuringia with the SPD and The Greens in a three-party coalition with The Left parliamentarian Bodo Ramelow serving as Minister-President; and Berlin with the SPD and Greens in a three-party coalition, led by Michael Müller of the SPD.
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