Germany Politics

As a country that is a member of European Union defined by, the Federal Republic of Germany is a constitutional and federal democracy whose political system is defined in its 1949 constitution, called the Grundgesetz (fundamental law). It has a parliamentary system, in which the head of government, the Bundeskanzler (chancellor), is elected.

Federal institutions

Federal President

The function of head of state is fulfilled by the Bundespräsident (Federal President), whose powers are practically limited to ceremonial and representative tasks. The Federal President signs the laws, but can only deny the signature if he considers that a law is unconstitutional (in which case the Federal Diet, the [[Federal Council or the Federal Government can appeal to the Constitutional Court, which will decide on the constitution]] of the law and may oblige the president to sign it). The Federal President is elected by the Federal Assembly (Bundesversammlung), a body created solely for this function, with a five-year term.

Federal Diet

The federal parliament, called the Bundestag (Federal Diet) is a representative chamber and its functions are greater than those of the Bundesrat. It is made up of 672 deputies elected for four years through what is called a partially personalized proportional election.

Although the deputies are partially elected through party lists, the imperative mandate is prohibited: the deputies are representatives of the entire people and are not bound by any mandate other than that of their own conscience. His work is guaranteed by inviolability and immunity.

In practice, the Bundestag works through parliamentary committees and parliamentary groups, made up of at least 5% of the members of the House who belong to the same party or different parties with common objectives that do not compete in any State (the case of CDU and CSU).

The Bundestag has electoral functions – such as the election of the federal chancellor, the motion of censure or the motion of confidence -, functions of control of the Government – such as the committees of inquiry, questions, review of accounts -, legislative functions and representative functions and the formation of the public will.

Federal Council

The 16 Bundesländer (federal states) are represented at the federal level by the Bundesrat (Federal Council), which, depending on the matter under discussion, can take the floor in the legislative procedure. Although not officially part of the German parliament, it has functions similar to that of an upper house of a bicameral parliament. It is a constitutional body, so that its decisions not only bind the federated states, but the entire Federation. At present, it is made up of 69 members, who are not elected by the parliaments of the federal states or by their population, but are appointed directly by their governments.

Federal government

Executive power resides in the Federal Government, which is made up of the federal chancellor and federal ministers. The Chancellor is elected by a simple majority of the members of the Bundestag and can be replaced by the same majority through a constructive vote of no confidence. The Federal President has the right to propose a candidate for election, but this proposal is not binding on the Bundestag.

Federal ministers are appointed and removed by the chancellor. The chancellor has the so-called “directive competence” (Richtlinienkompetenz), according to which he can define the general lines of government activity. Within these general lines, the ministers direct their portfolios in their own responsibility.

Supreme Federal Courts

With regard to the judiciary, in Germany there is no single Supreme Court, but several Federal Supreme Courts, with powers depending on the matter in question. These are the Federal Court based in Karlsruhe (Bundesgerichtshof, the last instance in civil or criminal complaints), the Federal Labor Court based in Erfurt, the Federal Financial Court based in Munich, the Federal Social Court based in Kassel and the Federal Administrative Court based in Leipzig.

The decisions of each of these courts are final. To maintain the unity of jurisdiction, there is a Grand Senate made up of the presidents of all federal supreme courts, which comes into action when one federal supreme court wants to defer from the jurisdiction of another.

Political parties of Germany

Since the founding of the Federal Republic of Germany in 1949, in Germany (as in Spain or Italy) political parties are recognized in the German Constitution. In this way, these institutions are reinforced as guarantors of democracy. In the current 2005-09 legislature, there are five political forces with representation in the German parliament (Bundestag): the Union – which includes the Christian Democratic Union (Christlich-Demokratische Union, CDU) and the Christian Social Union (Christlich-Soziale Union, CSU, which only exists in Bavaria) -, center-right; the Social Democratic Party of Germany (Sozialdemokratische Partei Deutschlands, SPD), center-left; the Free Democratic Party (Freie Demokratische Partei, FDP), liberal; the party La Izquierda (Die Linke), post-communist; and Alianza 90 / Los Verdes (Bündnis 90 / Die Grünen), an environmentalist and left-wing liberal.

The German electoral system, based mainly on proportional scrutiny, only admits parliamentary representation to parties that have obtained at least 5% of the total votes. This has guaranteed a remarkable degree of stability in the party system throughout the history of the Federal Republic, although it also allowed the establishment of new political forces.

Thus, the system of three parties (the two “big”, CDU / CSU and SPD, and the “small” FDP) existing since the beginning of the 60s, was replaced by one of four parties (CDU / CSU, SPD, FDP, Greens) since the 1980s. Finally, since the 2005 elections, the party system expanded again with the consolidation of La Izquierda as the fifth party.

Apart from these five formations, at present only a few other forces have a certain relevance in German politics, through their representation in regional parliaments.

Germany Politics