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World > Europe > Germany > Government and Political Conditions (Notes)

Germany - Government and Political Conditions (Notes)


GOVERNMENT AND POLITICAL CONDITIONS
The government is parliamentary, and a democratic constitution emphasizes the protection of individual liberty and division of powers in a federal structure. The chancellor (prime minister) heads the executive branch of the federal government. The duties of the president (chief of state) are largely ceremonial; the chancellor exercises executive power. The Bundestag (lower, principal chamber of the parliament) elects the chancellor. The president is elected every 5 years on May 23 by the Federal Assembly, a body convoked only for this purpose, comprising the entire Bundestag and an equal number of state delegates.

The Bundestag, which serves a 4-year term, consists of at least twice the number of electoral districts in the country (299). When parties' directly elected seats exceed their proportional representation, they may receive more seats. The number of seats in the Bundestag was reduced to 598 for the 2002 elections. The Bundesrat (upper chamber or Federal Council) consists of 69 members who are delegates of the 16 Laender (states). The legislature has powers of exclusive jurisdiction and concurrent jurisdiction with the Laender in areas specified in the Basic Law. The Bundestag has primary legislative authority. The Bundesrat must concur on legislation concerning revenue shared by federal and state governments and those imposing responsibilities on the states.

Germany has an independent federal judiciary consisting of a constitutional court, a high court of justice, and courts with jurisdiction in administrative, financial, labor, and social matters. The highest court is the Bundesverfassungsgericht (Federal Constitutional Court), which ensures a uniform interpretation of constitutional provisions and protects the fundamental rights of the individual citizen as defined in the Basic Law.

Political Parties
Christian Democratic Union/Christian Social Union (CDU/CSU). An important aspect of postwar German politics was the emergence of a moderate, ecumenical Christian party--the Christian Democratic Union (CDU)--operating in alliance with a related Bavarian party, the Christian Social Union (CSU). Although each party maintains its own structure, the two form a common caucus in the Bundestag and do not run opposing campaigns. The CDU/CSU has adherents among Catholics, Protestants, rural interests, and members of all economic classes. It is generally conservative on economic and social policy and more identified with the Roman Catholic and Protestant churches.

Social Democratic Party (SPD). The SPD is one of the oldest organized political parties in the world. It originally advocated Marxist principles, but in the 1959 Godesberg Program abandoned the concept of a 'class party' while continuing to stress social welfare programs. Although the SPD originally opposed West Germany's 1955 entry into NATO, it now strongly supports German ties with the Alliance. The SPD has a powerful base in the bigger cities and industrialized Laender.

Free Democratic Party (FDP). The FDP has traditionally been composed mainly of middle and upper class Protestants who consider themselves heirs to the European liberal tradition. It supports reducing the role of the state in economic policy, free trade, and is libertarian on social issues. The party has participated in all but three postwar federal governments but has not been in federal government since 1998.

The Left. The PDS (comprised largely of former East German communists) and the WASG (comprised of western leftists) merged in June 2007 to form a party simply known as 'The Left.' The party?s foreign policy is largely shaped by its rigid opposition to foreign military deployments. On domestic policy, the party opposes economic reforms, such as Hartz IV, which aim to increase free markets and reduce unemployment benefits. The Left proposes to replace the free market system with a return to socialist principles.

Alliance 90/Greens. In the late 1970s, environmentalists organized politically as the Greens. Opposition to nuclear power, military power, and certain aspects of highly industrialized society were principal campaign issues. In the December 1990 all-German elections, the Greens merged with the Eastern German Alliance 90, a loose grouping of civil rights activists with diverse political views. The Greens joined a federal government for the first time in 1998, forming a coalition with the SPD.

Other parties. In addition to those parties that won representation in the Bundestag in 2005, a variety of minor parties won a cumulative 2.7% of the vote, down from 3.0% in 2002. Several other parties were on the ballot in one or more states but did not qualify for representation in the federal Bundestag.

2005 Federal Elections
The 2005 federal elections were held after Chancellor Schroeder asked for a Bundestag 'vote of confidence' in the SPD-Greens coalition. The July 1, 2005 confidence motion failed, and President Koehler called for elections to be held on September 18, 2005, a year earlier than planned. The results of the 2005 Bundestag elections are as follows:



CDU/CSU

35.2%

226 seats

SPD

34.2%

222 seats

FDP

9.8%

61 seats

LP/PDS

8.7%

54 seats

Greens

8.1%

51 seats

Other parties

4.0%

no representation
After several weeks of negotiations, the CDU/CSU and SPD agreed to form a 'grand coalition' under the leadership of Chancellor Angela Merkel. Angela Merkel and the new cabinet were sworn in on November 22, 2005.

Principal Government Officials
President--Horst Köhler (CDU)
President of the Bundestag--Norbert Lammert (CDU)
Chancellor--Angela Merkel (CDU)
Vice Chancellor and Minister of Labor and Social Affairs--Franz Muentefering (SPD)
Minister of Foreign Affairs--Frank-Walter Steinmeier (SPD)
Minister of Defense--Franz Josef Jung (CDU)
Minister of Finance--Peer Streinbrueck (SPD)
Minister of Interior--Wolfgang Schaeuble (CDU)

Germany maintains an Embassy in the United States at 4645 Reservoir Road NW, Washington, DC 20007 (tel. 202-298-4000). Consulates general are located in Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Detroit, Houston, Los Angeles, Miami, New York, San Francisco, and Seattle. Germany has honorary consuls in more than 30 U.S. cities.


Facts at a Glance: Geography - People - Government - Economy - Communications - Transportation - Military - Climate - Current Time - Ranking Positions - Euro Exchange Rates
Notes and Commentary: People - Economy - Government and Political Conditions - Historical Highlights - Foreign Relations - Relations with U.S.



Facts at a Glance
Geography
People
Government
Economy
Communications
Transportation
Military
Climate
Current Time
Ranking Positions
Euro Exchange Rates


Notes and Commentary
People
Economy
Government and Political Conditions
Historical Highlights
Foreign Relations
Relations with U.S.





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