The German government and political system | Expatica
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Last update on February 22, 2021
Written by CIA World Factbook

Made up of 16 states, the Federal Republic of Germany allows a fairly strong level of autonomy to its regions. Learn more about the composition of the German government and how the political system in the country works.

Conventional long form:  Federal Republic of Germany
Conventional short form: Germany
Local long form: Bundesrepublik Deutschland
Local short form: Deutschland
Former: German Empire, German Republic, German Reich.

German government type: Federal Republic

Capital: Berlin
Geographic coordinates: 52 31 N, 13 24 E
Time zone: UTC plus 1 hr.
Daylight saving time: Plus1hr (UTC plus 2 hrs.).  Begins the last Sunday in March and ends the last Sunday in October which is in alignment with all EU countries.

Administrative divisions:
16 states (Länder, singular – Land);
Baden-Württemberg, Bayern (Bavaria), Berlin, Brandenburg, Bremen, Hamburg, Hessen (Hesse), Mecklenburg-Vorpommern (Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania), Niedersachsen (Lower Saxony), Nordrhein-Westfalen (North Rhine-Westphalia), Rheinland-Pfalz (Rhineland-Palatinate), Saarland, Sachsen (Saxony), Sachsen-Anhalt (Saxony-Anhalt), Schleswig-Holstein, Thuringen (Thuringia);

Dependent areas: None.

Independence: 18 January 1871 (German Empire unification); divided into four zones of occupation (France, UK, US and USSR) in 1945 following the end of World War II; Federal Republic of Germany (FRG or West Germany) proclaimed on 23 May 1949 and included the former French, UK and US; German Democratic Republic (GDR or East Germany) proclaimed on 7 October 1949 and included the former USSR zone; West Germany and East Germany unified on 3 October 1990; all four powers formally relinquished rights on 15 March 1991; notable earlier dates: 10 August 843 (Eastern Francia established from the division of the Carolingian Empire); 2 February 962 (crowning of Otto I, recognised as the first Holy Roman Emperor)

National holiday: Unity Day, 3 October (1990)

Constitution: 23 May 1949, known as Basic Law; became constitution of the united Germany 3 October 1990.

Legal system: Civil law.  German law continues to be modified to conform with the legislative norms mandated by the European Union.

Executive branch:

Chief of state: President Joachim Gauck (since 18 March 2012);
Head of the German government: Chancellor Angela Merkel (since 22 November 2005);
Cabinet: Cabinet or Bundesminister (Federal Ministers) appointed by the President on the recommendation of the Chancellor;
Elections: President elected for a five-year term (eligible for a second term) by a Federal Convention including all members of the Federal Diet (Bundestag) and an equal number of delegates elected by the state parliaments.  Election last held on 19 February 2012 with the next to be held by June 2017.  The chancellor is elected by an absolute majority of the Federal Diet for a four-year term and the last vote for the chancel was last held on 27 September 2009.

Election results: Joachim Gauck elected president.  He received 991 votes of the Federal Convention against 126 for Beate Klarsfeld and 3 for Olaf Rose. Angela Merkel was re-elected chancellor.  The vote by Federal Diet was 323 to 285 with four abstentions.

Legislative branch

Bicameral legislature consists of the Federal Council or Bundesrat:
Bundesrat: 69 votes; state governments sit in the Council.  Each has three to six votes in proportion to population and is required to vote as a block.
Bundestag: 622 seats; members elected by popular vote for a four-year term under a system of personalised proportional representation.  A party must win five percent of the national vote or three direct mandates to gain proportional representation and caucus recognition.

Elections: Bundestag – last held on 27 September 2009 with the next to be held no later than autumn 2013.
N.B. There are no elections for the Bundesrat whose composition is determined by the composition of the state-level governments therefore the composition of the Bundesrat has the potential to change any time when one of the 16 states holds an election.

Election results

Percent of vote by party:
CDU/CSU 33.8 percent, SPD 23 percent, FDP 14.6 percent, Left 11.9 percent, Greens 10.7 percent, other 6 percent;
Seats by party:
CDU/CSU 239, SPD 146, FDP 93, Left 76, Greens 68.

Judicial branch

Federal Constitutional Court (Bundesverfassungsgericht), where half the judges are elected by the Bundestag and half by the Bundesrat, is the highest court dealing with constitutional matters.

There is also the Federal Court of Justice (Bundesgerichtshof) which is the highest ordinary court and is the supreme court in all matters of criminal and private law.

Political parties and leaders

Alliance ’90/Greens (Claudia Roth and Cem Ozdemir); Christian Democratic Union or CDU (Angela Merkel); Christian Social Union or CSU (Horst Seehofer); Free Democratic Party or FDP (Philipp Roesler); Left Party or Die Linke (Klaus Ernst and Gesine Loetzsch); Social Democratic Party or SPD (Sigmar Gabriel).

Flag description

Three equal horizontal bands of black (top), red, and gold.  These colours have played an important role in German history and can be traced back to the medieval banner of the Holy Roman Emperor which was a black eagle with red claws and beak on a gold field.

National anthem

Name: “Lied der Deutschen” (Song of the Germans).