politics & law
"The dignity of man is inviolable. To respect and protect it is the duty of all state authority." (Art. 1:1 of the Basic Law)
"(1) The Federal Republic of Germany is a democratic and social federal state. (2) All state authority emanates from the people. It is exercised by the people by means of elections and voting and by separate legislative, executive and judicial organs. (3) Legislation is subject to the constitutional order; the executive and the judiciary are bound by law and justice." (Art. 20: 1, 2 and 3 of the Basic Law)
The Basic law is the German constitution. It has priority over all other laws, and defines the rights guaranteed to each individual.
The German government is a combination of the national parliament, or Bundestag, and the Bundesrat, a council made up of representatives from each of the 16 federal states.
The Bundestag is a representation of the German people and is responsible for electing a Chancellor, passing policies, and as a double check on the work that the government is doing.
The Bundesrat is a representation of the federal states and is also responsible for passing policies. While they are not necessarily concerned with creating the policies, certain types of legislation from the Bundestag require the Bundesrat’s approval in order for them to become effective. The Bundestag has veto authority, however, over the Bundesrat, in the case of rejection from the Bundesrat.
President and Chancellor:
The President of Germany, although mostly a ceremonial position, represents the country. And while the President does not have any decision-making authority, they can still use their position to help influence decisions one way or the other.
The current Federal President is Joachim Gauck.
The Chancellor is responsible for running the government and establishing policy guidelines. The Chancellor is aided by his or her cabinet, made up of the Foreign Minister, Interior Minister and Finance Minister.
The current Federal Chancellor is Dr. Angela Merkel (CDU).
Each federal state has its own constitution as well as governing body. The federal government is the highest authority over each state, but all states are involved in the federal legislation through the Bundesrat. The number of votes each state is allowed in the Bundesrat is determined by its population. Each state also makes its own policies and legislation, in conjunction with the federal legislation.
Germany has a multi-party system. Their representation in the Bundestag is dependant upon the percentage of votes each party receives - in order for a party to be represented, they must acquire at least five percent of the vote.
The parties currently represented in the Bundestag are:
Social Democratic Party of Germany (SPD), Christian Democratic Union (CDU), Christian Social Union (CSU) (a “sister party” to the CDU, and only in the state of Bavaria), Bündnis 90/Die Grünen (The Greens), Free Democratic Party (FDP) (also known as the “Liberals”), Party of Democratic Socialism (PDS) (also called the “Left”)
German citizens age 18 or older are eligible to vote in all applicable elections. Bundestag elections are held every four years, Bundesrat elections every four or five years, depending on the state, and European Parliament elections every five years.
When voting, two ballots are cast. The first ballot is for a specific candidate, and the second is for a specific party. The members of the Bundestag are a combination of those elected directly and those representing their party. The percentage of second votes determines the amount of representation each party receives.
There are also local elections for each city and town. These determine the mayor and city government, who are responsible for managing the city within the guidelines established by the state and federal laws.