State Structure and Political System of Germany

By | April 28, 2022

According to topschoolsintheusa, Germany is a democratic, federal, legal and social state with a republican form of government. The Basic Law (Constitution), adopted on May 23, 1949, is in force. The Basic Law establishes fundamental freedoms, the duty of the state to protect human dignity and the right to free development of the individual (this applies not only to Germans, but also to foreigners), the rights and freedoms of citizens, including.h. freedom of assembly, unions, movement, choice of profession, etc., the principle of equality, the principle of the rule of law, the principle of separation of powers. The idea of a rule of law state is complemented by the principle of a welfare state: the duty of the state to implement the principle of social justice and protect the socially weak.

The constitutional principle of the federal structure means that not only the federation, but also each of the 16 federal states has statehood. The Basic Law clearly spells out the division of competences between the federation and the lands, in particular, in the largest 10th section – the division of powers in the tax and budgetary spheres (the principle of budgetary federalism, the financial equalization mechanism).

Germany is considered a classical country of a federal state order. Federal lands are not provinces, but states with their own Constitution, which meets the principles of a republican, democratic, legal and social state, and authorities (elected legislative bodies – Landtags and governments headed by prime ministers).

The lands are divided into communities, cities, districts (the latter unite several communities and cities; large cities are not part of the districts). They exercise communal self-government, guaranteed by the Basic Law.

The largest cities (number of residents with the main place of residence as of September 30, 2002 [Berlin – November 2002, Hamburg – December 31, 2001], thousand people): Berlin (3,394.6), Hamburg (1,726.4), Munich (1263.7), Cologne (970.2), Frankfurt am Main (650.2), Essen (592.5), Stuttgart (590.8), Dortmund (590.2), Düsseldorf (569, nine).

The Basic Law is based on the principle of representative democracy: all power comes from the people, but they exercise it only during elections and transfer its implementation to special legislative, executive and judicial bodies. The Basic Law, taking into account the experience of the Weimar Republic, provides for the restriction or prohibition of the activities of political forces if they seek to damage the democratic system or eliminate democracy, even by democratic methods.

The head of state is the federal president. He is elected for a term of 5 years (with the possibility of a single re-election) by the Federal Assembly, a constitutional body specially convened for this purpose. The president performs mainly representative functions (primarily in the international legal sphere), accredits and appoints ambassadors, appoints and dismisses federal judges, etc. Based on the results of parliamentary elections, he proposes a candidate for the post of federal chancellor to the Bundestag and can dissolve the Bundestag if it does not support the chancellor’s declaration of confidence. The president is a supra-partisan unifying factor that stands above the day-to-day political struggle, but it is he who formulates political and social guidelines for citizens.

Johannes Rau (SPD) has been the federal president since 1 July 1999. His predecessors were: T. Heuss (FDP, 1949-59), G. Lübke (CDU, 1959-69), G. Heinemann (SPD, 1969-74), W. Scheel (FDP, 1974-79), K. Carstens (CDU, 1979-84), R. von Weizsacker (CDU, 1984-94), R. Herzog (CDU, 1994-99).

The highest organ of legislative power and the organ of popular representation is the German Bundestag, elected by the people for 4 years. The main work on the preparation of laws takes place in the relevant committees. Plenary sessions are usually used for parliamentary debates on major issues of domestic and foreign policy. During the functioning of the Bundestag adopted approx. 5000 laws. Most bills are introduced by the federal government, a smaller part – deputies of the Bundestag or the Bundesrat. Bills go through three readings and are adopted by a majority vote (except for amendments to the Basic Law, which require a qualified majority).

The head of the supreme body of legislative power is the President of the Bundestag. Since October 26, 1998, he has been Wolfgang Thierse (SPD). It has deputies, each representing a parliamentary faction.

As a result of the 2002 elections, the Bundestag was formed with 603 deputies. The ruling coalition of the SPD and Union 90/The Greens have 306 (that is, it is only 4 votes higher than the absolute majority line), the right-wing opposition of the CDU/CSU and the FDP has 295, and the PDS has 2 seats.

The second chamber of the German parliament is the Bundesrat. This is a representation of 16 federal states, and its members are not elected: it is formed from members of the land governments or their representatives; their number depends on the number of inhabitants in the land (North Rhine-Westphalia, Bavaria, Baden-Württemberg and Lower Saxony each have 6 representatives, Hesse – 5, Saxony, Rhineland-Palatinate, Berlin, Saxony-Anhalt, Thuringia, Brandenburg and Schleswig-Holstein – 4 each, Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, Hamburg, Saarland and Bremen – 3 each). The functions of the Bundesrat include the approval of federal laws if they affect the essential interests of the lands (especially in the field of public finance). Amendments to the Basic Law require the consent of 2/3 of the members of the Bundesrat. The chairman of the Bundesrat is elected in a certain order from among the prime ministers of the states for a period of 1 year. He acts as the federal president when he is unable to do so.

The supreme body of executive power is the Federal Government. Formed on October 22, 2002, the government consists of 13 federal ministries: foreign affairs; internal affairs; justice; finance; economy and labor; consumer protection, food and agriculture; defense; families, the elderly, women and youth; health and welfare; transport, construction and housing; environment, nature protection and reactor safety; education and research; economic cooperation and development. 10 ministers are members of the SPD, 3 are representatives of the Union 90/Green bloc.

The head of the supreme body of executive power is the Federal Chancellor. He is the only member of the government approved by the Bundestag, and he alone is accountable to him. He alone forms the cabinet, determines the scope of the ministers and determines the main directions of government policy.

Gerhard Schroeder (SPD) has been Chancellor since October 1998. His predecessors in this post were: K. Adenauer (CDU, 1949–63), L. Erhard (CDU, 1963–66), K. G. Kiesinger (CDU, 1966–69), W. Brandt (SPD, 1969– 74), G. Schmidt (SPD, 1974-82), G. Kohl (CDU, 1982-98).

The Federal Constitutional Court, which is elected on a parity basis by the Bundestag and the Bundesrat, supervises the observance of the Basic Law.

Elections to all bodies of popular representation shall be universal, direct, free and equal by secret ballot. The right to vote is granted to all citizens who have reached the age of 18. Elections to the Bundestag are held according to the majority-proportional system: each voter has 2 votes, one of which he gives to a specific candidate in his constituency, and the second – for a specific party. Only parties that receive at least 5% of valid “second” votes or 3 direct mandates can enter the Bundestag.

The main parties are represented in the Bundestag: the SPD (chairman – G. Schroeder); CDU (A. Merkel); FDP (G. Westerwelle); Soyuz 90/The Greens (A. Beer and R. Butikofer); the CSU operating in Bavaria (E. Stoiber); PDS (G. Zimmer).

There are many other parties: in the last elections, in addition to the 6 named parties, 18 more parties participated in the ballots for voting on party lists, but none of the latter received even 1% of the votes (the best results are for right-wing populist and nationalist parties: Schill – 0.8 %, Republicans – 0.6%, NPG – 0.4%). A number of parties are of regional importance, such as the Danish Minority Party in Schleswig-Holstein.

There are many trade union organizations in the country (about 70), expressing and defending the economic and socio-political interests of wage workers. The largest of these is the Association of German Trade Unions (ONP), which includes 8 separate sectoral trade unions, the largest of which are Verdi (employees in the management and services sector) and IG Metall (metallurgy, metalworking and engineering) – 70 % of the number of SNPs. The total number of trade union members belonging to the UNP is declining: in con. In 2002, it amounted to 7.7 million people, while in 1998 there were 8.3 million, and in 1993 10.3 million people. Some other professional associations also function in the country, for example, the Trade Union of German Officials, the Trade Union of German Employees, and the Association of Christian Trade Unions. But in general, the level of organization of employees in the country is below 50%, and in the western lands – less than 30%. The decrease in the number of trade unions does not mean that the influence and importance of the trade union organizations themselves have also decreased proportionately. They continue to have a strong influence on political decision-making.

Germany is distinguished by a large number of other public organizations and unions: there are more than 300 thousand of them and they include the majority of the country’s population. Thus, there are more than 85 thousand sports societies in the country, covering 1/4 of the population, 2 million people. there are singing societies, etc.

Entrepreneurs are better organized than workers: 80% of entrepreneurs in industry, banking and insurance are in unions. The Federal Association of German Employers’ Unions (FONSR) is the parent organization of employers (private entrepreneurs), designed to implement their socio-political interests. It includes 46 specialized (branch) unions of employers. Together with the trade unions, they are two sides of the mechanism of social partnership.

Politics of Germany