Head of State Federal President Christian Wulff (since 3 Juni 2010)
Head of Government Chancellor Angela MERKEL (since 27 November 2005)
Last election 27 September 2009 (parliament)
Next election September 2013 (parliament)


The president is the head of state, elected to a five-year term by the Bundesversammlung (Federal Convention). The Federal Convention consists of all members of the Bundestag (Lower House) and an equal number of members elected by the Länder (State) Parliaments. Presidents hold only ceremonial duties and can serve a maximum of two terms.

The head of government is the chancellor who is elected for a four-year term by absolute majority of the Bundestag. If no candidate gains an absolute majority, the president can appoint the candidate who obtained the most votes, or else dissolve the Bundestag and call new elections. The cabinet is chosen by the chancellor and formally appointed by the president. The Basic Law gives the chancellor the authority to determine the guidelines of government policy and to select and dismiss the ministers. The chancellor can be removed from office only if the Bundestag elects a successor or when the Bundestag itself is reelected.


Germany has a bicameral parliament. The Bundestag has 613 elected members (the total can vary) and is the more important chamber of government.

Elections are normally held every four years and it is from the Bundestag membership that the chancellor is selected. One-half of the members of the Bundestag are elected by pluralities from single-member districts. The remainder is elected by a proportional system in which the ballots name only parties, not candidates. A party must receive a minimum of 5% of the national popular vote for representation. Regional or minority parties that succeed in winning pluralities in at least three electoral districts are exempt.

The Bundesrat has 69 members who represent the Bundesländer (Federal States) governments. Representation is determined by population, with each state having no less than three and no more than six seats. Its role is to approve all laws that would directly affect the Bundesländer.


The Federal Constitutional Court in Karlsruhe is the highest judicial body in the country. There are 16 judges in total on the Court, half of who are selected by the Bundestag and the other half by the Bundesrat. The Court has not accepted compulsory International Court of Justice jurisdiction.

The “ordinary courts” are responsible for criminal matters, civil matters and noncontentious legal proceedings. There are four levels of ordinary courts: the local court (Amtsgericht), the regional court (Landgericht), the higher regional court (Oberlandesgericht) and the Federal Court of Justice (Bundesgerichtshof). In addition to these, there are labor, administrative, social and financial courts.

Local Government

Germany is a federal republic made up of 16 states, known in German as Bundesländer. Three of the states are city-states, namely Berlin, Bremen and Hamburg. Most of the Bundesländer are governed by a cabinet led by a Ministerpräsident (Minister-President), together with a unicameral legislative body known as the Landtag.

Political Parties

Christlich-Demokratische Union (CDU) - Christian-Democratic Union: conservative christian-democratic
Christlich Soziale Union in Bayern (CSU) - Christian Social Union in Bavaria
Sozialdemokratische Partei Deutschlands (SPD) - Social Democratic Party of Germany
Freie Demokratische Partei (FDP) - Free Democratic Party
Linkspartei (PDS) - Left Party
Bündnis 90/Die Grünen - Alliance 90/The Greens
The CDU and CSU traditionally form one parliamentary group.

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