Germany is a federal Republic state based on parliamentary democracy. Germany (official name: Federal Republic of Germany) unified with East Germany (earlier called German Democratic Republic -GDR) in October 1990. Germany has 16 states or provinces with their own local governments and legislatures, which enjoy considerable decentralisation from the federal government. However, the segregation of power between states and federal government has been well defined in the country's constitution.
The chief of the state is the President who is elected for a five-year term by a Federal Convention (which includes members of the Federal Assembly and an equal number of delegates elected by the provincial legislatures).President's role is largely ceremonial. The head of the government is the Chancellor who is elected by an absolute majority of the Federal Assembly for a four-year term. The Chancellor holds the executive powers which include implementation of the law in the country and running the day-to-day affairs. Federal Ministers (the cabinet) is appointed by the President on the recommendation of the Chancellor.
The legislature in Germany is bicameral. The parliament consists of two chambers: the Federal Assembly (the lower house) having 613 seats, its members elected by popular vote under a system combining direct and proportional representation to serve four-year terms; and the Federal Council (the upper house) having 69 seats, its members being the delegates of the country's 16 provinces to serve 4-year terms. There are no elections for the Federal Council; its composition is determined by the composition of the provincial governments. The government is directly or indirectly dependent on the support of the parliament, often expressed through a vote of confidence. Chancellor cannot directly dissolve the parliament but he can recommend the same to President in case a no confidence motion is carried out in Federal Assembly. Legislative power is vested in both the government and the parliament. The people of Germany have considerable political rights.
The judiciary in Germany is independent. The main source of the law is the constitution of May 1949 known as Basic Law which also became the constitution of the unified Germany. The country's legal system is based on the civil law system with indigenous concepts, as well as the judicial review of various legislative acts by the Federal Constitutional Court. Germany has not accepted compulsory ICJ jurisdiction. Germany being a member of the European Union, the national law in the country needs to comply with the conditions of the Community legislation. The judicial language in the country is German, having an interpreter is always possible.
Germany is ruled by law. Foreign nationals can enjoy equal treatment from the country's judicial system. Corruption is very much under control in Germany, especially corruption in the government sector is almost non-existent.
Major political parties
The main political parties in the country are:
- CDU (Christian Democratic Union) – conservative,
- CSU (Christian Social Union) –conservative,
- SPD (Social Democratic Party) – social democrat,
- FDP (Free Democratic Party) – libera,l
- Left Party, Alliance '90/Greens - green.
Major political leaders
President: Horst KOEHLER (since July 2004) – CDU
Chancellor: Angela MERKEL (since November 2005) – CDU, heading a coalition backed by CSU and SPD
Next political election dates
Presidential: May 2009
Chancellor: November 2009
Federal Assembly: September 2009