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German Federal Diet

Deutscher Bundestag
19th Bundestag
Deutscher Bundestag logo.svg
Preceded by Reichstag 1933–1945
Volkskammer (East Germany) 1949–1990
Wolfgang Schäuble, CDU
since 24 October 2017
Thomas Oppermann, SPD
since 24 October 2017
Hans-Peter Friedrich, CSU
since 24 October 2017
Vacant, AfD
Wolfgang Kubicki, FDP
since 24 October 2017
Petra Pau, The Left
since 7 April 2006
Claudia Roth, Alliance 90/The Greens
since 22 October 2013
[1] [2] Bundestag012019.jpg
Political groups
Government (398)
  •      Union (246)
    •      CDU (200)
    •      CSU (46)
  •      SPD (152)

Opposition (311)

Mixed-member proportional representation (MMP)
Last election
24 September 2017
Next election
Meeting place
Reichstag Plenarsaal des Bundestags.jpg
Reichstag building
Mitte, Berlin, Germany
Coat of Arms of Germany.svg
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Southeastern corner of Bundestag.

The Bundestag (German pronunciation: [ˈbʊndəstaːk] , ‘Federal Diet’) is the German federal parliament. It can be compared to the chamber of deputies along the lines of the United States House of Representatives or the House of Commons of the United Kingdom.


Through the Bundesrat, the individual states (Bundesländer) of Germany participate in legislation similar to a second house in a bicameral parliament. According to the Basic Law for the Federal Republic of Germany however [3] (German : Grundgesetz), these two chambers form constitutional bodies principally separate from each other, so to say not forming the German parliament, but they work closely together in most aspects of lawmaking on the federal level.

The Bundestag was established by title III of the Grundgesetz in 1949 as one of the legislative bodies of Germany and thus the historical successor to the earlier Reichstag.

Since 1999 it has met in the Reichstag Building in Berlin. [4] Wolfgang Schäuble is the current President of the Bundestag. Members of the Bundestag (German : Mitglieder des Bundestages) are usually elected every four years by all adult German citizens in a mixed system of constituency voting and list voting. The constitutional minimum number of seats is 598; with overhang and leveling seats there are currently 709 seats. The Election Day can be called earlier than four years after the last if the Federal Chancellor (German : Bundeskanzler) loses a vote of confidence and asks the Federal President (German : Bundespräsident) to dissolve the Bundestag in order to hold new general elections.

In the 19th century, the name Bundestag was the unofficial designation for the assembly of the sovereigns and mayors of the Monarchies and Free Cities which formed the German Confederation (1815–1866). Its seat was in the Free City of Frankfurt on the Main.


Bundestag translates accurately as "League Council", literally meaning "bound day". "Tag" (day) came to mean "sitting in conference" — another example being Reichstag — because a council gathering would happen on a given day of the week, month, or year. [5]

With the dissolution of the German Confederation in 1866 and the founding of the German Empire (Deutsches Reich) in 1871, the Reichstag was established as the German parliament in Berlin, which was the capital of the then Kingdom of Prussia (the largest and most influential state in both the Confederation and the empire). Two decades later, the current parliament building was erected. The Reichstag delegates were elected by direct and equal male suffrage (and not the three-class electoral system prevailing in Prussia until 1918). The Reichstag did not participate in the appointment of the Chancellor until the parliamentary reforms of October 1918. After the Revolution of November 1918 and the establishment of the Weimar Constitution, women were given the right to vote for (and serve in) the Reichstag, and the parliament could use the no-confidence vote to force the chancellor or any cabinet member to resign. In March 1933, one month after the Reichstag fire, the then President of the Weimar Republic, Paul von Hindenburg, a retired war hero, gave Adolf Hitler ultimate power through the Decree for the Protection of People and State and the Enabling Act of 1933, although Hitler remained at the post of Federal Government Chancellor (though he called himself the Führer). After this, the Reichstag met only rarely, usually at the Krolloper (Kroll Opera House) to unanimously rubber-stamp the decisions of the government. It last convened on 26 April 1942.

With the new Constitution of 1949, the Bundestag was established as the new West German parliament. Because West Berlin was not officially under the jurisdiction of the Constitution, a legacy of the Cold War, the Bundestag met in Bonn in several different buildings, including (provisionally) a former waterworks facility. In addition, owing to the city's legal status, citizens of West Berlin were unable to vote in elections to the Bundestag, and were instead represented by 22 non-voting delegates [6] chosen by the House of Representatives, the city's legislature. [7]

The Bundeshaus in Bonn is the former parliament building of Germany. The sessions of the German Bundestag were held there from 1949 until its move to Berlin in 1999. Today it houses the International Congress Centre Bundeshaus Bonn and in the northern areas the branch office of the Bundesrat ("Federal Council"), which represents the Länder – the federated states. The southern areas became part of German offices for the United Nations in 2008.

The former Reichstag building housed a history exhibition (Fragen an die deutsche Geschichte) and served occasionally as a conference center. The Reichstag building was also occasionally used as a venue for sittings of the Bundestag and its committees and the Bundesversammlung (Federal Assembly), the body which elects the German Federal President. However, the Soviets harshly protested against the use of the Reichstag building by institutions of the Federal Republic of Germany and tried to disturb the sittings by flying supersonic jets close to the building.

Since April 19, 1999, the German parliament has again assembled in Berlin in its original Reichstag building, which was built in 1888 based on the plans of German architect Paul Wallot and underwent a significant renovation under the lead of British architect Lord Norman Foster. Parliamentary committees and subcommittees, public hearings and parliamentary group meetings take place in three auxiliary buildings, which surround the Reichstag building: the Jakob-Kaiser-Haus, Paul-Löbe-Haus and Marie-Elisabeth-Lüders-Haus.

In 2005, a small aircraft crashed close to the German Parliament. It was then decided to ban private air traffic over Central Berlin.


Reichstag building Berlin reichstag west panorama 2.jpg
Reichstag building
The German Unity Flag is a national memorial to German Reunification that was raised on 3 October 1990; it waves in front of the Reichstag building in Berlin, seat of the Bundestag Berlin reichstag CP.jpg
The German Unity Flag is a national memorial to German Reunification that was raised on 3 October 1990; it waves in front of the Reichstag building in Berlin, seat of the Bundestag

Together with the Bundesrat, the Bundestag is the legislative branch of the German political system.

Although most legislation is initiated by the executive branch, the Bundestag considers the legislative function its most important responsibility, concentrating much of its energy on assessing and amending the government's legislative program. The committees (see below) play a prominent role in this process. Plenary sessions provide a forum for members to engage in public debate on legislative issues before them, but they tend to be well attended only when significant legislation is being considered.

The Bundestag members are the only federal officials directly elected by the public; the Bundestag in turn elects the Chancellor and, in addition, exercises oversight of the executive branch on issues of both substantive policy and routine administration. This check on executive power can be employed through binding legislation, public debates on government policy, investigations, and direct questioning of the chancellor or cabinet officials. For example, the Bundestag can conduct a question hour (Fragestunde), in which a government representative responds to a previously submitted written question from a member. Members can ask related questions during the question hour. The questions can concern anything from a major policy issue to a specific constituent's problem. Use of the question hour has increased markedly over the past forty years, with more than 20,000 questions being posed during the 1987–90 term. Understandably, the opposition parties are active in exercising the parliamentary right to scrutinize government actions.

Constituent service does also take place in the form of the Petition Committee. In 2004, the Petition Committee received over 18,000 complaints from citizens and was able to negotiate a mutually satisfactory solution to more than half of them. In 2005, as a pilot of the potential of internet petitions, a version of e-Petitioner was produced for the Bundestag. This was a collaborative project involving The Scottish Parliament, International Teledemocracy Centre and the Bundestag ‘Online Services Department’. The system was formally launched on 1 September 2005, and in 2008 the Bundestag moved to a new system based on its evaluation. [8]

Electoral term

The Bundestag is elected for four years, and new elections must be held between 46 and 48 months after the beginning of its electoral term, unless the Bundestag is dissolved prematurely. Its term ends when the next Bundestag convenes, which must occur within 30 days of the election. [9] Prior to 1976, there could be a period where one Bundestag had been dissolved and the next Bundestag could not be convened; during this period, the rights of the Bundestag were exercised by a so-called "Permanent Committee". [10]


Members serve four-year terms, with elections held every four years, or earlier in the relatively rare case that the Bundestag is dissolved prematurely by the president. The Bundestag can be dissolved by the president on the recommendation of the chancellor if the latter has lost a vote of confidence in the Bundestag if the recommendation is made and accepted before the Bundestag acts to elect a new Chancellor. This has happened three times: 1972 under Chancellor Willy Brandt, 1983 under Chancellor Helmut Kohl and 2005 under Chancellor Gerhard Schröder. The procedures for these situations are governed by Articles 67 and 68 of the Basic Law of the Federal Republic of Germany. The Law regarding the election procedure itself is the Federal Election Act 1956 (Bundeswahlgesetz/BWahlG) [11]

All candidates must be at least eighteen years old; there are no term limits. The election uses the MMP electoral system. In addition, the Bundestag has a minimum threshold of either 5% of the national party vote or three (directly elected) constituency representatives for a party to gain additional representation through the system of proportional representation. Thus, small minority parties cannot easily enter the Bundestag and prevent the formation of stable majority governments as they could under the Weimar constitution.

The most recent election, the 2017 German federal election, was held on 24 September 2017.

Distribution of seats in the Bundestag

Bundestag ballot: constituency vote on left, party list (showing top five list candidates) vote on right Bundestagswahl 05 stimmzett.jpg
Bundestag ballot: constituency vote on left, party list (showing top five list candidates) vote on right

Half of the Members of the Bundestag are elected directly from 299 constituencies (using the first-past-the-post system), whilst the other half are elected from the parties’ Land lists in such a way as to achieve proportional representation for the total Bundestag (if possible).

Accordingly, each voter has two votes in the elections to the Bundestag. The first vote, allowing voters to elect their local representatives to the Bundestag, decides which candidates are sent to Parliament from the constituencies.

The second vote is cast for a party list; it determines the relative strengths of the parties represented in the Bundestag.

At least 598 Members of the Bundestag are elected in this way. Parties that gain more than 5% of the second votes or win at least three direct mandates are allocated seats in the Bundestag in proportion to the number of votes it has received (d'Hondt method until 1987, largest remainder method until the 2005 election, and now the Sainte-Laguë method).

In addition to this, there are certain circumstances in which some candidates win what are known as overhang seats when the seats are being distributed. If a party has gained more direct mandates in a Land than it is entitled to according to the results of the second vote: it does not forfeit these mandates because all directly elected candidates are guaranteed a seat in the Bundestag. The other parties are then compensated by getting additional seats as well: the balance seats, and thus, proportionality is preserved.

Election result

The last Federal elections were held on Sunday, 24 September 2017, to elect the members of the 19th Bundestag.

The election saw the CDU/CSU win 33% of the vote, a drop of more than 8% and its lowest share of the vote since 1949, while the SPD achieved its worst result since the Second World War with just 20% of the vote. Alternative for Germany (AfD)—which was previously unrepresented in the Bundestag—became the third party in the Bundestag with 12.6% of the vote and a plurality of the vote in Saxony. No party won an outright majority in any state, including Bavaria, where the CSU often wins majorities and won a majority of the vote in 2013.

Bundestag 2017.svg
PartyConstituencyParty listTotal
Christian Democratic Union (CDU) [lower-alpha 1] 14,030,75130.218512,447,65626.815200−55
Social Democratic Party (SPD)11,429,23124.6599,539,38120.594153−40
Alternative for Germany (AfD)5,317,49911.535,878,11512.69194+94
Free Democratic Party (FDP)3,249,2387.004,999,44910.78080+80
The Left (DIE LINKE)3,966,6378.654,297,2709.26469+5
Alliance 90/The Greens (GRÜNE)3,717,9228.014,158,4008.96667+4
Christian Social Union in Bavaria (CSU) [lower-alpha 1] 3,255,4877.0462,869,6886.2046−10
Free Voters 589,0561.30463,2921.0000
Die PARTEI 245,6590.50454,3491.0000
Human Environment Animal Protection 22,9170.00374,1790.8000
National Democratic Party 45,1690.10176,0200.4000
Pirate Party Germany 93,1960.20173,4760.4000
Ecological Democratic Party 166,2280.40144,8090.3000
Basic Income Alliance 97,5390.200New
V-Partei³ 1,2010.0064,0730.100New
German Centre63,2030.100New
Democracy in Motion 60,9140.100New
Bavaria Party 62,6220.1058,0370.1000
Animal Protection Alliance6,1140.0032,2210.100New
Marxist–Leninist Party of Germany 35,7600.1029,7850.1000
German Communist Party 7,5170.0011,5580.000New
Human World2,2050.0011,6610.000New
The Greys4,3000.0010,0090.000New
Bürgerrechtsbewegung Solidarität 15,9600.006,6930.0000
The Humanists5,9910.000New
Magdeburger Garden Party2,5700.005,6170.000New
Alliance for Germany6,3160.009,6310.0000
The Right1,1420.002,0540.000New
Socialist Equality Party 9030.001,2910.0000
Bergpartei, die "ÜberPartei" 6720.009110.000New
Party of Reason 2420.005330.0000
The Violets – for Spiritual Politics2,1760.0000
Alliance C1,7170.000New
New Liberals 8840.000New
The Union3710.000New
Family Party 5060.0000
The Women4390.000New
Renter's Party1,3520.000New
Invalid/blank votes586,726460,849
Registered voters/turnout61,688,48576.261,688,48576.2
Source: Bundeswahlleiter

List of Bundestag by session

Seat distribution in the German Bundestag (at the beginning of each session)
SessionElectionSeats CDU/CSU SPD FDP GRÜNE 1 DIE LINKE 2 DP / AfD Others
1st 1949 40213913152  17633
2nd 1953 48724315148  15304
3rd 1957 4972701694117
4th 1961 49924219067
5th 1965 49624520249
6th 1969 49624222430
7th 1972 49622523041
8th 1976 49624321439
9th 1980 49722621853
10th 1983 4982441933427
11th 1987 4972231864642
12th 1990 66231923979817
13th 1994 672294252474930
14th 1998 669245298434736
15th 2002 60324825147552
16th 2005 614226222615154
17th 2009 622239146936876
18th 2013 6303111926364
19th 2017 709246153806769922
  Parties in the ruling coalition

1 1983 to 1994 The Greens and 1990 to 1994 Alliance 90, since 1994 Alliance 90/The Greens
2 1990 to 2005 PDS (Party of Democratic Socialism), 2005 to 2007 The Left Party.PDS, since 2007 The Left
3 BP 17, KPD 15, WAV 12, Centre Party 10, DKP-DRP 5, SSW 1, Independents 3
4 GB-BHE 27, Centre Party 3

Seat distribution in the Bundestag from 1949 to 2017

Parties that were only present between 1949 and 1957


Presidents since 1949

Presidents of the Bundestag
NamePartyBeginning of termEnd of termLength of term
1 Erich Köhler* (1892–1958) CDU 7 September 194918 October 19501 year, 41 days
2 Hermann Ehlers** (1904–1954) CDU 19 October 195029 October 19544 years, 10 days
3 Eugen Gerstenmaier*** (1906–1986) CDU 16 November 195431 January 196914 years, 76 days
4 Kai-Uwe von Hassel (1913–1997) CDU 5 February 196913 December 19723 years, 312 days
5 Annemarie Renger† (1919–2008) SPD 13 December 197214 December 19764 years, 1 day
6 Karl Carstens§ (1914–1992) CDU 14 December 197631 May 19792 years, 168 days
7 Richard Stücklen (1916–2002) CSU 31 May 197929 March 19833 years, 363 days
8 Rainer Barzel*** (1924–2006) CDU 29 March 198325 October 19841 year, 210 days
9 Philipp Jenninger*** (1932-2018) CDU 5 November 198411 November 19884 years, 6 days
10 Rita Süssmuth (b. 1937) CDU 25 November 198826 October 19989 years, 335 days
11 Wolfgang Thierse (b. 1943) SPD 26 October 199818 October 20056 years, 357 days
12 Norbert Lammert (b. 1948) CDU 18 October 200524 October 201712 years, 6 days
13 Wolfgang Schäuble (b. 1942) CDU 24 October 2017present2 years, 149 days

*resigned for medical reasons
**died in office
***resigned for political reasons
†first woman to hold the post
§ resigned when he became President of Germany


The Marie-Elisabeth-Luders-Haus, one of the official buildings of the complex, housing the parliamentary library 2010-06-23-berlin-by-RalfR-06.jpg
The Marie-Elisabeth-Lüders-Haus, one of the official buildings of the complex, housing the parliamentary library

Parliamentary groups

The most important organisational structures within the Bundestag are parliamentary groups (Fraktionen; sing. Fraktion), which are traditionally formed by political parties who win at least 5% of the "second vote." The CDU and CSU have always formed a single united Fraktion. The size of a party's Fraktion determines the extent of its representation on legislative committees, the time slots allotted for speaking, the number of committee chairs it can hold, and its representation in executive bodies of the Bundestag. The Fraktionen, not the members, receive the bulk of government funding for legislative and administrative activities.

The leadership of each Fraktion consists of a parliamentary party leader, several deputy leaders, and an executive committee. The leadership's major responsibilities are to represent the Fraktion, enforce party discipline and orchestrate the party's parliamentary activities. The members of each Fraktion are distributed among working groups focused on specific policy-related topics such as social policy, economics, and foreign policy. The Fraktion meets every Tuesday afternoon in the weeks in which the Bundestag is in session to consider legislation before the Bundestag and formulate the party's position on it.

Parties that do not cross the 5% threshold but win at least three seats by direct elections (i.e. which have at least three MPs representing a constituency seat) can be granted the status of a group in the Bundestag. This applied to the Party of Democratic Socialism (PDS) from 1990–1998. This status entails some privileges which are in general less than those of a Fraktion. In the current Bundestag, there are no such groups (the PDS had only two constituency MPs in parliament until 2005 and could thus not even considered a group anymore; the party—now The Left—has held full Fraktion status in the Bundestag since 2005).

Executive bodies

The Bundestag's executive bodies include the Council of Elders and the Presidium. The council consists of the Bundestag leadership, together with the most senior representatives of each Fraktion, with the number of these representatives tied to the strength of the Parliamentary groups in the chamber. The council is the coordination hub, determining the daily legislative agenda and assigning committee chairpersons based on Parliamentary group representation. The council also serves as an important forum for interparty negotiations on specific legislation and procedural issues. The Presidium is responsible for the routine administration of the Bundestag, including its clerical and research activities. It consists of the chamber's president (usually elected from the largest Fraktion) and vice presidents (one from each Fraktion).


Most of the legislative work in the Bundestag is the product of standing committees, which exist largely unchanged throughout one legislative period. The number of committees approximates the number of federal ministries, and the titles of each are roughly similar (e.g., defense, agriculture, and labor). There are, as of the current nineteenth Bundestag, 24 standing committees. The distribution of committee chairs and the membership of each committee reflect the relative strength of the various Parliamentary groups in the chamber. In the current nineteenth Bundestag, the CDU/CSU chaired ten committees, the SPD five, the AfD and the FDP three each, The Left and the Greens two each. Members of the opposition party can chair a significant number of standing committees (e.g. the budget committee is always chaired by the biggest opposition party). These committees have either a small staff or no staff at all.

Principle of discontinuation

As is the case with some other parliaments, the Bundestag is subject to the principle of discontinuation, meaning that a newly elected Bundestag is legally regarded to be a body and entity completely different from the previous Bundestag. This leads to the result that any motion, application or action submitted to the previous Bundestag, e.g. a bill referred to the Bundestag by the Federal Government, is regarded as void by non-decision (German terminology: "Die Sache fällt der Diskontinuität anheim"). Thus any bill that has not been decided upon by the beginning of the new electoral period must be brought up by the government again if it aims to uphold the motion, this procedure in effect delaying the passage of the bill. Furthermore, any newly elected Bundestag will have to freshly decide on the rules of procedure (Geschäftsordnung), which is done by a formal decision of taking over such rules from the preceding Bundestag by reference.

Any Bundestag is considered dissolved only once a newly elected Bundestag has actually gathered in order to constitute itself (Article 39 sec. 1 sentence 2 of the Basic Law), which has to happen within 30 days of its election (Article 39 sec. 2 of the Basic Law). Thus, it may happen (and has happened) that the old Bundestag gathers and makes decisions even after the election of a new Bundestag that has not gathered in order to constitute itself. For example, elections to the 16th Bundestag took place on 18 September 2005, [12] but the 15th Bundestag still convened after election day to make some decisions on German military engagement abroad, [13] and was entitled to do so, as the newly elected 16th Bundestag did not convene for the first time until 18 October 2005. [14]

See also


  1. 1 2 The Christian Democratic Union and the Christian Social Union of Bavaria call themselves sister parties. They do not compete against each other in the same states and they form one group within the Bundestag.

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  14. "Stenographischer Bericht der 1. Sitzung des 16. Deutschen Bundestages am 18. Oktober 2005" [Stenographic report of the 1st session of the 16th Deutscher Bundestag on 2005-10-18](PDF). Deutscher Bundestag. 18 October 2005. Retrieved 20 October 2008.

Coordinates: 52°31′07″N13°22′34″E / 52.51861°N 13.37611°E / 52.51861; 13.37611