|Federal President of the Federal Republic of Germany |
Bundespräsident der Bundesrepublik Deutschland
|Style|| His Excellency |
(in international relations only)
|Residence|| Schloss Bellevue (Berlin)|
Villa Hammerschmidt (Bonn)
|Term length||Five years|
Renewable once, consecutively
|Constituting instrument||Basic Law for the Federal Republic of Germany|
|Formation||24 May 1949|
|First holder||Theodor Heuss|
The President of Germany, officially the Federal President of the Federal Republic of Germany (German : Bundespräsident der Bundesrepublik Deutschland), is the head of state of Germany.
German is a West Germanic language that is mainly spoken in Central Europe. It is the most widely spoken and official or co-official language in Germany, Austria, Switzerland, South Tyrol (Italy), the German-speaking Community of Belgium, and Liechtenstein. It is also one of the three official languages of Luxembourg and a co-official language in the Opole Voivodeship in Poland. The languages which are most similar to German are the other members of the West Germanic language branch: Afrikaans, Dutch, English, the Frisian languages, Low German/Low Saxon, Luxembourgish, and Yiddish. There are also strong similarities in vocabulary with Danish, Norwegian and Swedish, although those belong to the North Germanic group. German is the second most widely spoken Germanic language, after English.
A head of state is the public persona who officially represents the national unity and legitimacy of a sovereign state. Depending on the country's form of government and separation of powers, the head of state may be a ceremonial figurehead or concurrently the head of government. In a parliamentary system the head of state is the de jure leader of the nation, and there is a separate de facto leader, often with the title of prime minister. In contrast, a semi-presidential system has both heads of state and government as the leaders de facto of the nation.
Germany, officially the Federal Republic of Germany, is a country in Central and Western Europe, lying between the Baltic and North Seas to the north, and the Alps to the south. It borders Denmark to the north, Poland and the Czech Republic to the east, Austria and Switzerland to the south, France to the southwest, and Luxembourg, Belgium and the Netherlands to the west.
Germany has a parliamentary system of government in which the chancellor is the nation's leading political figure and de facto chief executive. The president has a mainly ceremonial role, but he can give direction to general political and societal debates and has some important "reserve powers" in case of political instability (such as those provided for by Article 81 of the Basic Law).The German presidents have wide discretion about how they exercise their official duties.
A parliamentary system is a system of democratic governance of a state where the executive derives its democratic legitimacy from its ability to command the confidence of the legislature, typically a parliament, and is also held accountable to that parliament. In a parliamentary system, the head of state is usually a person distinct from the head of government. This is in contrast to a presidential system, where the head of state often is also the head of government and, most importantly, the executive does not derive its democratic legitimacy from the legislature.
The title Chancellor has designated different offices in the history of Germany. It is currently used for the Chancellor of the Federal Republic of Germany, the head of government of Germany. The term, dating from the Early Middle Ages, is derived from the Latin term cancellarius. The modern office of chancellor evolved from the position created for Otto von Bismarck in the North German Confederation in 1867; this federal state evolved into a German nation-state with the 1871 Unification of Germany. The role of the chancellor has varied greatly throughout Germany's modern history. Today, the chancellor is the country's effective leader, although in formal protocol, the Bundespräsident and Bundestagspräsident are ranked higher.
In law and government, de facto describes practices that exist in reality, even if not officially recognised by laws. It is commonly used to refer to what happens in practice, in contrast with de jure, which refers to things that happen according to law. Unofficial customs that are widely accepted are sometimes called de facto standards.
Under Article 59 (1) of the Basic Law (German Constitution), the president represents the Federal Republic of Germany in matters of international law, concludes treaties with foreign states on its behalf and accredits diplomats.Furthermore, all federal laws must be signed by the president before they can come into effect, but usually they only veto a law if they believe it to violate the constitution.
A veto – Latin for "I forbid" – is the power to unilaterally stop an official action, especially the enactment of legislation. A veto can be absolute, as for instance in the United Nations Security Council, whose permanent members can block any resolution, or it can be limited, as in the legislative process of the United States, where a two-thirds vote in both the House and Senate may override a Presidential veto of legislation. A veto may give power only to stop changes, like the US legislative veto mentioned before, or to also adopt them, like the legislative veto of the Indian President, which allows him to propose amendments to bills returned to the Parliament for reconsideration.
The president, by their actions and public appearances, represents the state itself, its existence, legitimacy, and unity. The president's role is integrative and includes the control function of upholding the law and the constitution. It is a matter of political tradition – not legal restrictions – that the president generally does not comment routinely on issues in the news, particularly when there is some controversy among the political parties.This distance from day-to-day politics and daily governmental issues allows the president to be a source of clarification, to influence public debate, voice criticism, offer suggestions and make proposals. In order to exercise this power, they traditionally act above party politics.
The 12th and current officeholder is Frank-Walter Steinmeier who was elected on 12 February 2017 and started his first five-year term on 19 March 2017.
Frank-Walter Steinmeier is a German politician serving as President of Germany since 19 March 2017. He previously was Minister for Foreign Affairs from 2005 to 2009 and again from 2013 to 2017, and Vice-Chancellor of Germany from 2007 to 2009. He was chairman-in-office of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) in 2016.
The president is elected for a term of five years by secret ballot, without debate, by a specially convened Federal Convention which mirrors the aggregated majority position in the Bundestag (the federal parliament) and in the parliaments of the 16 German states. The convention consists of all Bundestag members, as well as an equal number of electors elected by the state legislatures in proportion to their respective populations. Since reunification, all Federal Conventions have had more than 1200 members, as the Bundestag has always had more than 600 since then. It is not required that state electors are chosen from the members of the state legislature; often some prominent citizens are chosen.
The Federal Convention, also known as the Federal Assembly, is a special constitutional body in the political and federal institutional system of Germany, convened solely for the purpose of electing the President of the Federal Republic of Germany (Bundespräsident), either every five years or within 30 days of the premature termination of a presidential term. The Federal Convention mirrors the aggregated majority situation of the Bundestag and the parliaments of the 16 German federal states.
The Bundestag is the German federal parliament. It can be compared to the lower house of parliament along the lines of the United States House of Representatives, the Irish Dáil Éireann or the House of Commons of the United Kingdom, with the Bundesrat, though a separate institution, having a similar role to the upper house of a bicameral parliament.
The German constitution, the Basic Law, requires that the convention be convened no later than 30 days before the scheduled expiry of the sitting president's term or 30 days after a premature expiry of a president's term. The body is convened and chaired by the President of the Bundestag. From 1979 to 2009, all these conventions were held on 23 May, the anniversary of the foundation of the Federal Republic in 1949. However, the two most recent elections before 2017 were held on different dates after the incumbent presidents, Horst Köhler and Christian Wulff, resigned before the end of their terms, in 2010 and 2012 respectively.
In the first two rounds of the election, the candidate who achieves an absolute majority is elected. If, after two votes, no single candidate has received this level of support, in the third and final vote the candidate who wins a plurality of votes cast is elected.
The result of the election is often determined by party politics. In most cases, the candidate of the majority party or coalition in the Bundestag is considered to be the likely winner. However, as the members of the Federal Convention vote by secret ballot and are free to vote against their party's candidate, some presidential elections were considered open or too close to call beforehand because of relatively balanced majority positions or because the governing coalition's parties could not agree on one candidate and endorsed different people, as they did in 1969, when Gustav Heinemann won by only 6 votes on the third ballot. In other cases, elections have turned out to be much closer than expected. For example, in 2010, Wulff was expected to win on the first ballot, as the parties supporting him (CDU, CSU and FDP) had a stable absolute majority in the Federal Convention. Nevertheless, he failed to win a majority in the first and second ballots, while his main opponent Joachim Gauck had an unexpectedly strong showing. In the end Wulff obtained a majority in the third ballot. If the opposition has turned in a strong showing in state elections, it can potentially have enough support to defeat the chancellor's party's candidate; this happened in the elections in 1979 and 2004. For this reason, presidential elections can indicate the result of an upcoming general election. According to a long-standing adage in German politics, "if you can create a President, you can form a government."[ citation needed ]
|Electoral votes |
|Electoral Votes |
|1st Federal Convention||12 September 1949||Bonn||2|| Theodor Heuss |
( FDP , CDU , CSU)
|416 (51.7%)|| Kurt Schumacher |
|2nd Federal Convention||17 July 1954||West Berlin||1||Theodor Heuss |
(FDP, CDU, CSU, SPD)
|871 (85.6%)|| Alfred Weber |
|3rd Federal Convention||1 July 1959||West Berlin||2|| Heinrich Lübke |
|526 (50.7%)|| Carlo Schmid |
|4th Federal Convention||1 July 1964||West Berlin||1||Heinrich Lübke |
(CDU, CSU, SPD)
|710 (68.1%)|| Ewald Bucher |
|5th Federal Convention||5 March 1969||West Berlin||3|| Gustav Heinemann |
|512 (49.4%)|| Gerhard Schröder |
(CDU, CSU, NPD)
|6th Federal Convention||15 May 1974||Bonn||1|| Walter Scheel |
|530 (51.2%)|| Richard von Weizsäcker |
|7th Federal Convention||23 May 1979||Bonn||1|| Karl Carstens |
|528 (51%)|| Annemarie Renger |
|8th Federal Convention||23 May 1984||Bonn||1||Richard von Weizsäcker |
(CDU, CSU, FDP, SPD)
|832 (80%)|| Luise Rinser |
|9th Federal Convention||23 May 1989||Bonn||1||Richard von Weizsäcker |
(CDU, CSU, FDP, SPD)
|881 (84.9%)||none||108 (10.4%) no-votes|
|10th Federal Convention||23 May 1994||Berlin||3|| Roman Herzog |
|696 (52.6%)|| Johannes Rau |
|11th Federal Convention||23 May 1999||Berlin||2||Johannes Rau |
(SPD, Alliance 90/Greens)
|690 (51.6%)|| Dagmar Schipanski |
|12th Federal Convention||23 May 2004||Berlin||1|| Horst Köhler |
(CDU, CSU, FDP)
|604 (50.1%)|| Gesine Schwan |
|13th Federal Convention||23 May 2009||Berlin||1||Horst Köhler |
(CDU, CSU, FDP, Free Voters)
|613 (50.1%)||Gesine Schwan |
(SPD, Alliance 90/Greens)
|14th Federal Convention||30 June 2010||Berlin||3|| Christian Wulff |
(CDU, CSU, FDP)
|625 (50.2%)|| Joachim Gauck |
(SPD, Alliance 90/Greens)
|15th Federal Convention||18 March 2012||Berlin||1|| Joachim Gauck |
(CDU, CSU, FDP, SPD,
Alliance 90/Greens, Free Voters, SSW)
|991 (79.9%)|| Beate Klarsfeld |
|16th Federal Convention||12 February 2017||Berlin||1|| Frank-Walter Steinmeier |
(SPD, CDU, CSU,
Alliance 90/Greens, FDP, SSW)
|931 (74.3%)|| Christoph Butterwegge |
The office of president is open to all Germans who are entitled to vote in Bundestag elections and have reached the age of 40, but no one may serve more than two consecutive five-year terms. As yet (2017), only four presidents (Heuss, Lübke, von Weizsäcker and Köhler) have been elected for a second term and only two of them (Heuss and von Weizsäcker) completed those terms, while Lübke and Köhler resigned during their second term. The president must not be a member of the federal government or of a legislature at either the federal or state level.
On taking office the president must take the following oath, stipulated by Article 56 of the Basic Law, in a joint session of the Bundestag and the Bundesrat (it is the only event that demands such a joint session constitutionally). They are permitted to omit the religious references if so desired.
I swear that I will dedicate my efforts to the well-being of the German people, enhance their benefits, avert harm from them, uphold and defend the Constitution and the statutes of the Federation, fulfil my duties conscientiously, and do justice to all. (So help me God.)
As German constitutional law does not consider oaths of office as constitutive but only as affirmative, the president does not have to take the oath at the moment of entering office in order to be able to execute the powers of the office. The oath is usually administered during the first weeks of a president's term on a date convenient for a joint session of the Bundestag and the Bundesrat. Nevertheless, a president persistently refusing to take the oath could face an impeachment.If a president is re-elected for a second term, they do not take the oath again.
The President is involved in the formation of the Federal Government and remains in close cooperation with it. Basically, the President is free to act on his own discretion. However, according to Article 58 of the German constitution, the decrees, and directives of the President require the countersignature of the Chancellor or the corresponding Federal Minister in charge of the respective field of politics. This rule ensures the coherence of government action, similar to the system of checks and balances in the United States of America. There is no need for a countersignature, if the President proposes, appointments and dismisses the Chancellor, convenes or dissolves of the Bundestag according to Article 63, declares a legislative state of emergency, calls on Chancellor and ministers to remain in office, after the end of a Chancellor's term, until a successor is elected or exercises his right to pardon on behalf of the federation, as these are exclusive powers of the President.
Therefore, the president also receives the chancellor regularly for talks on current policy issues. German presidents also hold talks with individual Federal Ministers and other senior officials at their own discretion. The "Head of the Office of the President" represents the will and views of the president in the meetings of the Federal Cabinet and reports back to the president.
The president's most prominent powers and duties include:
After the constitution of every new elected Bundestag, which automatically ends the term of the chancellor, and in every other case in which the office of chancellor has fallen vacant (death or resignation), the president proposes an individual as chancellor and must then, provided they are subsequently elected by a majority of all members of the current Bundestag (the so-called Chancellor-majority) on the first ballot, appoint them to the office. However, the Bundestag is free to disregard the president's proposal (which has, as of 2019, never happened), in which case the parliament must within 14 days elect another individual, whom the parties in the Bundestag can now propose themselves, to the post with the same so-called Chancellor-majority, whom the president is then obliged to appoint. If the Bundestag does not manage to do so, on the 15th day after the first ballot the Bundestag must hold one last ballot: if an individual is elected with the Chancellor-majority, the president is obliged to appoint them. If not, the president can either appoint as chancellor the individual who received a plurality of votes on this last ballot or dissolves the Bundestag. The president can dismiss the chancellor, but only if the Bundestag passes a constructive vote of no confidence, electing a new chancellor with the Chancellor-majority at the same time.If this occurs, the president must dismiss the chancellor and appoint the successor elected by the Bundestag.
The president appoints and dismisses the remaining members of the Federal Government upon the proposal of the chancellor. This means that the president can appoint only candidates presented by the chancellor. It is unclear, whether the President can refuse to dismiss or appoint a Federal Minister proposed by the Chancellor, as no President has ever done so.
In practice, the president only proposes a person as chancellor who has previously garnered a majority support in coalition talks and traditionally does not interfere in those talks. However, after the "Jamaica coalition" talks failed in late 2017, President Steinmeier invited several Bundestag party leaders to try to still bring them together to form a working government.
The president appoints federal judges, federal civil servants, and military officers.
In the event that the Bundestag elects an individual for the office of chancellor by a plurality of votes, rather than a majority, on the 15th day of the election process, the president can, at their discretion, either appoint that individual as chancellor or dissolve the Bundestag, triggering a new election. In the event that a vote of confidence is defeated in the Bundestag, and the incumbent chancellor proposes a dissolution, the president may, at his discretion, dissolve the body within 21 days. As of 2010, this power has only been applied three times in the history of the Federal Republic. In all three occurrences, it is doubtful whether the motives for that dissolution were in accordance with the constitution's intentions. Each time the incumbent chancellor called for the vote of confidence with the stated intention of being defeated, in order to be able to call for new elections before the end of their regular term, as the Basic Law does not give the Bundestag a right to dissolve itself. The most recent occurrence was on 1 July 2005, when Chancellor Gerhard Schröder asked for a vote of confidence, which was defeated.
All federal laws must, after counter-signature, be signed by the president before they can come into effect.Upon signing, the president has to check if the law was passed according to the order mandated by the Constitution and/or if the content of the law is constitutional. If not, they have the right to refuse to sign the law, thus effectively vetoing it. Some scholars also consider it possible that the president has the full veto authority on any bill, this, however, is not how past presidents handled their power. As yet (2017), this has happened only eight times and no president has done it more often than two times during his term:
Karl Carstens, Roman Herzog, Johannes Rau, Christian Wulff, Joachim Gauck and Frank-Walter Steinmeier (as yet) have signed and promulgated all bills during their respective terms.
The president represents Germany in the world (Art. 59 Basic Law), undertakes foreign visits and receives foreign dignitaries. They also conclude treaties with foreign nations (which do not come into effect until affirmed by the Bundestag), accredit German diplomats and receive the letters of accreditation of foreign diplomats.
According to Article 60 (2) of the German Constitution, the president has the power to pardon. This means the president "has the authority to revoke or commute penal or disciplinary sentences in individual cases. The federal president cannot, however, issue an amnesty waiving or commuting sentences for a whole category of offenses. That requires a law enacted by the Bundestag in conjunction with the Bundesrat. Due to the federal structure of Germany the federal president is only responsible for dealing with certain criminal matters (e.g. espionage and terrorism) and disciplinary proceedings against federal civil servants, federal judges, and soldiers".
It is customary that the federal president becomes the honorary godfather of the seventh child in a family if the parents wish it. He also sends letters of congratulations to centenarians and long-time married couples.
Article 81 makes it possible to enact a law without the approval of the Bundestag: if the Bundestag rejects a motion of confidence, but a new chancellor is not elected nor is the Bundestag dissolved, the chancellor can declare a draft law to be "urgent". If the Bundestag refuses to approve the draft, the cabinet can ask the federal president to declare a "legislative state of emergency" (Gesetzgebungsnotstand) with regard to that specific law proposal.
After the declaration of the president, the Bundestag has four weeks to discuss the draft law. If it does not approve it the cabinet can ask the Federal Council for approval. After the consent of the Federal Council is secured, the draft law becomes law.
There are some constraints on the "legislative state of emergency". After a president has declared the state of emergency for the first time, the government has only six months to use the procedure for other law proposals. Given the terms provided by the constitution, it is unlikely that the government can enact more than one other draft law in this way.
Also, the emergency has to be declared afresh for every proposal. This means that the six months are not a period in which the government together with the president and the Federal Council simply replaces the Bundestag as lawgiver. The Bundestag remains fully competent to pass laws during these six months. The state of emergency also ends if the office of the chancellor ends. During the same term and after the six months, the chancellor cannot use the procedure of Article 81 again.
A "legislative state of emergency" has never been declared. In case of serious disagreement between the chancellor and the Bundestag, the chancellor resigns or the Bundestag faces new elections. The provision of Article 81 is intended to assist the government for a short time, but not to use it in crisis for a longer period. According to constitutional commentator Bryde, Article 81 provides the executive (government) with the power to "enable decrees in a state of emergency" (exekutives Notverordnungsrecht), but for historical reasons the constitution avoided this expression.
Though candidates are usually selected by a political party or parties, the president nonetheless is traditionally expected to refrain from being an active member of any party after assuming office. Every president to date has let his party membership rest dormant during his term of office. Presidents have, however, spoken publicly about their personal views on political matters. The very fact that a president is expected to remain above politics usually means that when he does speak out on an issue, it is considered to be of great importance. In some cases, a presidential speech has dominated German political debate for a year or more.
According to article 81 of the German constitution, the president can declare a "Legislation Emergency" and allow the federal government and the Bundesrat to enact laws without the approval of the Bundestag. He also has important decisive power regarding the appointment of a chancellor who was elected by a relative majority only, or the dissolution of the Bundestag under certain circumstances.
It is also theoretically possible, albeit a drastic step which has not happened since 1949, that the president refuses to sign legislation merely because he disagrees with its content, thus vetoing it, or refuse to approve a cabinet appointment.In all cases in which a bill was not signed by the federal president, all presidents have claimed that the bill in question was manifestly unconstitutional. For example, in the autumn of 2006, President Köhler did so twice within three months. Also, in some cases, a president has signed a law while asking that the political parties refer the case to the Federal Constitutional Court in order to test the law's constitutionality.
The Basic Law did not create an office of Vice President, but designated the President of the Bundesrat (by constitutional custom the head of government of one of the sixteen German states, elected by the Bundesrat in a predetermined order of annual alternation) as deputy of the President of Germany (Basic Law, Article 57). If the office of president falls vacant, they temporarily assume the powers of the president and acts as head of state until a successor is elected, but does not assume the office of president as such (which would be unconstitutional, as no member of a legislature or government at federal or state level can be president at the same time). While doing so, they do not continue to exercise the role of chair of the Bundesrat.If the president is temporarily unable to perform his duties (this happens frequently, for example if the president is abroad on a state visit), he can at his own discretion delegate his powers or parts of them to the President of the Bundesrat.
If the president dies, resigns or is otherwise removed from office, a successor is to be elected within thirty days. Horst Köhler, upon his resignation on May 31, 2010, became the first president to trigger this re-election process. Jens Böhrnsen, President of the Senate and Mayor of the Free Hanseatic City of Bremen and at the time President of the Bundesrat, assumed the powers and duties of head of state.Similarly, when Christian Wulff resigned in 2012, it was Horst Seehofer, Minister-President of Bavaria, as President of the Bundesrat, who assumed the powers and duties of head of state. When Heinrich Lübke, on the other hand, announced his resignation in 1968, it only came into effect the following year, a mere three months before the scheduled end of his term and after the expedited election of his successor. Back in 1949 Karl Arnold, at the time Minister-President of North Rhine-Westphalia and President of the Bundesrat, also acted as head of state for a few days: after the Basic Law had come into effect and he himself was elected as President of the Bundesrat, the first President of Germany was not yet elected and the office therefore vacant.
None of these three presidents of the Bundesrat acting as head of state, has used any of the more important powers of the president, as for example vetoing a law or dissolving the Bundestag, although they would have been entitled to do so under the same conditions as the president.
While in office, the president enjoys immunity from prosecution and cannot be voted out of office or recalled. The only mechanism for removing the president is impeachment by the Bundestag or Bundesrat for willfully violating German law. Once the Bundestag impeaches the president, the Federal Constitutional Court is charged with determining if they are guilty of the offence. If the charge is sustained, the court has the authority to remove the president from office.
The official residence of the president is Bellevue Palace in Berlin. The president's second official residence is the Hammerschmidt Villa in Bonn, the former capital city of West Germany.
The Office of the President (Bundespräsidialamt) is a supreme federal authority. It organizes the president's work, supports the president in the performance of his duties as Head of State and coordinates his working relationships with other parts of the German government and administration. Its top official, who takes precedence over all other German state secretaries, is the Head of the Office of the President (Chef des Bundespräsidialamts). The office and its staff advise the president, informs them of all developments in domestic and foreign affairs and carries out the instructions of the president or forwards these to the corresponding ministry or authority.
The president's car is usually black, made in Germany and has the numberplate "0 – 1" with the presidential standard on the right wing of the car. The president also uses a VIP helicopter operated by the Federal Police and VIP aircraft (Bombardier Global 5000, Airbus A319CJ, Airbus A310 or A340) operated by the German Ministry of Defence. When the president is on board, the flight's callsign is "German Airforce 001".
The standard of the President of Germany was adopted on 11 April 1921, and used in this design until 1933. A slightly modified version also existed from 1926, that was used in addition to the 1921 version. In 1933, these versions were both replaced by another modified version, that was used until 1935.
The Weimar-era presidential standard from 1921 was adopted again as presidential standard by a decision by President Theodor Heuss on 20 January 1950, when he also formally adopted other Weimar-era state symbols including the coat of arms. The eagle ( Reichsadler , now called Bundesadler) in the design that was used in the coat of arms and presidential standard in the Weimar Republic and today was originally introduced by a decision by President Friedrich Ebert on 11 November 1919.
The modern-day position of German president is significantly different from the Reich President of the Weimar Republic – a position which held considerable power and was regarded as an important figure in political life.
The position of President of Germany was first established by the Weimar Constitution, which was drafted in the aftermath of World War I and the abdication of Emperor Wilhelm II in 1918. In Germany the new head of state was called the Reichspräsident .
Friedrich Ebert (SPD) served as Germany's first president, followed by Paul von Hindenburg. The office effectively came to an end upon Hindenburg's death in 1934 and its powers merged with those of chancellor. Adolf Hitler now ruled Germany as "Führer und Reichskanzler", combining his previous positions in party and government. The office, however, was not abolished and briefly revived at the end of the Second World War when Hitler appointed Grand Admiral Karl Dönitz as his successor as President of Germany. Dönitz agreed to the surrender to the Allies and was arrested a few days later.
The Weimar Constitution created a semi-presidential system in which power was divided between the president, a cabinet and a parliament. The president enjoyed far greater power than the current president and had an active political role, rather than a largely ceremonial one. The influence of the president also increased greatly as a result of the instability of the Weimar period. The president had authority to appoint the chancellor and could dismiss the entire cabinet at any time. However, it was also necessary for the cabinet to enjoy the confidence of the Reichstag (parliament) because it could be removed by a vote of no confidence.All bills had to receive the signature of the president to become law and, although he did not have an absolute veto on legislation, he could insist that a law be submitted for the approval of voters in a referendum. The president also had authority to dissolve the Reichstag, conduct foreign affairs, and command the armed forces. Article 48 of the constitution also provided the president sweeping powers in the event of a crisis. If there was a threat to "public order and security" he could legislate by decree and suspend civil rights.
The Weimar constitution provided that the president be directly elected and serve a seven-year term. The election involved a form of the two-round system. However the first president was elected by the National Assembly and subsequently only two direct presidential elections actually occurred. These were the election of Paul von Hindenburg in 1925 and his re-election in 1932.
The system created by the Weimar constitution led to a number of problems. In particular, the fact that the president could appoint the cabinet, while the Reichstag had only a power of dismissal, created a high cabinet turn-over as ministers were appointed by the president only to be dismissed by the Reichstag shortly afterwards. Eventually Hindenburg stopped trying to appoint cabinets that enjoyed the confidence of the Reichstag and ruled by means of three "presidential cabinets" (Präsidialkabinette). Hindenburg was also able to use his power of dissolution to by-pass the Reichstag. If the Reichstag threatened to censure his ministers or revoke one of his decrees he could simply dissolve the body and be able to govern without its interference until elections had been held. This led to eight Reichstag elections taking place in the 14 years of the Republic's existence; only one parliamentary term, that of 1920–1924, was completed without elections being held early.
Socialist East Germany established the office of a head of state with the title of President of the Republic (German: Präsident der Republik) in 1949, but abandoned the office with the death of the first president, Wilhelm Pieck, in 1960 in favour of a collective head of state. All government positions of the East German socialist republic, including the presidency, were appointed by the ruling Socialist Unity Party of Germany.
With the promulgation of the Grundgesetz in 1949, the office of President of the Federal Republic (in German: Bundespräsident) was created in West Germany. Partly due to the misuse of presidential powers in the Weimar Republic, the office's powers were significantly reduced. Not only is he indirectly elected, but most of the real power was transferred to the chancellor.
Because the reunification of Germany in 1990 was accomplished by the five East German states joining the Federal Republic, the president became the president of all German states.
Twelve people have served as President of the Federal Republic of Germany. Six of them were members of the CDU (Lübke, Carstens, von Weizsäcker, Herzog, Köhler, Wulff), three were members of the SPD (Heinemann, Rau, Steinmeier), two were members of the FDP (Heuss, Scheel) and one was independent (Gauck). Four presidents were ministers in the federal government before entering office (Lübke (Agriculture), Heinemann (Justice), Scheel (Foreign Affairs), Steinmeier (Foreign Affairs)), two of them (Scheel, Steinmeier) having been Vice Chancellor of Germany. Three were head of a state government (von Weizsäcker (West Berlin), Rau (North Rhine-Westphalia), Wulff (Lower Saxony)), Rau having been President of the Bundesrat. Two were members of the Bundestag (Heuss, Carstens), Carstens having been President of the Bundestag. One was president of the Federal Constitutional Court (Herzog), director of the IMF (Köhler) and Federal Commissioner for the Stasi Records (Gauck). Only four presidents (Heuss, Lübke, von Weizsäcker, Köhler) have been re-elected for a second five-year-term and only two of those (Heuss, von Weizsäcker) served the full ten years. Christian Wulff served the shortest tenure (1 year, 7 months and 18 days) of all presidents.
The president is (according to Art. 57 GG) deputised by the President of the Bundesrat who can perform any of the president's duties, if the president is temporarily unable to do so and delegates these duties to them (this frequently happens during state visits), or if the Presidency falls vacant, in which case he becomes acting head of state (not "(acting) President") until a successor is elected, which has to happen within thirty days. This has happened three times:
FDP (2) CDU (6) SPD (3) None (1)
|Previous service||Term of Office||Political Party||Deputies (Presidents of the Bundesrat, according to Art. 57 GG). Presidents of the Bundesrat, who acted as head of state because of a vacancy, in bold||Notable decisions|
|Took Office||Left Office|
|President of the Federal Republic of Germany (Bundespräsident)|
|1|| Theodor Heuss |
(Württemberg-Baden, since 1952 part of Baden-Württemberg)
|Member of the Bundestag (1949)||12 September 1949||12 September 1959||FDP||Karl Arnold (1949–1950), Hans Ehard (1950–1951), Hinrich Wilhelm Kopf (1951–1952), Reinhold Maier (1952–1953), Georg August Zinn (1953–1954), Peter Altmeier (1954–1955), Kai-Uwe von Hassel (1955–1956), Kurt Sieveking (1956–1957), Willy Brandt (1957–1958), Wilhelm Kaisen (1958–1959)||vetoed one bill|
|2|| Heinrich Lübke |
|Federal Minister of Agriculture (1953–1959)||13 September 1959||30 June 1969|
|CDU||Wilhelm Kaisen (1959), Franz Josef Röder (1959–1960), Franz Meyers (1960–1961), Hans Ehard (1961–1962), Kurt Georg Kiesinger (1962–1963), Georg Diederichs (1963–1964), Georg August Zinn (1964–1965), Peter Altmeier (1965–1966), Helmut Lemke (1966–1967), Klaus Schütz (1967–1968), Herbert Weichmann (1968–1969)||vetoed one bill|
|3|| Gustav Heinemann |
|Federal Minister of Justice (1966–1969)||1 July 1969||30 June 1974||SPD||Herbert Weichmann (1969), Franz Josef Röder (1969–1970), Hans Koschnick (1970–1971), Heinz Kühn (1971–1972), Alfons Goppel (1972–1973), Hans Filbinger (1973–1974)||vetoed two bills and dissolved the Bundestag in 1972|
|4|| Walter Scheel |
| Vice Chancellor of Germany (1969–1974)|
Federal Minister of Foreign Affairs (1969–1974)
|1 July 1974||30 June 1979||FDP||Hans Filbinger (1974), Alfred Kubel (1974–1975), Albert Osswald (1975–1976), Bernhard Vogel (1976–1977), Gerhard Stoltenberg (1977–1978), Dietrich Stobbe (1978–1979)||vetoed one bill|
|5|| Karl Carstens |
| President of the Bundestag (1976–1979)|
Member of the Bundestag (1972-1979)
|1 July 1979||30 June 1984||CDU||Dietrich Stobbe (1979), Hans-Ulrich Klose (1979–1980), Werner Zeyer (1980–1981), Hans Koschnick (1981–1982), Johannes Rau (1982–1983), Franz Josef Strauß (1983–1984)||dissolved the Bundestag in 1982|
|6|| Richard von Weizsäcker |
(Berlin, until 1990 West Berlin)
|Governing Mayor of Berlin (1981–1984)||1 July 1984||30 June 1994||CDU||Franz Josef Strauß (1984), Lothar Späth (1984–1985), Ernst Albrecht (1985–1986), Holger Börner (1986–1987), Walter Wallmann (1987), Bernhard Vogel (1987–1988), Björn Engholm (1988–1989), Walter Momper (1989–1990), Henning Voscherau (1990–1991), Alfred Gomolka (1991–1992), Berndt Seite (1992), Oskar Lafontaine (1992–1993), Klaus Wedemeier (1993–1994)||vetoed one bill|
|7|| Roman Herzog |
|President of the Federal Constitutional Court of Germany (1987–1994)||1 July 1994||30 June 1999||CDU||Klaus Wedemeier (1994), Johannes Rau (1994–1995), Edmund Stoiber (1995–1996), Erwin Teufel (1996–1997), Gerhard Schröder (1997–1998), Hans Eichel (1998–1999), Roland Koch (1999)|
|8|| Johannes Rau |
| President of the Bundesrat (1982–1983 and 1994–1995)|
Minister President of North Rhine-Westphalia (1978–1998)
|1 July 1999||30 June 2004||SPD||Roland Koch (1999), Kurt Biedenkopf (1999–2000), Kurt Beck (2000–2001), Klaus Wowereit (2001–2002), Wolfgang Böhmer (2002–2003), Dieter Althaus (2003–2004)|
|9|| Horst Köhler |
|Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund (2000–2004)||1 July 2004||31 May 2010|
|CDU||Dieter Althaus (2004), Matthias Platzeck (2004–2005), Peter Harry Carstensen (2005–2006), Harald Ringstorff (2006–2007), Ole von Beust (2007–2008), Peter Müller (2008–2009), Jens Böhrnsen (2009–2010)||vetoed two bills and dissolved the Bundestag in 2005|
|10|| Christian Wulff |
|Minister President of Lower Saxony (2003–2010)||30 June 2010||17 February 2012|
|CDU||Jens Böhrnsen (2010), Hannelore Kraft (2010–2011), Horst Seehofer (2011–2012)|
|11|| Joachim Gauck |
|Federal Commissioner for the Stasi Records (1990–2000)||18 March 2012||18 March 2017||Independent||Horst Seehofer (2012), Winfried Kretschmann (2012–2013), Stephan Weil (2013–2014), Volker Bouffier (2014–2015), Stanislaw Tillich (2015–2016), Malu Dreyer (2016–2017)|
|12|| Frank-Walter Steinmeier |
| Vice Chancellor of Germany (2007–2009)|
Federal Minister of Foreign Affairs (2005–2009 and 2013–2017)
|19 March 2017||18 March 2022||SPD||Malu Dreyer (2017), Michael Müller (2017–2018), Daniel Günther (incumbent until 31 October 2019)|
In Germany, former presidents are usually referred to as Altbundespräsidenten (President emeritus). There are three living former German presidents:
Germany is a democratic, federal parliamentary republic, where federal legislative power is vested in the Bundestag and the Bundesrat.
The Federal Chancellor of the Federal Republic of Germany is, under the German 1949 Constitution, the head of government of Germany. Historically, the office has evolved from the office of chancellor that was originally established in the North German Confederation in 1867.
The Basic Law for the Federal Republic of Germany is the constitution of the Federal Republic of Germany.
The constructive vote of no confidence is a variation on the motion of no confidence that allows a parliament to withdraw confidence from a head of government only if there is a positive majority for a prospective successor. The principle is intended to ensure that a replacement head of government has enough parliamentary support to govern.
The German Bundesrat is a legislative body that represents the sixteen Länder of Germany at the national level. The Bundesrat meets at the former Prussian House of Lords in Berlin. Its second seat is located in the former West German capital of Bonn.
Karl Carstens was a German politician. He served as President of the Federal Republic of Germany from 1979 to 1984.
Theodor Heuss was a West German liberal politician who served as the first President of the Federal Republic of Germany from 1949 to 1959. Beside the stern chancellor Konrad Adenauer, Heuss' cordial manners largely contributed to the stabilization of democracy in West Germany during the Wirtschaftswunder years.
Topics related to Germany include:
The Reichsrat was one of two legislative bodies in Germany during Weimar Republic (1919–1933), the other being the Reichstag.
Christian Wilhelm Walter Wulff is a German politician and lawyer. He served as President of Germany from 2010 to 2012. A member of the Christian Democratic Union, he served as Prime Minister of the state of Lower Saxony from 2003 to 2010. He was elected President in the 30 June 2010 presidential election, defeating opposition candidate Joachim Gauck and taking office immediately, although he was not sworn in until 2 July.
The Parlamentarischer Rat was the West German constituent assembly in Bonn that drafted and adopted the constitution of West Germany, the Basic Law for the Federal Republic of Germany, promulgated on 23 May 1949.
The Cabinet of Germany is the chief executive body of the Federal Republic of Germany. It consists of the Chancellor and the cabinet ministers. The fundamentals of the cabinet's organization as well as the method of its election and appointment as well as the procedure for its dismissal are set down in articles 62 through 69 of the Grundgesetz.
In Germany, the President of the Bundesrat or President of the Federal Council is the chairperson or speaker of the Bundesrat. He or she is elected by the Bundesrat for a term of one year. Traditionally, the Presidency of the Bundesrat rotates among the leaders of the sixteen state governments. This is however only an established praxis, theoretically the Bundesrat is free to elect any member it chooses, and a President could also be re-elected. As well as acting as a chairperson the President of the Bundesrat is ex officio deputy of the President of Germany.
The history of Germany since 1990 spans the period following the Reunification of Germany, when West Germany and East Germany were reunited after being divided during the Cold War. Germany after 1990 is referred to by historians as the Berlin Republic. This time period is also determined by the ongoing process of the "inner reunification" of the formerly divided country.
An indirect presidential election was held in Germany on 30 June 2010 following the resignation of Horst Köhler as President of Germany on 31 May 2010. Christian Wulff, the candidate nominated by the three governing parties, the Christian Democratic Union, the Christian Social Union of Bavaria and the Free Democratic Party, was elected President in the third ballot. His main contender was the candidate of two opposition parties, the Social Democratic Party and the Alliance '90/The Greens, independent anti-communist human rights activist Joachim Gauck.
The election of the first President of the Federal Republic of Germany was held on 12 September 1949, following the first Bundestag election of August 14, 1949 and coalition talks/ negotiations between CDU/CSU, FDP and German Party (DP).
The Reichstag was the Lower house of the Weimar Republic's Legislature from 1919, with the creation of the Weimar constitution, to 1933, with the Reichstag fire.
Die Vizepräsidenten vertreten den Präsidenten im Falle seiner Verhinderung oder bei vorzeitiger Beendigung seines Amtes nach Maßgabe ihrer Reihenfolge. Ein Fall der Verhinderung liegt auch vor, solange der Präsident des Bundesrates nach Artikel 57 des Grundgesetzes die Befugnisse des Bundespräsidenten wahrnimmt.
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