The Federal Government steers and manages the politics (government). Also it organizes the political conditions by concrete measures (Administration).
Formation of government (Article 63 and 64 GG)
The formation of government consists of two steps.
First the Federal Chancellor is elected by the Bundestag and appointed by the Federal President.
Subsequently, the Federal Chancellor suggests his minister candidates for appointment by the Federal President. The number of the ministers is not fixed in the Basic Law (but in the budgetary law) an changes from government to government).
Article 63 I and II
(1) The Federal Chancellor shall be elected by the Bundestag without debate on the proposal of the Federal President.
(2) The person who receives the votes of a majority of the Members of the Bundestag shall be elected. The person elected shall be appointed by the Federal President.
The Federal Chancellor and the Federal Ministers may belong to the Bundestag, but they must not exercise another paid office, a trade and an occupation and they are allowed only with agreement of the Bundestag to belong to the supervision advice of an enterprise aligned to acquisition (Article 66 GG).
Practice of the government (Article 65 GG)
The Basic Law describes and rules the work of the Federal Government with the following three principles:
Guideline principle / Chancellor principle (Article 65 S 1 GG)
The Federal Chancellor determines the guidelines of the policy. He alone takes the parliamentary responsibility for it.
Department principle (Article 65 S 2 GG)
Within the guidelines given by the Federal Chancellor the ministers are responsible for their ministries themselves and lead these solely responsible.
Collegeau principle (for example Article 76, 80, 81 I, 52 II GG).
The members of the Federal Government as a whole are in principle equal. In the cabinet meeting they have the same right to vote.
The Federal Chancellor leads the presidency in the cabinet (Minister round)("First among equals.")
The Federal Chancellor shall determine and be responsible for the general guidelines of policy. Within these limits each Federal Minister shall conduct the affairs of his department independently and on his own responsibility. The Federal Government shall resolve differences of opinion between Federal Ministers. The Federal Chancellor shall conduct the proceedings of the Federal Government in accordance with rules of procedure adopted by the Government and approved by the Federal President.
Federal Government and Bundestag
The Federal Government needs the agreement of the majority in parliament and depends therefore on the Bundestag. This becomes clearly through:
- the election of the Federal Chancellor by the majority of the Bundestag
- the possibilities of control of the Bundestag
- the constructional vote of no confidence / (the question of confidence to the Bundestag)
Possibilities of control of the Bundestag
The Bundestag can call for the presence of the cabinet members (Article 43 GG). It can also claim information from the Federal Government.
Constructional vote of no confidence (Article 67 GG)
With the constructional vote of no confidence the Bundestag can overthrow the Federal Chancellor and with him the whole Federal Government.
The Bundestag elects a new Federal Chancellor with the majority of its members (Article 121 GG) (First step). If the Bundestag has elected a new Federal Chancellor, the Federal President must dismiss the previous Federal Chancellor (Second step) and appoint the newly elected. With the previous Federal Chancellor the entire Federal Government withdraws.
Because with a constructional vote of no confidence a chancellor cannot be simply dropped, but a new one has to be elected first, the constructional vote of no confidence makes it more difficult to overthrow the Federal Government and it avoids governmentless times.
A constructional vote of no confidence against single ministers is not possible.
(1) The Bundestag may express its lack of confidence in the Federal Chancellor only by electing a successor by the vote of a majority of its Members and requesting the Federal President to dismiss the Federal Chancellor. The Federal President must comply with the request and appoint the person elected.
(2) Forty-eight hours shall elapse between the motion and the election.
Question of confidence (Article 68 GG)
At the question of confidence the initiative proceeds from the Federal Chancellor. If the Federal Chancellor considers it political necessary to assure himself of the majority of the Bundestag, for example because his majority is not safe he can place the request "to express to him the confidence" in the Bundestag.
To force the confidence of the Bundestag, the Federal Chancellor has, as a pressure to the Bundestag, the possibility to suggest either the dissolution of the Bundestag or the announcing of the the legislation state of emergency (Article 81 GG) in the case of an refusal of the Question of confidence.
The question of confidence can also be used as a possibility to force new elections to the Bundestag, if the majority of the Bundestag and the Federal President play along.
(1) If a motion of the Federal Chancellor for a vote of confidence is not supported by the majority of the Members of the Bundestag, the Federal President, upon the proposal of the Federal Chancellor, may dissolve the Bundestag within twenty-one days. The right of dissolution shall lapse as soon as the Bundestag elects another Federal Chancellor by the vote of a majority of its Members.
(2) Forty-eight hours shall elapse between the motion and the vote.
The completition of government activity
The office of the Federal Chancellor ends with the first meeting of a new Bundestag (Article 69 II GG), by a successful constructional vote (Article 67 GG), by free resignation or the death of the chancellor.
The office of the Federal Ministers ends upon expiration of the office of the Federal Chancellor (Article 69 II GG), by dismissal on suggestion of the Federal Chancellor (Article 64 I GG), by dismissal on own request or by the death of the minister.
Article 69 II
The tenure of office of the Federal Chancellor or of a Federal Minister shall end in any event when a new Bundestag convenes; the tenure of office of a Federal Minister shall also end on any other occasion on which the Federal Chancellor ceases to hold office.
Previous federal chancellors
|Konrad Adenauer||CDU||1949 - 1963|
|Ludwig Erhard||CDU||1963 - 1966|
|Kurt Georg Kiesinger||CDU||1966 - 1969|
|Willy Brandt||SPD||1969 - 1974|
|Helmut Schmidt||SPD||1974 - 1982|
|Helmut Kohl||CDU||1982 - 1998|
|Gerhard Schröder||SPD||1998 - 2005|
|Angela Merkel||CDU||since 2005|