Federal President – staatsrecht.honikel.de

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The Federal President is the head of state of the Federal Republic (Article 59 I GG). Protocolary the office of the Federal President is the highest state office, actually his power is very reduced.


Bellevue Palace  in Berlin – Residence of the Federal President


The Federal President represents the Federal Republic according to international law (Article 59 I GG).

Article 59 I

The Federal President shall represent the Federation in terms of international law. He shall conclude treaties with foreign states on behalf of the Federation. He shall accredit and receive envoys.

He is not politically responsible with the fulfilment of his tasks. This becomes clear by the countersignature, also the neccesary signature of one member of the Federal Government, at the signing of laws (Article 58 GG), one of the most important tasks of the Federal President. Without countersignature he suggests for example the Federal Chancellor candidates, appoints the Federal Chancellor and dismisses him, dissolves the Bundestag (Article 63 IV GG) and obligates the Federal Chancellor or a Federal Minister to the continuation of their business.

Furthermore he exercises the power of pardon of the Federation (Article 60 II GG) and appoints and/or dismisses federal officials, Federal High Court judges, as well as officers and NCOS (Article 60 I GG).

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Eligibility (Article 54 I GG)

Each German, who has the right to vote to the Bundestag and aged 40 years or more is electable. An reelection is permissible only once.

Article 54 I

The Federal President shall be elected by the Federal Convention without debate. Any German who is entitled to vote in Bundestag elections and has attained the age of forty may be elected.

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Election by the federal convention (Article 54 GG)

The election of the Federal President takes place via the Federal Convention, a special organ, which possesses only this function and meets only for the election.

The Federal Convention consists to the half of all delegates of the Bundestag (legal number + overhang mandates) and to the half of other members elected from the parliaments of the Laender on the basis of proportional representation. These other members do not need to be members of the parliaments of the Laender, often the parliaments of the Laender elect famous persons to the Federal Convention.

Article 54 III

The Federal Convention shall consist of the Members of the Bundestag and an equal number of members elected by the parliaments of the Länder on the basis of proportional representation.

Leader of the Federal Convention is the President of the Bundestag.

The election wins the candidate who receives the absolute majority of the votes (Article 121 GG) of the Federal Convention. If this is not reached in two ballots, then the relative majority in a third ballot (Article 54 VI GG) decides.

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Term of office (Article 54 II S 1 GG)

The term of office of the Federal President takes 5 years. Because one reelection is allowed a Federal President can be 10 years in his office

An early termination of the office of the Federal President can occur by death, resignation or in the case of the successful accusation of the Federal President at the Federal Constitutional Court (Article 61 GG).

In the case of the prevention of the Federal President or with premature completion of its office he will be represented by the president of the Bundesrat (Article 57 GG).

Article 54 II

The term of office of the Federal President shall be five years. Reelection for a consecutive term shall be permitted only once.

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In order to secure his neutrality, the Federal President may belong neither to the government nor another legislative body of the Federation or a Land (Article 55 I GG). Also another paid office, a trade or an occupation is not allowed. Also the membership in the management or in the supervisory board of an enterprise directed toward acquisition is forbidden (Article 55 II GG). A honour is however allowed.

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He has, like the delegates of the Bundestag, the right of immunity (Article 60 IV GG)

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Previous Federal Presidents

Theodor Heuss FDP 1949 - 1959
Heinrich Lübke CDU 1959 - 1969
Gustav W. Heinemann SPD 1969 - 1974
Walter Scheel FDP 1974 - 1979
Karl Carstens CDU 1979 - 1984
Richard von Weizsäcker CDU 1984 - 1994
Roman Herzog CDU 1994 - 1999
Johannes Rau SPD 1999 - 2004
Horst Köhler CDU 2004 - 2010
Christian Wulff CDU 2010 - 2012
Joachim Gauck Impartially 2012 - 2017
Frank-Walter Steinmeier SPD Since 2017

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