The Bundesrepublik Deutschland (Federal Republic of Germany) came into being in 1949 with the proclamation of theGrundgesetz (Constitutional Law) which emphasizes the protection of individual liberty and human rights and also splits powers both between the federal and state levels and between the legislative, executive, and judicial branches.
Since the reunification, after the collapse of the socialist eastern German state in 1990, the Federal Republic of Germany consists of 16 federal states. The political systems of the individual states or Bundesländer are prescribed by state constitutions, but resemble the federal constitution. Police, education, cultural and communal affairs are handled by state legislature. Elections for the parliaments of the Bundesländer are held every four to five years, depending on the state. The heads of the federal states’ governments are calledMinisterpräsidenten. They form the federal institution of the Bundesrat which plays an important role in approving and controlling German federal legislation.
The German federal legislature – the parliament – is called Bundestag. It resides in the Reichstag building in the capital of Berlin. Its members are elected every 4 years. A party must have at least 5% of the vote to be represented in the Bundestag. This rule is part of the constitution and aimed to prevent political fragmentation.
The Bundestag elects the Bundeskanzler (Federal Chancellor) which heads the Bundesregierung (Federal Cabinet) and thus the executive branch of the federal government. The Chancellor usually belongs to the party with the most seats in parliament, supported by a coalition of two or more parties with a majority in the parliament. He appoints a Vizekanzler (Vice-Chancellor), who is a member of his cabinet, usually the Foreign Affairs Minister.
First person in Germany’s political system is the Bundespräsident (Federal President). However, his duties are largely representative and ceremonial; power is exercised by the Chancellor. The President is elected every 5 years by the Bundesversammlung (Federal Assembly).
Germany has an independent judiciary branch that handles civil and criminal cases, which is in turn comprised of four levels of courts up to the Bundesgerichtshof. Besides, there are separate branches for administrative, tax, labor, and social security issues. In addition, Germany has a powerful Bundesverfassungsgericht(Constitutional Court). This is somewhat unique since the Grundgesetz stipulates in principle that every person may file a complaint to that court when he feels his constitutional rights or human rights have been violated by the state.