On February 13, 2022, Frank-Walter Steinmeier was re-elected President of Germany. This left a lot of people unfamiliar with the German political system wondering… What does the German President do? And how is the German President Elected? The system is much different from the presidential election in the USA… but then, the job of German President is quite different than the job of American President. Let me see if I can explain it to you.
What does the German President Do?
Germany has a Parliamentary system of government, and the Chancellor is the leading political figure… what does that leave for the President? What exactly does the German President do? The President of Germany is more of a ceremonial figure, but with some key powers. What exactly does the German President do?
Think the role as being similar to the British Queen. The German President represents the German people, at home and abr0ad. They oversee the lawmakers and executive branch to insure that they are doing their jobs within the scope of the German constitution. While the President has Veto Power, the position can not stop laws from being passed… they can only be then passed along to the Federal Constitutional Court for legal vetting.
The President also appoints and dismisses judges, civil servants, and military officers.
The German President visits German States or Länder as representative of the federal government, giving speeches, attending cultural events, and awarding honors. Another part of the job is to represent Germany in international and political gatherings, hosting State dignitaries and foreign envoys.
Perhaps the most important function of the German President is to appoint and fire the chancellor in the lower house of the Bundestag… as well as hire and fire cabinet members.
Where is the German President’s office?
The President of Germany has an office in Schloss Bellevue, on the north side of the Tiergarten, close to the Siegessäule. The 220 person staff operates out of a new building right next door.
How is the German President Elected?
In Germany, the President is not voted into office by general election. That is, the people of Germany are not handed a ballot to choose their president. This means, there is no campaigning, debating or community meetings for the citizens to choose their president. INSTEAD… the President of Germany is elected by a committee, known as a Federal Convention. The Federal convention is made up of ALL 598 of the members of the Bundestag (the German almost equivalent of our Congress) along with an equal number of representatives (so another 598) from the 16 German States. The representatives from the states are chosen by their state… and the number each state sends is in proportion to the population. These representatives are not necessarily politicians, sometimes they are known public figures.
When the Federal Convention convenes, candidates are nominated by members of the convention. The nominees for German President must be at least 40 years old.
There are up to three rounds of voting in a secret ballot. If after the first round, no one candidate receives an absolute majority of the votes (over 50%), another round of voting is held. New candidates may be named for the second round of voting. If the second round of voting does not lead to a winner with an absolute majority vote, a third round of voting is held. Again, new candidates can be added to the ballot at this point. The third round does not require an absolute majority, the winner just has to have more votes than everyone else.
The president-elect then has 2 days to decide if they want the job which lasts for a term of 5 years. There is a 2 term limit to the German Presidency.
Learn about how the German Chancellor is Elected HERE–> German Chancellor
Want to learn more about Germany… take a look at these books