Germany: Political structure

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Official name

Bundesrepublik Deutschland (Federal Republic of Germany)
Legal system

Based on the Grundgesetz (Basic Law) of 1949

Unification

The states (Lander) of the former German Democratic Republic (East Germany) acceded to the Federal Republic on October 3rd 1990

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National legislature

Bicameral parliament. Bundestag (lower house) currently with 613 members (298 directly elected from individual constituencies; 315 elected through party lists in each state, so as to obtain proportional representation).

Parties must win at least 5% of the national vote, or three constituency seats, to gain representation. The Bundesrat (upper house) consists of members nominated by the 16 state governments

National elections

September 18th 2005 (Bundestag); the next regular election will be in September 2009

Head of state

Federal president, elected for a maximum of two five-year terms by the Federal Assembly, consisting of members of the Bundestag and representatives of the state legislatures. The current president is Horst Kohler. The next presidential election will be in May 2008

State legislature

Each state has an elected legislature. State governments and parliaments have considerable responsibilities, including education and policing

National government

The federal government is led by the chancellor, elected by the Bundestag on the nomination of the federal president. A new government was formed on November 22nd 2005, headed by the CDU leader, Angela Merkel

Main political parties

The government is composed of a coalition of the Christian Democratic Union (CDU), its sister party, the Christian Social Union (CSU) and the Social Democratic Party of Germany (SPD). The opposition parties represented in parliament are the Free Democratic Party (FDP), the Left Party and the Green Party

Chancellor: Angela Merkel (CDU)

Deputy chancellor & foreign affairs: Frank-Walter Steinmeier (SPD)

Key ministers

Defence: Franz Josef Jung (CDU)

Economic co-operation & development: Heidemarie Wieczorek-Zeul (SPD)

Economics & technology: Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg (CSU)

Education & research: Annette Schavan (CDU)

Environment, nature conservation & nuclear safety: Sigmar Gabriel (SPD)

Family affairs, senior citizens, women & youth: Ursula von der Leyen (CDU)

Finance: Peer Steinbruck (SPD)

Food, agriculture & consumer protection: Ilse Aigner (CSU)

Health: Ulla Schmidt (SPD)

Interior: Wolfgang Schauble (CDU)

Justice: Brigitte Zypries (SPD)

Labour & social affairs: Olaf Scholz (SPD)

Transport, building & urban affairs: Wolfgang Tiefensee (SPD)

President of the central bank

Axel Weber