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Politics of Germany take place in a framework of a federal parliamentary representative democratic republican constitutional monarchy. The Chancellor is the head of government, appointed by the Kaiser, and approved by the Reichstag. He is the leader of a plurality multi-party system. The federal legislative power is vested in the parliament (Reichstag) and the Reichsrat as the representation of the regional states. Since 1947, the party system has been dominated by the National Liberal Party (NLP) and the Christian Democratic Union (CDU).
The Judiciary of Germany is independent of the executive and the legislature. The political system is laid out in the 1871 constitution, as well as the 1948 Volksverfassung, essentially an addendum to the 1871 Constitution, with minor amendments since.
The constitution emphasizes the protection of individual liberty and an extensive catalog of human rights, and also divides powers between both the federal and state levels of government; federally it divides powers between the legislative, executive, and judicial branches, providing for a series of checks and balances on their powers.
Style of Government
The German government can be said to be a constitutional monarchy, but it may be more accurate to describe it as a "federal parliamentary representative democratic-republican constitutional monarchy." That is:
- It is a federal system, possessing divided state and federal responsibilities and spheres of power; each one guards against encroachment by the other on its delegated powers
- It is a parliamentary system, operating similarly to the British parliament with multi-party coalitions and having a prime minister or chancellor; in the 1948 Volksverfassung, a number of American ideas entered into the system, however, with an even number of members per state in the Reichsrat.
- It is a representative democracy by ensuring that all the people of Germany have the right to vote and express themselves, and have the right to representation at all levels of government
- It is a representative republic in that the people of Germany elect representatives who give them a voice at the state and federal level
- It is a constitutional monarchy by having a Kaiser, or king, who acts as the chief executive of the country, while also having a constitutional limit to his powers.
Federal Executive Branch
The federal executive is the German Kaiser, who is the head of state and in many ways, the head of government. The Reichskanzler is the day-to-day head of government, who runs the operations of the government and its various ministries, implementing the Kaiser's political programs.
The Kaiser is also the King of Prussia, and represents the entire German nation. He can be removed from the throne by a plebiscite upon the vote of two-thirds of the Reichstag. A rejection of such a vote would act as a 'vote of confidence' in the Kaiser and force the Reichstag to be dissolved.
Reich officials and civil servants (including the chancellor and ministers) are appointed and removed by the authority of the Kaiser, who also has supreme command of the armed forces, as their commander-in-chief.
Prussia today is no longer a single unitary state, but rather the states formerly unified as Prussia act independently under the German Constitution. As such, the title 'King of Prussia' is more ceremonial in practice, and is more meaningful in the states of East Prussia, West Prussia, New East Prussia, South Prussia, and Brandenburg.
The Kaiser has the authority to declare war and make peace, represent the Empire abroad, conclude treaties and alliances (with consent of the Reichsrat), and appoint and receive ambassadors of foreign nations. In the case of a non-defensive war being declared, the consent of the Bundesrat is required. The office of the Kaiser is responsible for executing all the laws of Germany, as well as preparing and publishing all imperial laws.
The Kaiser also has the authority to convene the Reichsrat and Reichstag. Ceremonially, the Kaiser often gives an 'Imperial Address' much like the American President's 'State of the Union', however, the Kaiser is not constitutionally required to make this address on a yearly basis.
The Reichskanzler or Imperial Chancellor, is responsible to both the Kaiser and the Reichstag. He forms a cabinet based on the Kaiser's nominations, and attempts to get the Kaiser's legislative program passed through both chambers of the German Parliament. The Chancellor has a vote in the Reichstag, having historically been a member of the chamber, though it is more common since 1948 that the Chancellor is not a member of that house, and now votes in the event of a tie.
Duties of the Chancellor
- supervise conduct of business of the federal council and the ministries
- sign laws as passed by both the Reichsrat and Reichstag, testifying to the validity of their method of passage, and presenting them to the Kaiser for his signature to allow the legislation to become law
- make recommendations to the Kaiser based on pressing concerns or needs in the Empire for laws to be passed to address those concerns
The federal legislature of Germany consists of two chambers, the Reichstag and the Reichsrat. The Reichstag is based on proportional representation, with the number of representatives based on the population of a state; the Reichsrat is based on equal representation of all states, each having 4 members.
The imperial legislature has exclusive authority in the following areas:
- foreign relations, colonial affairs, citizenship
- freedom of movement
- immigration, emigration, and extradition.
- currency and coinage and measurements
- customs and trade
- postal service
- establishment of common regulation for telephone, telegraph, and television services