Tue, Jun. 01, 2010

King of the Castle

GKM - Washington   Today, the headline of the German magazine Spiegel proclaims with an allusion to Schloss Bellevue, Berlin residence of Germanys President, that The Castle is Looking for a Boss. Federal president, Bundespräsident, Horst Köhler set political Germany in a state of shock after resigning yesterday from office and hereby leaving Germany without a head of state. Köhler is not the first president to finish his time in office preterm by resigning, but the first to do so with immediate effect.

The German constitution, Grundgesetz, GG, provides exact procedural rules for this situation: Pursuant to Art. 54 IV GG, new elections have to take place within 30 calendar days. In the meantime, the president of the federal council, Bundesrat, will be the acting president of the federation, Art. 57 GG.

Unlike the President of the United States of America, the Bundespräsident serves only as the head of state, but not as head of government. He is not elected by the people -- neither directly nor through electorals -- but by a constitutional organ, an electoral committee called the Bundesversammlung, Art. 54 I GG, whose sole purpose is the election of the federal president. Half of its members are members of the German Parliament, Bundestag. The 16 state parliaments, Landtage, then dispatch an equal numer of delegates. The number of delegates that each state can send to the election is proportional to its population figure.

The number of the members of parliament may vary from term to term. Currently it consists of 622 members, which means that the electoral committee will comprise no more than 1244 electors.

Pursuant to Art. 54 VI GG, a candidate wins the election with an absolute majority. If an absolute majority is not attained, then a second round of voting follows. If an absolute majority is once again not attained, then the candidate with the most votes -- meaning a simple majority -- wins the election. There will be no third round.

The discussion over possible successors has already erupted and it remains to be seen who will be the new Boss in the Schloss.


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