Politics and Government in Germany, 1944-1994: Basic Documents

By Carl-Christoph Schweitzer; Detlev Karsten et al. | Go to book overview

9
Chancellor, Cabinet, and President

Donald P. Kommers

E xecutive authority in the Federal Republic is vested in the federal chancellor (Bundeskanzler) and his cabinet, collectively known as the federal government (Bundesregierung). The federal president (Bundespräsident) is the Federal Republic's highest ranking public official, but he functions mainly as a ceremonial head of state, a vestigial reminder of the once-thriving presidency in the Weimar Republic. The Basic Law concentrates effective political power--and leadership--in the hands of the chancellor. He is responsible for determining the general policies of the government, he decides on the number of ministries to be established within the cabinet, and he appoints all cabinet ministers who in turn are directly responsible to him. The cabinet's standing orders (Geschäftsordnung der Bundesregierung), which require the approval of the federal president (Docs.1 and 4), govern the process of decision-making in the cabinet. These procedures bind the chancellor as well as all cabinet members.

Constitutionally responsible for setting forth the general guidelines of national policy (Art. 65), the chancellor could theoretically maintain his position even against the wishes of a parliamentary majority, a power that flows from the so-called constructive vote of no-confidence. Under Article 67 of the Basic Law, the Bundestag may dismiss the chancellor only when a majority of its members simultaneously elects his successor. The constructive vote of no-confidence has succeeded only once, in 1982, when the Bundestag voted Helmut Schmidt out of office after the FDP's withdrawal from the coalition cabinet (see also Ch. 7). The stabilizing effect of Article 67, together with the fourteen-year tenure and the legacy of strong leadership provided by West Germany's first chancellor, Konrad Adenauer, has led many observers to characterize the Federal Republic a 'chancellor democracy'.

One of the most powerful instruments of executive leadership today is the Office of the Federal Chancellor (Bundeskanzleramt), which is analogous to the White House Office of the United States President and to some extent also to the Offices of the British and

-239-

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Politics and Government in Germany, 1944-1994: Basic Documents
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Preface to the First Edition xv
  • Preface to the Second Edition xvii
  • Introduction xix
  • 1 - The Origins of The Federal Republic Of Germany, 1944-1949 1
  • 2 - Berlin 29
  • 3 - The Two Germanies 48
  • 4 - Germany Reunited 1989--Her First Successful Revolution, And a Peaceful One 76
  • 5 - Foreign Policy 108
  • 6 - Defence Policy and the Armed Forces 150
  • 7 - Parliamentary Democracy: The Bundestag 175
  • 8 - Political Parties 201
  • 9 - Chancellor, Cabinet, and President 239
  • 10 - The Judiciary 272
  • 11 - Basic Rights And Constitutional Review 297
  • 12 - Federalism: Bund and Länder 325
  • 13 - Public Opinion: Interest Groups and the Media 371
  • 14 - Economic and Social Policy 401
  • Statistical Tables 432
  • Glossary 446
  • Select Bibliography 449
  • Notes on the Editors 458
  • Index 460
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