Germany is a parliamentary democracy governed under the constitution of 1949, which became the constitution of a united Germany in 1990. The federal president is the head of state but has little influence on government. The president is elected for a five-year term by a federal convention, which meets only for this purpose and consists of the Bundestag and an equal number of members elected by the state parliaments. The chancellor, elected by an absolute majority of the Bundestag for a four-year term, is the head of government. There is a bicameral Parliament. The Bundesrat, or Federal Council (the upper house), has 69 seats, with each state having three to six representatives depending on the state's population. The Bundestag, or Federal Assembly (the lower house), has 598 deputies who are elected for four years using a mixed system of proportional representation and direct voting; additional seats are added when a party wins more seats through direct voting than it would have by proportional representation alone.
Germany is divided into 16 states ( Länder ). Each state has its own constitution, legislature, and government, which can pass laws on all matters except those, such as defense, foreign affairs, and finance, that are the exclusive right of the federal government. The states are Schleswig-Holstein, Lower Saxony, Bremen, Hamburg, Mecklenburg–West Pomerania, North Rhine–Westphalia, Saxony–Anhalt, Brandenburg, Berlin Hesse, Thuringia, SaxonyRhineland-Palatinate, Saarland, Baden-Württemberg, and Bavaria.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.