The kind of federalism set forth in the Basic Law is based on German federal traditions and differs from the federal system of the United States. German federalism concentrates legislative power at the federal level and places administrative and judicial powers at the state level. Each state has a popularly elected legislature, which chooses a minister-president or a first mayor (in Hamburg and Bremen) to serve as chief executive. However, the Basic Law subordinates most state legislative powers to the federal government. The states formulate some educational and cultural policies, maintain police, and administer all laws.
The key German federal institution is the Bundesrat (Federal Council), which is the representative of the state governments and has the final say in disputes between states and between the states and the federal government.
The Bundesrat is the upper house of parliament but its members are state ministers or civil servants and are not elected; instead their respective state governments appoint them. The four largest German states—North Rhine-Westphalia, Lower Saxony, Baden-Württemberg, and Bavaria—are in the west and tend to dominate in the Bundesrat.
Germany has a parliamentary head of government, or prime minister, called the chancellor. The chancellor is chosen by a majority vote of the popularly elected lower house of parliament, the Bundestag (Federal Assembly), usually by a coalition of parties.
The chancellor selects a cabinet of ministers from among the parties in the coalition. The Basic Law gives the chancellor the authority to determine the guidelines of government policy and to select and dismiss the ministers.
The chancellor can be removed from office only if the Bundestag elects a successor or when the Bundestag itself is reelected. Due to the existence of strong, disciplined parties, Germany has a stable system of government with little turnover.
The federal president, who acts as the head of state, is elected for a five-year term by the Bundesversammlung (Federal Convention), which consists of the members of the Bundestag and an equal number of members from the state legislatures. The president’s functions are largely ceremonial and nonpartisan. The president receives foreign ambassadors and promulgates laws but has no authority to make policy. "Germany" © Emmanuel BUCHOT, Encarta, Wikipedia
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