Germany’s federal parliament consists of two legislative bodies, the Bundestag and the Bundesrat. The Bundestag is popularly elected at intervals of no more than four years. All citizens who are 18 years of age or older may vote. The number of seats in the Bundestag varies from election to election; there were 614 seats in 2005.
Bundestag seats are determined by a two-part electoral process. German voters cast two votes: one to select a candidate for their district, and the other to select a particular party. Half of the seats are filled by directly elected candidates, while the other half are filled based on the percentage of the total vote that each party receives.
The final distribution of each party’s seats is also adjusted in proportion to the total popular vote. A party must have at least three candidates directly elected or receive a minimum of 5 percent of the national popular vote to win representation. The Bundestag is organized into topical legislative committees, such as for foreign affairs and for agriculture. The committees discuss and modify appropriate bills, but nearly all bills originate with the chancellor’s cabinet.
The members of the Bundesrat are appointed by the 16 state governments. Representation is determined by population, with each state having no less than three and no more than six seats. The ratio of seats favors the smaller states because it gives them a veto over any action that requires a two-thirds majority, such as constitutional amendments.
Each state delegation must vote as a block and according to the instructions of its state government. In its legislative role, the Bundesrat has only a suspensive veto (whereby it can delay but not actually prevent the passage of bills approved by the Bundestag) over most legislation. The exception to this is bills that deal with the administrative responsibilities of the state governments, which are the more important bills before parliament. On these, the Bundesrat has a veto, which cannot be overridden."Germany" © Emmanuel BUCHOT, Encarta, Wikipedia
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