Today in History
Travel to Germany
Facts About Germany
Thirty Years' War
German Chocolate Cake
How To in Germany
German Government and Politics
As of mid 1995, Germany was a country coming to terms with the recent
unification of its western and eastern portions following four decades
of Cold War division. Achieved in October 1990, German unification consisted,
in effect, of the incorporation of the German Democratic Republic (GDR,
or East Germany) into the Federal Republic of Germany (FRG, or West Germany).
Thus, the unified country, rather than reflecting a mix of both states'
systems, largely represented a continuation of the West German political
and economic system. West German chancellor Helmut Kohl preferred this
"fast track" to unification, outlined in Article 23 of the West German
Basic Law, or constitution, because he feared that international circumstances
might change and the chance for unification might be missed. The alternative
path to unification, detailed in Article 146, would have required the
replacement of the Basic Law with a constitution developed specifically
for a unified Germany.
During the summer of 1990, the governments of the two German states drafted
a 1,000-page treaty outlining the terms of political union. The document
explained how the political structures and policies of West Germany would
be extended to the east, how other institutions--such as the education
system--would be coordinated, and which issues would be resolved later--for
instance, abortion policy. The parliaments of both German states ratified
the treaty, and the territory of East Germany joined the Federal Republic
under Article 23 on October 3, 1990.
The West German system of government, outlined in the Basic Law, reflects
in particular a desire to transcend the interwar period of democratic
instability and dictatorship. A federal system of government, considered
vital to a stable, constitutional democracy, was put in place as a direct
response to lessons learned from the Nazis' misuse of centralized structures.
After four years of Allied occupation, the FRG was established in 1949.
The country attained sovereignty in 1955 when the Allies transferred responsibility
for national security to the newly formed armed forces, the Bundeswehr.
Creating a climate of political stability was a primary goal of the authors
of West Germany's Basic Law. Among other things, the Basic Law established
the supremacy of political parties in the system of government. In the
resulting "party state," all major government policies emanated from the
organizational structure of the political parties. In the decades since
1949, West Germany's parties have tended toward the middle of the political
spectrum, largely because both the historical experience with fascism
and the existence of communist East Germany greatly diminished the appeal
of either extreme. This reigning political consensus, challenged briefly
in the late 1960s by the student protest movement and in the early 1980s
by economic recession, has led many observers to judge the "Bonn model"
a success. However, it remains an open question whether the legal, economic,
and political structures of the past will serve the unified Germany as
well in the future.
- The President
- Electoral System
- Political Parties
- Extraparty Political
- German Flag
- Geography (lands and
- Society (population, religion,
marriage, urbanization, social structure, immigration)
- Education (elementary,
junior, senior, vocational, higher)
- Economy (the Economic
Miracle, financial system, Bundesbank, business culture)
- Politics (government,
the Chancellor, the President, parties, Bundestag)
- Mass Media (newspapers,
radio and TV)
- Armed Forces (army,
navy, air forces, police)