How the German Government Works


This is Germany, it’s a country in Central
Europe that’s about the size of the US state of Montana or slightly smaller than Japan. If you’re still having any trouble finding
it, it’s right next to Słubice, Poland. Germany’s federal government meets in the
capital and largest city of Berlin, so aside from tourists taking selfies at Checkpoint
Charlie and people ordering döner kebabs, what exactly goes on here in Berlin? So yeah, this is Germany, also known as the
Federal Republic of Germany (Bundesrepublik Deutschland), Germany’s government is best
described as a federal, parliamentary, representative democratic republic. For those of you who aren’t fluent in political-scientist-ese,
those terms mean that Germany’s government is a federation of different states under
a non-monarchical government, which has different people as the head of state and head of government
(I’ll explain the difference with that later), and that there’s a layer of politicians
between the voters and the legislation. Germany is also divided into 16 states, whose
German names in alphabetical order of their English names are Baden-Württemberg, Bayern
(Bavaria), Berlin, Brandenburg, Bremen, Hamburg, Hessen (Hesse), Mecklenburg-Vorpommern (Mecklenburg-Western
Pomerania), Niedersachsen (Lower Saxony), Nordrhein-Westfalen (North Rhine-Westphalia),
Rheinland-Pfalz (Rhineland-Palatinate), Saarland, Sachsen (Saxony), Sachsen-Anhalt (Saxony-Anhalt),
Schleswig-Holstein, and Thüringen (Thuringia). Some of these states might have familiar names
from European history (be it from various treaties or dogs) as many of them stem from
the kingdoms that once ruled these lands, although now these states manage local affairs
that the federal government can’t (and probably shouldn’t) be bothered with. These include things like schools, law enforcement,
healthcare, und so weiter. States are often further divided into Regierungsbezirke
(governmental districts) and Kreise (districts) of various types, all responsible for various
tasks even more local than what the state can provide for. Now, this is a video about how the German
national government works, so if you’re more interested in how local government works
in Germany, I would highly recommend this video from Rewboss. Okay, back to the federal government, just
how does that work? Well first, there are two major legislative
bodies, the Bundestag and the Bundesrat. The Bundestag meets in the famous Reichstag
building and is the German parliament, while the Bundesrat meets in the Preußisches Herrenhaus
(Prussian House of Lords) and represents the state governments. If you already know a bit about the US government,
think of the Bundestag like the House of Representatives, and the Bundesrat as more like the Senate. The German government also essentially has
two leaders, the President and the Chancellor. The President is the head of state, which
means he (currently Frank-Walter Steinmeier) presides over representational matters and
doesn’t have as many powers despite technically being the most important person in the German
government, they really just preside over legislation and make sure nothing goes wrong. The second most is the President of the Bundestag
(Bundestagspräsident, currently Wolfgang Schäuble) who is basically in charge of managing
the Bundestag and making sure everything is in order, and is basically the German equivalent
of a speaker. The Chancellor however (Bundeskanzlerin, currently
the world-famous Angela Merkel) is the head of government, which means she appoints the
federal cabinet and basically runs the country. Technically the Chancellor is officially only
ranked third in the German government, but there’s a reason you’ve heard of Angela
Merkel. Okay now for elections, which are a little
more complicated. Not really to vote in, but more if you’re
the person organizing the new government. Every five years a federal election is run,
and it is during this time that voters vote for new representatives in the Bundestag (obviously
they also kind of, technically vote for the Bundesrat, but just we’re going to focus
on the Bundestag for now because it’s easier and more important). The ballot they are sent essentially comes
in two parts, one for the person the voter wants representing their constituency, and
another for which party the voter wants in power. You don’t have to vote correspondingly either,
if you’re a fan of the SPD but like the FDP candidate more, you can vote both ways. This means that you’re essentially electing
two halves of the 598 seats, 299 of which go to local candidates, with the other 299
going to party representatives so that a political party can get a more proportional amount of
seats for their votes, although this does mean that the Bundestag may or may not go
over the seat number of 598, and so additional overhang seats are often also given to balance
this out. Overhang seats, and their cousins levelling
seats, however are an oh-so complicated situation that’s probably best left for another time. Just know that they’re additional seats
given depending on how the vote goes for a particular party. There are more than two main political parties
in Germany, in fact there are currently six parties with seats in the Bundestag, which
in decreasing order of said seats are the CDU/CSU (technically two parties in a kind
of union), the SPD, AfD, FDP, the Left, and the Greens. These aren’t exactly fringe parties either,
especially since a party needs at least 5% of the popular vote to get a seat in government. This means that a singular party rarely gets
a majority in government, and so they often need to pair up with another party to get
legislation passed. This is something called a coalition, and
the current government coalition is made up of the CDU/CSU and the SPD, with the other
four parties forming what is known as the opposition, although there’s of course a
lot of drama going on with this, so we shouldn’t go too deep into this right now as this will
almost certainly change fast enough to make this video outdated in a few months. So to wrap it all up, here’s a diagram of
the German government. It is a little bit confusing at first, but
so are most government diagrams to the unfamiliar observer. Okay, so let’s start with the normal German
voter, who is a German citizen over the age of 18 who has lived at least 3 straight months
in Germany in the last 25 years up to the election (which only applies if you’ve been
living outside of Germany). So in this diagram, yellow boxes represent
the legislative branch, blue boxes the executive branch, and gray boxes the judicial branch. Green arrows mean that one body elects and/or
appoints another, blue arrows that one body sends members to another, red arrows that
one formally appoints and/or has veto power over another, and Three Arrows is a German
YouTube channel that’s completely unrelated to this. So starting with the normal voter, they elect
their state legislature and the federal diet. The state legislature in turn appoints the
state constitutional court, the Minister-President, and the appointed members of the Federal Convention. The Minister-President appoints the State
Cabinet, and those two send members to the Federal Council, which works with the Federal
Diet to appoint the Federal Constitutional Court and enact legislation. The Federal Diet meanwhile also sends members
to the Federal Convention, which elects the President. The President has veto power over the same
legislation we just breezed over, but also formally appoints the Chancellor (who the
Federal Diet also elects) and the President has veto power over the Federal Cabinet that
the Chancellor then appoints. See, that wasn’t too bad, was it? The German government is a big and powerful
player on the world stage. Germany may be the size of Montana and have
a population smaller than Vietnam, but Germany also has the fourth largest economy in the
world, which in turn makes it arguably one of the “leaders” of the European Union
as a whole… so it’s kind of important they get this whole thing right! Thank you as always for watching. If you weren’t familiar with the German
government beforehand, please let me know if this video helped at all, and if you already
were please let me know how I did explaining this as a dumb American. As always, be sure to like and share this
video, check out the merch store on khanubis.tv, and be sure to subscribe to learn something
new every Sunday.




Comments
  1. Im from Germany. I didn't know that my government was working. I thought that it's full of lobbyists and criminals who doesn't care. Thanks for changing my mind! 😉

  2. KhAnubis: posts this video
    Me, a german student: *nice, finally something about my country's government that I understand and can now use in politics exams. 👌🏻

  3. KhAnubis: talks about how things like schools, law enforcement and healthcare are things that the federal government shouldn't be bothered with
    Germans, having been in a fight over what government should run these services, federal or state, for about 40 years:
    "It's settled, then."

  4. 5:14 Careful there: they need 5% to get a seat in parliament, so the legislature. This doesn't necessarily mean that that would get to form a government together with others.

  5. 3:50 While the federal election often coincides with state elections, the federal election itself does not have any effect on the Bundesrat, only changes in the individual state governments after state elections do.

  6. This is the pinned comment I talked about in the disclaimer which will house all the corrections I will probably need to make to this video, so here they are:

    0:34 – Obvious typo, meant to say "Bundesrepublik" not "Bundlesrepublik"
    3:38 – Every four years a federal election is run. State elections (at least in most states) are every five years

  7. Well, that explained our government better than my politics teacher
    That's so sad
    But hey, I know everything about Hitler
    At least we learn everything about our greatest celebrity

  8. Typical American, comparing everything to America as though that is somehow the world's default point of view.

  9. Isn’t it theoretically possible that a party doesn’t win 5% of the vote, but is represented because their members won constituencies?

  10. Ehm. No. The federal election is every four years. Not every five.
    The elections, which are every five years, are the state elections.

  11. Hey KhAnubis, du kennst deutsches YouTube, ja? Kannst du ein mir sagen, gutes deutsche YouTube zu schauen an? Gibt es Kanälen wie dien Kanal aber auf deutsch?

  12. As a German, I can say, very good job. You also are a master of pronounciation. The video is very accurate at well done.

  13. The way you explained the election, while not wrong is misleading. It’s true that you have two votes, but only the second vote influences the federal election, while the first one is a purely local election. The seats won by a party are filled with candidates who won those local races up until there are no more. From this point onward the party appoints MP to the open seats freely.

    This is kind of abstract so here’s an example. The SPD wins 20% of the second-votes and 45 SPD-candidates win their constituency (for a lack of a better word). Now the SPD will get 20% of the Seats. Let’s just assume that this Bundestag has 500 seats, so the SPD gets 100 seats. That won’t change. Now the 45 winning candidates get their seats first and the SPD appoint other party members to the 55 open seats. Would the SPD win more then 100 local races, while still only getting 20% of the second-votes, all candidates would get a seat, but all other parties would get additional seats until the amount of SPD seats equals 20% again. This is by the way how we did end up with the third biggest parliament on the planet and probably need to get out Speers plans one day to fit all those representatives into a building…

  14. I’m 11 and I’m American I want to live in Germany for at least 1 year, I’m learning the Bavarian dialect, could you give me tips

  15. Khanubis: Now you might have noticed that there are more than two main political parties in Germany…
    Americans: surprise pikachu
    Rest of the world: So like most representative democracies then?

    Also kebabs are great and all but Falafel Humbaba in Moabit has the best doner falafel I've ever eaten.

  16. Some interesting facts:
    1.) Schleswig Holstein is the only state with an exeption for the 5% rule. The party of the danish minority has guarateed seats.

    2.) States have the right to reunite with another state if the population agrees in a referendum. It happened yet two times. But a seperation is prohibited. Frankonia tried the secession of Bavaria and Oldenburg from Niedersachsen.

    3.) After 378 years of seperation the allies formed again one Hesse (Hesse-Nassau + People's State Hesse). But the terretorries right of the Rhein were used to form the state Rheinland-Palatinate. The city of Mainz lost some of there quarters like Mainz-Kastel. But they still plan to reunite one day. As a consequence both don't name their streets equal. In case that they'll form again one city.

  17. You narrated all the Bundesländer except for the one I was born in and currently live in, RIP (It's fine lol, I'd probably do the same with all the U.S. states. And you explained my country pretty well!)

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