Political System of Germany

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Political system.

The Federal Republic of Germany is a federal
state created by the German Federal Constitution
(Grundgesetz, Art. 20 (1)). Germany consists of
16 states (L„nder) each with their own
constitution. Articles 70 et seq. of the
constitution allocate legislative powers between
the federal government and the states. The
general rule is that a power not expressly granted
the federal government (expressed in Articles 70,
71 and 73 of the Grundgesetz) is retained by the
state, making the states relatively autonomous.
The federal government and the states have
concurrent jurisdiction (police powers, cultural
issues, local government matters, the application
of civil and criminal law). Federal laws
establish a framework for the individual states.
For instance, the federal law concerning the
correctional system and its administration
(Strafvollzugsgesetz) serves as a model to the
states. The states that have not adopted their
own correctional law use the federal law as their
guideline. If any conflict arises between a
federal law and that of a State (Article 31 of the
constitution) the federal law prevails. Germany's
Federal Constitutional Court, the highest court on
constitutional matters, has held that the States
have limited sovereign powers of their own that
are not derived from the powers of the
Members of parliament and the chancellor are
elected officials. The chancellor defines the
country's political strategies. While the Federal
Republic of Germany also has a president who
serves as head of the state, this role more nearly
resembles that of a dignitary, with little
political power. However, the president does
maintain power to veto legislative bills. The
constitution,also referred to as the Basic Law,
divides the powers of the judiciary, legislative
and executive branches.
There are numerous political parties and
alliances in German politics. The two major
parties include the CDU (Christian Democratic
Union), and the SPD (Social Democratic Party).
Others of lesser significance in terms of their
representative strength in parliament are the FDP
(Free Democratic Party) and the Greens
(Alternative-List). Within the last few years
right-wing political parties have also gained in
While the Penal Code, Strafgesetzbuch, herein
referred to as the StGB, and the Code of Criminal
Procedure Strafprozeáordnung, herein referred to
as the StPO, are federal codes, making their
application consistent nationwide, the
administration of the criminal justice system
(police, courts and correctional institutions) are
matters left to the individual states. 1 Special
state laws govern the regulation of police matters
as well as the prosecution of cases. 2 German
law requires the prosecutor to play a neutral
role. The prosecutor is obliged to consider
evidence which will both incriminate and exonerate
the accused. The appointment of judges also
differs from state to state, keeping within the
concept of state autonomy in regards to criminal
and juvenile justice administration. (Karstedt,

2. Legal system.

Laws are created by the Bundestag or Lower
House of the German parliament. The upper house
(Bundesrat) is a representative body of the states
based on their population. The upper house must
approve the laws made by the lower house and has
veto power in matters concerning the states (for
instance, taxes). The legal system is guided by
federal laws which apply nationwide. Those
specifically applicable to the criminal justice
system are the Penal Code (StGB) and the Code of
Criminal Procedure (StPO). Other laws which
concern the criminal justice system are the
Bet„ubungsmittelgesetz or BtMG (drug statutes),
the Bet„ubungsmittel-Verschreibungsverordnung
(drug prescription regulation) (BtMVV),
Straáenverkehrsgesetz (StVG) or traffic laws, and
the Gesetz ber Ordnungswidrigkeiten (OWiG) or
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