How Germany′s president is elected | News and current affairs from Germany and around the world | DW | 17.02.2012

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How Germany's president is elected

Germany's federal president is not chosen through a popular vote. Instead, a special committee is formed with the sole purpose of selecting the president via a vote.

The Federal Convention is a special body in Germany’s political system, which gathers only for the election of the president. It is made up of all the members of the Bundestag - the German parliament - and an equal number of representatives chosen by Germany's 16 federal states.

The number of members each state is allowed to send to the convention is based on that state's population. State representatives are not always politicians: sometimes they are celebrities or other public figures.

The convention is chaired by the speaker of the German parliament and is dissolved once the person elected formally accepts the presidency.

Voting procedure

Candidates must be at least 40 years old, and must have been nominated by at least one member of the Federal Convention. Candidates are usually nominated by a political party or several parties. The contenders for the presidency do not normally run a campaign in the lead-up to the election.

The president is elected by a secret ballot without any prior debate. If none of the candidates receive an absolute majority in the first round of voting, a second vote is held. If the second round also fails to produce a result, then a third vote is held, but this time candidates only have to win a relative majority. New candidates may be introduced for the second or third rounds.

The person elected may delay his or her decision on whether to accept the presidency for up to two days after the election. However, no president has ever done so. Presidential terms last five years and presidents may only hold office for two terms.

History of the Federal Convention

The first Federal Convention met in Bonn on September 12, 1949. In 1954, the convention moved to West Berlin, where it continued to meet until 1969. From 1974 to 1989, the convention returned to Bonn. Since 1994, the meeting place has been the Reichstag building in Berlin, which also houses the Bundestag.

Author: Darren Mara, Arne Lichtenberg

Editor: Kate Bowen, Neil King