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Deutschland | Wahl des Bundespräsidenten | Vorbereitungen
Image: picture-alliance/dpa/R. Jensen

'Father of the House' rule change on cards

March 24, 2017

Rules may be altered on who becomes "president by seniority" - a cherished role in Germany's lower chamber of parliament. Under present protocol, a founder of Germany's right-wing populist AfD could soon have the honor.


Bundestag President Norbert Lammert on Thursday suggested that the chamber's "Alterspräsident" (president by seniority) - need not necessarily be the eldest.

The "Father of the House" or "Mother of the House" role at present automatically falls to the oldest lawmaker in the Bundestag. He or she leads the first session of a new parliament, and is also a stand-in to preside when the Bundestag president or their deputies are not available.

At present, the father of the German Bundestag is the bowtied 81-year-old Heinz Riesenhuber, a member of Chancellor Angela Merkel's center-right Christian Democrats and former minister for scientific research. Riesenhuber has said he will not stand at the next election.

Read: What the terms 'right' and 'left' mean in the German election

A possible contender to take his place is Alexander Gauland, co-founder of the right-wing populist and anti-immigration Alternative for Germany (AfD). Only founded relatively recently, the AfD has yet to gain seats in the German parliament, although it is projected to do so in a forthcoming general election in September.

Read: 10 things you need to know about the AfD

Dienstälteste Bundestagsabgeordnete Heinz Riesenhuber 2013
The bowtied chemist Heinz Riesenhuber is currently the "Father of the House," but will not stand for election againImage: ODD ANDERSEN/AFP/Getty Images

'Need for experience'

Lammert said that basing the rules on time served would ensure that the first session of any German parliament would be presided over by an experienced individual.

"In this way, it can be ensured that the first session of the newly-elected Bundestag can only be led by a parliamentarian with the sufficient, relevant experience,"  the Bundestag president said in a parliamentary press release.

In rare situations where more than one person had been in parliament for the same number of years, chronological age would settle the matter.

The "Alterspräsident" title  is similar to that of "Father of the House" in certain Commonwealth legislatures, such as the UK and Australia. In Canada, the title "Dean of the House" is used, while the most senior member of the Irish legislature is known as "Father of the Dáil."

rc/jr (AFP, dpa, KNA)


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