The Chancellor Vote Explained | Germany| News and in-depth reporting from Berlin and beyond | DW | 11.10.2005
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The Chancellor Vote Explained

The conservatives and Social Democrats may have agreed on Angela Merkel becoming the Germany's next chancellor. But it's not a done deal until the Bundestag votes her in. DW-WORLD explains what happens next.


Ultimately, the Bundestag will decide who will be chancellor

During their first session, the 614 members of the newly elected Bundestag, the lower chamber of parliament, will be charged with voting for the next chancellor in a secret ballot, according to Germany's constitution.

It's up to President Horst Köhler to suggest a candidate for chancellor on Oct. 18 and he will most certainly put forward the name of Angela Merkel, since Monday's agreement between her Christian Union alliance and the Social Democrats is likely to ensure a stable majority of votes.

Köhler is not obliged to suggest the person the parties have singled out, but he must present a candidate who has a reasonable chance of being voted in.

If Merkel receives an absolute majority in the first round of voting -- at least 308 votes in the current Bundestag -- the president must declare her chancellor. So far, every German chancellor has been elected in the first round, though it has sometimes been close.

Konrad Adenauer was elected the BRD's first chancellor in 1949 with the barest majority possible. Helmut Schmidt and Helmut Kohl each received only one vote more than necessary when they were elected chancellor in 1974 and 1982 respectively. Gerhard Schröder got 305 votes in 2002, just three more than he needed to be named chancellor.

Minority chancellor possible

If fewer than 308 parliamentarians vote for Merkel in the first round, a second phase of voting starts. Bundestag members may suggest other candidates, Gerhard Schröder, for example. But these candidates must have the backing of at least a quarter of the Bundestag. Over the subsequent two weeks, an indefinite number of voting rounds may take place. If no chancellor is elected at the end of 14 days one final round of voting takes place. If a candidate receives an absolute majority he or she is immediately named chancellor. But if he or she only gains a plurality of votes, President Köhler is given seven days to decide whether to accept a so-called "minority chancellor" -- who would have the same rights as a chancellor elected by an absolute majority -- or to dissolve the Bundestag. If he dissolves parliament, new elections must take place within 60 days.

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