Building a Governing Coalition
The German electoral system makes it very difficult for any one party to end up with an absolute majority after the elections, therefore, normally two or more parties will agree to form an alliance in order to govern and to elect a Chancellor. The election of the Chancellor is preceded by extensive negotiations between those parties that plan to govern together.
Enlarge image Under the grand coalition, Chancellor Merkel (CDU) and Foreign Minister Steinmeier (SPD) have worked together. (© picture-alliance/ dpa) The strongest party in the alliance is accorded the right to propose the Federal Chancellor. In addition the parties agree on the policies they intend to tackle in the next few years. The results of these coalition negotiations are enshrined in the coalition treaty. Only when these steps have been completed is the Chancellor elected.
Negotiations between the government parties prepare the decisions taken by the Federal Government and accompany them afterwards. Should there no longer be political consensus between the parties before general elections for a new Bundestag are due, removing the Chancellor from office becomes an alternative. Should a constructive vote of no confidence result in the current Chancellor indeed being removed from office, a new Chancellor must be elected at the same time. This repeal of parliamentary confidence forces the parties represented in the Bundestag to form a new, functioning government majority before they bring down the Chancellor. There have only been two previous attempts to bring down the Chancellor, only one of which succeeded, namely in 1982 when a vote of no confidence was passed against the Chancellor Helmut Schmidt (SPD), who was replaced by Helmut Kohl (CDU).
However, at any time the Federal Chancellor himself can also propose a vote of no confidence in the Bundestag to test whether he still enjoys the unlimited support of the governing parties. Should the Chancellor lose the vote this indicates that parts of the government majority are drifting away from the Chancellor, leaving the Federal President to decide whether the Bundestag should be dissolved and a general election held. The Federal President can also request the parties represented in the Bundestag to try and form a new government.
Excerpted from Facts About Germany (online edition)