President of the German Bundesrat
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In Germany, the President of the Bundesrat or President of the Federal Council (German: Bundesratspräsident) is the chairperson or speaker of the Bundesrat (Federal Council). The presidency of the Bundesrat rotates among the heads of government (most of them holding the title minister-president) of each of the states (in German, Länder) on an annual basis. As well as acting as a chairperson the President of the Bundesrat acts in place of the President of Germany in the latter's absence.
The President of the Bundesrat convenes and chairs plenary sessions of the body and is formally responsible for representing the Federal Republic in the Bundesrat. He or she is aided by three vice-presidents who play an advisory role and deputise in the president's absence. The four together constitute the Präsidium of the Bundesrat.
The President of the Bundesrat usually is elected on the 1 November in a given year, and serves until the 31 October in the year that follows. The Basic Law merely provides, in Article 52.1, that "the Bundesrat elects its President for one year". However, in practice the position rotates among all Länder equally, in accordance with a predetermined order. The order in which the position rotates from one Land to another is altered periodically and is determined by population, the presidency descending in order from the most populous states to the least. This rotation is a constitutional convention known as the “Königstein agreement” (Königsteiner Vereinbarung), having been formulated at a 1950 seating in Königstein im Taunus, Hessen.
If the head of government of a Land changes during the term of the President of the Bundesrat then the presidency passes to the new minister-president for the remainder of its one-year duration. This occurred in April 1999 when Roland Koch replaced Hans Eichel as minister-president of Hesse. The current order of rotation of the presidency of the Bundesrat is as follows:
- North Rhine-Westphalia
- Lower Saxony
Deputy to the Federal President
Article 57 of the Basic Law provides that:
- If the Federal President is unable to perform his duties, or if his office falls prematurely vacant, the President of the Bundesrat shall exercise his powers.
If the office of the Federal President falls vacant, the President of the Bundesrat fills in as acting head of state. While doing so he or she does not continue to exercise the role of chair of the Bundesrat. If the president resigns, dies, or is removed from office, a successor is elected within thirty days.
Three Presidents of the Bundesrat have yet served as acting head of state:
- Karl Arnold (from 7 September 1949 to 12 September 1949 after he was elected as President of the Bundesrat and before Theodor Heuss was elected as the first President of Germany. With a tenure of only six days he is yet the shortest serving head of state in German history)
- Jens Böhrnsen (from 31 May 2010 to 30 June 2010 after the resignation of Horst Köhler and before the election of Christian Wulff)
- Horst Seehofer (from 17 February 2012 to 18 March 2012 after the resignation of Christian Wulff and before the election of Joachim Gauck)
If the Federal President is abroad on a state visit the President of the Bundesrat does not assume all of the Federal President's responsibilities but may "deputise" for him or her, performing on the Federal President's behalf merely those tasks that require his or her physical presence, such as the signing of documents.
List of presidents
- Political Party
- Otto Suhr of the SPD in Berlin was elected President of the Bundesrat in July 1957 but died in August, before his term of office began.