Federal Chancellor (Germany)

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Federal Chancellor of the
Federal Republic of Germany
Flag of the Chancellor of Germany.svg
Logo and standard of the Federal Chancellor
Federal Chancellor Olaf Scholz
Acting Federal Chancellor
Olaf Scholz
since December 8, 2021
Official seat Federal Chancellery in Berlin ,
Palais Schaumburg in Bonn
authority Federal Chancellery
Term of office four years
(unlimited re-election possible)
Creation of office May 24, 1949
Choice by Bundestag
Last choice December 8, 2021
Next choice According to the cycle in 2025
salutation Mr. Federal

(in international correspondence)
Deputy Vice Chancellor

since December 8, 2021 Robert Habeck

website www.bundeskanzler.de
Olaf Scholz Angela Merkel Gerhard Schröder Helmut Kohl Helmut Schmidt Walter Scheel Willy Brandt Kurt Georg Kiesinger Ludwig Erhard Konrad Adenauer

The Federal Chancellor (abbreviation BK ) is the head of government of the Federal Republic of Germany . The Federal Chancellor and Federal Minister together form the German Federal Government . According to the constitution, the head of government determines the guidelines for politics. In practice, however, he must take into account the ideas of his own party and the coalition partners.

The Chancellor is the proposal of the President of the Bundestag elected, then appointed by the President and by the Bundestag President sworn in. The Federal Chancellor proposes the Federal Ministers to the Federal President; Without this proposal, the Federal President cannot appoint anyone as Federal Minister. Without the involvement of the Federal President, the Federal Chancellor appoints one of the Federal Ministers as constitutional deputy, who is also referred to as Vice Chancellor , although this designation does not officially exist.

Before the end of the legislative period , a Federal Chancellor can only be replaced by a constructive vote of no confidence : To do this, the Bundestag must elect a successor with an absolute majority. In the event that a Federal Chancellor dies or resigns, there are no rules; with the end of the chancellorship, the federal government also ends. However, the constitution includes the provision that the Federal President asks a Federal Minister to continue to run the business until a successor is appointed. In the past, this regulation was taken as a model for a federal minister to act as executive chancellor.

The Federal Chancellor is considered to be the most politically powerful German public official . Sometimes one even speaks of a “chancellor's democracy”. However, he is only third in the German protocol-based ranking after the Federal President (as head of state ) and the President of the Bundestag .

Acting Federal Chancellor is Olaf Scholz ( SPD ). He was elected the ninth Federal Chancellor of the Federal Republic of Germany on December 8, 2021 and was subsequently appointed by the Federal President. He is at the head of a coalition made up of the SPD , Bündnis 90 / Die Grünen and FDP .


Karl zu Leiningen was the first all-German head of government in 1848, the chairman of the Council of Ministers in the provisional central authority . The real strong man in the Leiningen cabinet , and at least de facto his successor, was the Austrian Anton von Schmerling .

The term chancellor comes from the Middle Ages : At the feudal court, the chancellor was the head of the manorial office, the chancellery . Among the ruler's servants, the chancellor had the highest authority and was thus comparable to the Egyptian state clerks. The linguistic historical origin is derived from the Middle Latin noun "cancelli": the chancellor is a person who works in a room separated by barriers or bars (cancelli) and in particular issues certifications.

German heads of government only held other titles during the brief unconstitutional period of 1918/19 (“Chairman of the Council of People's Representatives ” or “ Reich Minister President ”). Later in the GDR 1949–1990 the title was " Chairman of the Council of Ministers ".

In German constitutional history belonged to Empire Holy Roman the office of arch-chancellor of the Erzämtern . It was exercised by the Elector of Mainz as Arch Chancellor for Germany until 1806, when the Old Reich came to an end . The German Bund (1815–1866) had only the Bundestag as an organ , no separate executive and no chancellor, for example, as an executive officer.

In the emerging German Empire during the revolutionary period of 1848/1849 there was the first all-German government, the Provisional Central Authority . The provisional constitutional order, the Central Power Act , only spoke of ministers appointed by the Reich Administrator. The ministers met in the Council of Ministers, which was chaired by a Reich Minister-President.

Monarchical federal state until 1918

The North German Confederation (with the federal constitution of July 1, 1867 ) had a single responsible minister at federal level, the " Federal Chancellor ". In 1871 the office for the German Empire was renamed " Reich Chancellor ". The name Chancellor comes from the fact that the office was originally intended as a civil servant who, as a kind of manager, carried out the decisions of the Federal Council .

Otto von Bismarck , who was appointed Prussian Prime Minister in 1862 , became Chancellor of North Germany on July 14, 1867. The office was renamed Reich Chancellor in 1871 (a new appointment did not take place). Bismarck remained Chancellor until 1890.

The Chancellor of the Empire was appointed and dismissed by the German Kaiser . Most senior officials were appointed. In practice, a Chancellor had to work with parliament, the Reichstag . The election results only had an indirect influence on the dismissal of a chancellor. It was not until October 1918 that the constitution explicitly stated that the Chancellor needed the confidence of the Reichstag. The Reich Chancellor was the superior of the State Secretaries, not a colleague, even if a kind of collegial government developed in practice.

Otherwise, the constitution only gave the office of Reich Chancellor the chairmanship of the Bundesrat . The Chancellor only got a seat and vote in the Bundesrat, and thus influence on the legislative power of the Bundesrat, because he was almost always appointed Prussian Prime Minister and a member of the Bundesrat.

Weimar Republic

The Reich Chancellor of the Weimar Republic (from 1919) was also appointed and dismissed by the head of state, the Reich President . The Reich Chancellor had to resign if the Reichstag withdrew his confidence. The Reich Chancellor was thus dependent on both the Reich President and the Reichstag. In Article 56 of the Weimar Constitution it says: “The Reich Chancellor determines the guidelines of politics and is responsible for them vis-à-vis the Reichstag. Within these guidelines, each Reich Minister manages the branch of business entrusted to him independently and under his own responsibility to the Reichstag. ”This article corresponds almost exactly with the first two sentences of Article 65 of the Basic Law for the Federal Republic of Germany (1949). However, the rights of the Reich President restricted this authority to issue guidelines. In addition, the governing coalitions usually consisted of more than two or three parties. The Reichstag could overthrow a government without having to elect a new head of government at the same time (no constructive vote of no confidence ).

In retrospect, one saw the coexistence of a strong Reich President and a weak Reich Chancellor as a reason for the republic to go under. Reich President Hindenburg appointed the National Socialist Adolf Hitler as Reich Chancellor on January 30, 1933 . He then used his powers to achieve Hitler's sole rule. After Hindenburg's death in 1934, Hitler combined the offices of Reich Chancellor and Reich President under the name of "Fuhrer and Reich Chancellor".

After the Second World War

The Parliamentary Council therefore decided in 1949 to weaken the position of the future Federal President . In contrast, the parliament and the Federal Chancellor were strengthened. In particular, the regulations on the election of the Federal Chancellor, the constructive vote of no confidence and the question of confidence were conducive to the Federal Chancellor's actual position of power. In addition, there was the development of chancellor democracy under the first Federal Chancellor, Konrad Adenauer . Its very strong interpretation of the Federal Chancellor's authority to issue guidelines was defended by his successors and has led to the Federal Chancellor being considered the most powerful politician in the Federal Republic's political system to this day .

In the German Democratic Republic there was a similar tendency: the President only had a representative role and the parliament and the government were strengthened (compared to the Weimar Constitution, from which content was partly taken over word for word). The head of government, known as the prime minister, also had a prominent role in the cabinet, formed the government and set the guidelines for politics. According to the constitution (Art. 92), the prime minister was named by the strongest parliamentary group in parliament. Because of the actual power of the SED party , these and other provisions of the constitution were of no consequence.

Constitutional and political position

Role within the federal government

Policy competence and collegial principle

Federal Chancellor Konrad Adenauer in 1962 as the guest of French President Charles de Gaulle at a mass in Reims Cathedral
Video: What does a Federal Chancellor do?

According to Article 65, Clause 1 of the Basic Law (GG), the Federal Chancellor has the authority to issue guidelines : He “determines the guidelines of politics and bears responsibility for them”. The same article also prescribes the departmental principle (sentence 2) and the collegial principle (sentence 3). The former means that the federal ministers manage their ministries on their own responsibility. The Federal Chancellor cannot easily intervene in individual factual issues and enforce his opinion. However, in accordance with the Federal Government's rules of procedure, he must be informed of all important projects in the ministry. The collegial principle means that disagreements between the federal government are decided by the college; The Federal Chancellor must therefore bow to the decision of the Federal Cabinet in case of doubt . Nevertheless, the Federal Chancellor has special weight here, as he can make use of his right to appoint and dismiss the Federal Ministers , which has so far only rarely happened in practice.

The Federal Chancellor can regulate the number and responsibilities of the ministries ( Art. 64 Paragraph 1 and Art. 65 of the Basic Law as well as Section 9 of the Federal Government's Rules of Procedure ). He "manages" the business of the federal government in an administrative sense. Its organizational power is restricted by the establishment of the Federal Ministry of Defense ( Art. 65a : Federal Minister of Defense ), the Federal Ministry of Justice ( Art. 96, Paragraph 2, Clause 4: Department of the Federal Minister of Justice ) and the Federal Ministry of Finance ( Art. 108 para. 3 sentence 2: Federal Minister of Finance ).

Even if the departmental and collegial principles are constantly applied in practice, the authority to issue guidelines, also known as the “Chancellor Principle”, moves the Chancellor as the most important political actor into the public eye. His statements are very much heeded; if he expresses himself differently than the responsible minister on a factual issue, the minister often fails despite the validity of the departmental principle if he does not want to be reprimanded internally or even publicly by the Chancellor for “bad teamwork”. The Chancellor is often also the chairman of his party ( Adenauer 1950–1963, Erhard 1966, Kiesinger 1967–1969, Kohl 1982–1998 and Merkel 2005–2018 in the CDU ; Brandt 1969–1974 and Schröder 1999–2004 in the SPD ) and Not only as Chancellor, but also as party chairman, enjoys a high level of media interest and strong influence within the party and faction that supports his government. However, even in the times when they did not hold the chairmanship of the party, all Federal Chancellors actually played an important role in the parliamentary group in charge of the government in order to promote their cooperation with the cabinet.

As a rule, the Federal Chancellor has to take a coalition partner into consideration, even if their parliamentary group is significantly smaller. His statements may meet with unanimous approval in his party, but the acceptance of the coalition partner, who is thus almost on an equal footing despite its smaller size, cannot automatically be regarded as achieved and may have to be secured through concessions. However, the Federal Chancellor cannot rule in his own party in a dictatorial manner, as his party offices are also regularly confirmed in democratic elections and the MPs do not necessarily have to follow the Chancellor's line despite faction discipline.

Ultimately, it also depends on the person of the Federal Chancellor and the political circumstances how he develops the concept of guideline competence. Konrad Adenauer, as the first Federal Chancellor, made extensive use of the policy authority under the exceptional conditions of a new political beginning. With his administration, Adenauer laid the foundation for the very far-reaching interpretation of this term. Even under Ludwig Erhard, the power of the Federal Chancellor sank, until finally, in Kurt Georg Kiesinger's Grand Coalition of Federal Chancellors, it was less the “strong man” than the “walking mediation committee”. While Adenauer and Helmut Schmidt worked very strategically with their staff (mainly the Chancellery), Brandt and Kohl preferred a style of more informal coordination. In both models, the assessment of the Chancellor's influence on the strength of the coalition partner and the position of the Chancellor in his party are important.

Because of these political restrictions on the position of the Federal Chancellor as defined by the constitution, many political scientists consider guideline competence to be the most overrated concept of the Basic Law. There has been no case in the history of the Federal Republic of Germany in which the authority to issue guidelines has been officially applied.

Since the Chancellor has to rely more on the ministries for domestic policy issues, he can often make a name for himself in foreign policy. All Federal Chancellors have used the diplomatic parquet - certainly also in the more or less silent power struggle with the Foreign Minister , who has always belonged to a different party than the Federal Chancellor since 1966 - to present themselves in a positive light in addition to the interests of the Federal Republic. Federal Chancellor Adenauer in particular, who himself headed the Foreign Ministry from 1951 to 1955, was able to exert a strong influence here.

The Federal Government and the Federal Chancellor have the sole right to make decisions by the executive. For this reason, every formal order of the Federal President - with the exception of the appointment and dismissal of the Federal Chancellor, the dissolution of the Bundestag after the failure of the election of a Federal Chancellor and the request to continue to exercise the office until a successor is appointed - requires the countersignature of the Federal Chancellor or the responsible person Federal Minister.

Appointment of the Federal Minister

Federal Chancellor Ludwig Erhard at a cabinet meeting (1965)

According to Article 64 of the Basic Law, the Federal Chancellor proposes the Federal Ministers to the Federal President, who appoints them. According to the prevailing opinion in constitutional law, the Federal President must appoint them without being able to examine the candidates himself politically. As a rule, however, he is granted a formal right of examination: For example, he can check whether the designated federal ministers are German. The Bundestag also has no say in this. Neither the Federal President nor the Bundestag can have a legally binding say in the dismissal of federal ministers - here, too, the decision lies entirely with the Federal Chancellor, the dismissal is again carried out by the Federal President. Even the Bundestag's request to the Federal Chancellor to dismiss a Federal Minister is legally ineffective; However, if the majority of the Bundestag and thus also members of the coalition supporting the federal government are actually against him, the minister will often step down on his own initiative. The Bundestag can only replace the ministers together with the Federal Chancellor by means of a constructive vote of no confidence .

This at least formally unrestricted personal sovereignty of the Federal Chancellor over his cabinet speaks for the strong position of the Federal Chancellor. In 2002, Federal Chancellor Schröder made very clear use of this personnel sovereignty when he had Defense Minister Rudolf Scharping dismissed from his post against his express will . Angela Merkel had Federal Environment Minister Norbert Röttgen dismissed against his will on May 16, 2012.

However, when making appointments, the Federal Chancellor usually has to take into account “coalition agreements” and intra-party proportional representation; In the case of dismissals, this applies even more to ministers of the coalition partner: Here, the coalition agreements always stipulate that dismissal can only take place with the consent of the coalition partner. If the Chancellor did not adhere to this legally non-binding, but politically highly significant treaty, the coalition would come to an end very quickly. Overall, the Federal Chancellor's freedom of personnel is subject to considerable restrictions due to the political framework. Furthermore, a (new) Federal Ministry can only be set up within the framework of the budget, which must be approved by the Bundestag.


In accordance with Article 69 (1) of the Basic Law, the Federal Chancellor appoints a Federal Minister as his deputy - without the involvement of the Federal President. Unofficially one speaks of the "Vice Chancellor". This is usually the most important politician of the smaller coalition partner. Often the office of foreign minister and the "vice-chancellorship" coincided; However, this was never a binding combination, but only a tradition (since 1966, with interruptions in 1982, 1992/93, 2005–2007, 2011–2017 and since 2018). It is also possible that the Vice Chancellor belongs to the same party as the Federal Chancellor (such as Ludwig Erhard 1957–1963). The current deputy of the Federal Chancellor is Robert Habeck ( Bündnis 90 / Die Grünen ).

It is always only a matter of representing the function, not that of the office. The deputy therefore only represents the Chancellor, for example when he is on a trip and the deputy is leading a cabinet meeting. It is controversial in jurisprudence whether the Federal President, for example, if the Federal Chancellor were to become permanently incapable of office due to a serious illness or even died, would have to automatically appoint the Vice Chancellor as Executive Chancellor or could also entrust another Federal Minister with the task. In any case, a new Federal Chancellor would have to be elected by the Bundestag immediately. So far such a case - apart from the resignation of the Chancellor - has never occurred.

If the deputy is also not available, his role is transferred to the most senior minister in accordance with the order of representation in the Federal Government's rules of procedure. In Merkel IV's cabinet , this has been since the resignation of Ursula von der Leyen Peter Altmaier . If several ministers have been in office for the same length of time, the higher age decides.

Directly subordinate authorities

The head of the Federal Chancellery is not the Federal Chancellor himself, but a Federal Minister or State Secretary appointed by him . The Federal Chancellery has a mirror image for each ministry and thus provides the Federal Chancellor with a competent workforce for each specialist area.

The Federal Government's Press and Information Office is also directly subordinate to the Federal Chancellor . This has the task of informing the public about the politics of the Federal Government and vice versa to inform the Federal President and the Federal Government (if necessary around the clock) of the current news situation. The office must make a strict distinction between statements by the federal government and statements by the parties that support the federal government.

In addition, the Federal Intelligence Service (BND) falls directly into the responsibility of the Federal Chancellor. The budget of the Federal Intelligence Service is included in the budget of the Federal Chancellery, but for reasons of confidentiality is only estimated as a total (so-called reptile fund ). The direct access to the secret service does not give the Chancellor any knowledge advantage in domestic political questions, since the BND is only allowed to operate abroad. At most, there is a certain advantage for the Federal Chancellor in questions of foreign and security policy.


Federal Chancellor Kurt Georg Kiesinger speaks at a Christmas party in the Federal Chancellery (1967)


The Basic Law and federal laws do not set out any express requirements for eligibility ( passive right to vote ) for the office of Federal Chancellor. In the constitutional literature, however, it is largely assumed that the regulations on eligibility for election to the Bundestag apply accordingly. This would mean that only a person who is a German within the meaning of Article 116 of the Basic Law, has reached the age of 18 and has not been deprived of the right to vote by a court decision would be eligible for election as Federal Chancellor ; Also care or placement in a psychiatric hospital would disqualify.

What is required, however, is only eligibility for the Bundestag, not actual membership in the Bundestag, even if so far with one exception ( Kurt Georg Kiesinger ) all of the Chancellors have been members of the Bundestag at the same time. The minimum age of 40 years required for the office of Federal President does not apply to the Federal Chancellor. However, so far all Federal Chancellors were even older than 50 when they took office.

Electoral process

Diagram showing the election of the Federal Chancellor. Up to three phases are possible, which end either with the appointment of a Federal Chancellor or ultimately with new elections to the Bundestag.

The Federal Chancellor is elected by the German Bundestag on the proposal of the Federal President. In 1949, Article 63 of the Basic Law laid down the electoral procedure for the Chancellor in great detail for the first time in German constitutional history. In contrast to previous German constitutions, the head of government is not determined by the head of state, but by parliament. The appointment by the Federal President can only be made after election by the Bundestag.

According to the Basic Law, the election takes place without debate, i.e. without prior debate in the Bundestag. It is similar with the election of the Federal President by the Federal Assembly . In addition, the election of the Federal Chancellor is secret ; However, this does not result from the Basic Law, but from the rules of procedure of the German Bundestag ( Section 4 and Section 49 ). The Basic Law provides for a maximum of three electoral phases in order to determine the chancellorship depending on the majority in the Bundestag. However, in the history of the Federal Government, the first election phase has always been sufficient:

1. Election phase: If the office of the Federal Chancellor becomes vacant, e.g. due to the meeting of a new Bundestag, but also due to the death, resignation or incapacity of the old Federal Chancellor, the Federal President proposes a candidate for the office of Federal Chancellor to the Bundestag within a reasonable period of time. The Federal President is legally free to make this decision. Politically, however, it is clear long before the proposal is made who the Bundestag will vote on, since the Federal President conducts detailed discussions with the party and parliamentary group leaders before making his proposal. So far, the successor candidate brought into play by the majority coalition has always been proposed by the Federal President. To be elected, the candidate needs the votes of the majority of the members of the Bundestag, i.e. an absolute majority .

2. Election phase: If the Bundestag does not elect the candidate proposed by the Federal President, a second election phase begins. (This case has never occurred in the history of the Federal Republic.) This phase lasts a maximum of two weeks. During this time, an election proposal can come from the middle of the Bundestag. According to the rules of procedure , the candidate proposal must have at least a quarter of the MPs behind it. The proposed candidates are then voted on: Both an individual election (only one candidate) and a multi-person election are conceivable. In any case, a candidate again needs the votes of the majority of the members of the Bundestag to be elected. The number of ballots is unlimited within two weeks.

3. Election phase: If no candidate is elected with an absolute majority during the second election phase, the Bundestag must meet again immediately after the two weeks have elapsed and carry out another ballot. This is the third election phase. The person who has the most votes is considered to be elected. In the event of a tie, new ballots will take place until a clear result has been achieved.

If the person elected receives an absolute majority of the votes of the members of the Bundestag, the Federal President must appoint him within seven days. If the elected person only receives a relative majority of the votes, this is one of the few cases in which the Federal President gains real political power: He can now decide freely whether to appoint the person elected and thus possibly pave the way for a minority government or that Dissolves the Bundestag and thus allows early elections to take place ( Article 63, Paragraph 4, Basic Law). In making this decision, the Federal President should consider whether a minority government has any prospect of finding sufficient support in parliament in the future. In addition, it can be taken into account whether a new election would decisively change the majority situation or whether it should contribute to political stability at all.

This electoral procedure also applies in the event of a defense . The election of a Federal Chancellor by the Joint Committee is, however, regulated separately in that only the first election phase described above is applied analogously. The Basic Law makes no statement about the further procedure if the Joint Committee does not elect the one proposed by the Federal President. However, it can be assumed that the provisions of Article 63 of the Basic Law mentioned above apply analogously to such an election .

The Federal Chancellor does not have to be a member of the Bundestag or a political party , but he must have the right to stand as a candidate for the Bundestag . According to the principle of incompatibility, he may not hold any other salaried office, exercise a profession or trade, manage a company and be on the supervisory board of a profit-oriented company without the consent of the Bundestag ( Art. 66 GG).

Appointment and oath of office

After the election, the Federal Chancellor is appointed by the Federal President. Normally, all actions of the Federal President must be countersigned by a member of the Federal Government . The appointment and dismissal of the Federal Chancellor is one of the few exceptions ( Art. 58 GG).

This is followed by the swearing-in by the President of the Bundestag ( Article 64 of the Basic Law). The new Federal Chancellor swears the following oath in front of the Bundestag: “I swear that I will devote my energies to the welfare of the German people, to increase their benefits, to prevent them from harm, to uphold and defend the Basic Law and the laws of the Federation, to conscientiously fulfill my duties and will do justice to everyone. So help me God. ”( Art. 56 GG). The oath can also be taken without religious affirmation; Gerhard Schröder and Olaf Scholz are so far the only Federal Chancellors who have made use of this option.

Role in the election campaign for the election of the Bundestag

Federal Chancellor Willy Brandt at the meeting with GDR Prime Minister Willi Stoph in Erfurt (1970)

Since 1961 at the latest and Willy Brandt's candidacy against Konrad Adenauer, the two major people's parties, CDU / CSU and SPD, have been putting up “candidates for Chancellor”. Although this “office” is not defined in any law or party statute, it plays an extremely important role in the election campaign. As a rule, the candidate for chancellor of the victorious party or coalition ultimately becomes Federal Chancellor.

The candidate for chancellor represents his party very strongly, especially in the election campaign conducted through the mass media. Since the federal election in 2002, the incumbent Chancellors and their challengers from the US presidential election campaign have held speeches duels. In this way, the focus on the chancellor candidates and away from programmatic questions was further accelerated. Accordingly, the FDP tried to win additional votes in the 2002 federal election with its own candidate for chancellor, its chairman Guido Westerwelle. In retrospect, Westerwelle called this attempt a mistake. 2021 presented the Alliance 90 / The Greens with annalena baerbock the first time a "chancellor" on - by Angela Merkel only the second woman, who was appointed by a party represented in the Bundestag to the chancellor.

The British tradition of the largest opposition party setting up a “shadow cabinet” during the election campaign has not prevailed in Germany. Chancellor candidate Willy Brandt made an attempt to do this in 1961. In Germany, however, a party usually has to enter into a coalition after the election and can therefore not decide on a cabinet alone. Nowadays the (largest) opposition party usually puts together a “competence team” with prominent politicians, some of whose areas are named quite generally (“foreign and security policy”).

Cooperation with the Bundestag and Bundesrat

The Bundestag can demand the summoning or the presence of the Federal Chancellor or a Federal Minister at any time. In return, the Federal Chancellor and the members of the Federal Government have the right to be present at every session of the Bundestag or one of its committees . You even have the right to speak at any time. The same rights and obligations exist in relation to the Federal Council. If the Federal Chancellor speaks in the Bundestag as such and not as a member of his parliamentary group, his speaking time is not counted towards the agreed total speaking time.

Defense case

Since 1956, the Basic Law has provided that, in the event of a defense, command and control over the armed forces is transferred from the Federal Minister of Defense to the Federal Chancellor. This regulation, also known as "lex Churchill ", is contained in Article 115b of the Basic Law (until 1968 in Article 65a Paragraph 2) and is intended to ensure that in times of extraordinary crises the Federal Chancellor, as a strong man or woman , pulls all the strings holds in hand.

Due to the extension of the Bundestag electoral term in the event of a defense, the term of office of the Federal Chancellor is extended accordingly ( Article 115h paragraph 1 in conjunction with Article 69 paragraph 2 of the Basic Law). However, even in the event of a defense, the Federal Chancellor can be replaced by a constructive vote of no confidence under Article 67 (by the Bundestag) or under Article 115h (by the Joint Committee with a two-thirds majority ).

"Federal Chancellor Ub"

As part of various maneuvers between 1966 and 1989 (FALLEX and WINTEX ), the federal government moved into the government bunker in Bad Neuenahr-Ahrweiler . However, it was customary for the Federal Chancellor not to be there in person, but to be represented. For this purpose, the Federal Chancellor appointed a confidante who was referred to as “Federal Chancellor Ü” for the duration of the exercise. During Helmut Kohl's tenure , this was Waldemar Schreckenberger .

Special legal provisions

As a member of the Federal Government, the Federal Chancellor has the right to be heard as a witness in criminal and civil proceedings at his official seat or his place of residence ( Section 50 of the Code of Criminal Procedure and Section 382 of the Code of Civil Procedure ). The Federal Chancellor as such has no claim to immunity ; however, if the Federal Chancellor is also a member of the Bundestag, he enjoys this privilege like every member of the Bundestag.

Anyone who compels the Federal Government or a member of the Federal Government, e.g. the Federal Chancellor, not to exercise powers or to exercise them in a certain sense, will be punished separately in accordance with Section 105 or Section 106 of the Criminal Code .


Federal Chancellery in Berlin (2010)
Chancellery building in Bonn (2007)
Palais Schaumburg in Bonn, the second official seat of the Federal Chancellery

From 1949 to 1999 the Federal Chancellor had his official seat in Bonn , first in the Palais Schaumburg , later in the Federal Chancellery, which was newly built in 1976 .

After the government moved to Berlin in 1999, he initially resided in the former building of the State Council of the GDR and the Palais Schaumburg became his second office. Since 2001, the Chancellor and the Federal Chancellery have had their main offices in the newly constructed Federal Chancellery building in Berlin .

National emblem

As a national emblem , the Chancellor wields a square-shaped standard on his service limousine , which shows the federal shield in the center of the federal colors black, red and gold . As with all federal authorities, the federal service flag is hoisted at the Federal Chancellery as a further national emblem .

Official remuneration

The Federal Chancellor receives official salaries in accordance with the Federal Ministers Act . These are made up of the basic salary and allowances and supplements. In this case, the basic content according to § 11 corresponds to the Minister Act the 5/3-fold of the basic content of the grade 11 of the pay regulation B . However, the amount will be reduced in accordance with the law on non-adjustment of official salary and local allowance for members of the federal government and parliamentary state secretaries . According to the Federal Ministry of the Interior, in April 2021 the Chancellor received an official salary of 19,121.82 euros per month plus a local allowance of 1200.71 euros per month and a service expense allowance of 12,271 euros per year. The Chancellor has to pay tax on his income, but - like civil servants - he does not have to pay any contributions to unemployment or statutory pension insurance. The Federal Republic of Germany bills the Chancellor for the private use of state-owned means of transport and renting his official apartment .

According to §§ 14 ff. Of the Federal Ministers Act, a former Federal Chancellor is entitled to a transitional allowance for a maximum of two years and - after reaching the age limit - to a pension, the amount of which depends on the term of office and requires a minimum term of four years. In state practice, benefits are also granted for the performance of post-operative tasks, e. B. for an office and staff, insofar as the respective federal budget provides for this, but this does not justify a claim under Section 3 (2) of the Federal Budget Code .

Term expires


Federal Chancellor Helmut Schmidt receives the first volume of the cabinet minutes, 1982, on the occasion of his last government meeting

The term of office of the Chancellor of his incapacity, the replacement by ending with his death, vote of no confidence , his resignation or the constituent meeting of the newly elected Bundestag later than 30 days after the election ( Art. 39 para. 2 GG ). In the last two cases, the Federal Chancellor generally continues to exercise the office of Federal Chancellor at the request of the Federal President in accordance with Art. 69 Paragraph 3 of the Basic Law until his successor is appointed.

While the further procedure for cases of termination of a chancellorship is in part precisely standardized under constitutional law, there are no clear regulations for individual termination situations, both in the Basic Law itself and in subordinate legal norms ("Rules of Procedure of the Federal Government"). These non-standardized termination cases include the death of a Federal Chancellor and also the termination of the office through resignation or through the meeting of a newly elected Bundestag in the constellation that the Federal President does not exercise his right under Article 69 paragraph 3, the previous incumbent to continue the business until the appointment of a new chancellor, makes use of it - as happened when Willy Brandt resigned in 1974.

According to the prevailing opinion in the legal literature, in such cases, in analogy to Article 69 paragraph 3, the Federal President must be granted extraordinary power of appointment, since the constitution stipulates the uninterrupted functioning of all constitutional organs and otherwise urgent measures could not be taken. Without an incumbent Federal Chancellor, however, there is no federal government ( Art. 62 GG ) and with the termination of office of a Federal Chancellor, all members of the government lose their offices ( Art. 69 Paragraph 2 GG). It is still disputed among lawyers whether the Federal President in such situations is limited in the selection of the "new" Federal Chancellor to the person of the previous Vice Chancellor (also who is no longer in office) - the prevailing opinion (including Herzog in Maunz / Dürig Art 69 Rn. 59) is based on a selection restriction ( Walter Scheel was previously Vice Chancellor in 1974 when he was entrusted with the temporary management of office by Federal President Gustav Heinemann ). It is still not clear whether the term “executive” Federal Chancellor is legally correct in these cases: According to the literal interpretation of Article 69 Paragraph 3 of the Basic Law, only the previous office-holders can be obliged to be “Executive Chancellor” or “Executive Minister”. For a similar reason, Konrad Adenauer is not listed as Federal Foreign Minister for the period after Heinrich von Brentano's resignation in 1961, although he again took over the office of "de facto managing", but unlike Helmut Schmidt, he did not officially become Foreign Minister in 1982. Only an analogous interpretation of Article 69 paragraph 3 could justify the designation “executive Federal Chancellor” in this case constellation; otherwise he is legally a “Federal Chancellor” without any additional designation.

The Federal Chancellor's resignation during the legislative period itself is neither provided for nor regulated in the Basic Law. Nevertheless, it is considered constitutionally admissible. The resignations of Chancellors Adenauer, Erhard and Brandt to date have therefore not been the subject of major constitutional debates. The resignation also offers a route to new elections. If, in accordance with Article 63 of the Basic Law, no candidate finds an absolute majority in the upcoming election of the Federal Chancellor after the resignation , the Federal President can order new elections, but he does not have to do so.

Constructive vote of no confidence

Federal Chancellor Helmut Kohl on December 19, 1989 on the Altmarkt in Dresden

One of the most important decisions of the Parliamentary Council to strengthen the position of the Federal Chancellor was the introduction of the constructive vote of no confidence. According to Article 67 of the Basic Law, the Federal Chancellor can only be overthrown by a majority in parliament if this majority has at the same time agreed on a successor for him. This will prevent the government from being overthrown by a majority that rejects it, but not a single majority. In the Weimar Republic, this was often the case due to the joint work of extreme right and extreme left forces, which led to short terms of office of the Reich Chancellor and thus to general political instability.

According to the Bundestag's rules of procedure, the application must be submitted by at least a quarter of its members. The application to request the Federal President to dismiss the Federal Chancellor must at the same time contain a request to the Federal President to appoint a named person as his successor. This ensures that the newly formed majority has at least agreed on a joint Federal Chancellor proposal and can therefore be expected to have a joint government program. To be accepted, the motion again requires the Chancellor's majority , i.e. an absolute majority of the votes of the members of the Bundestag.

If the Joint Committee wishes to overthrow the Chancellor during a state of defense by means of a constructive vote of no confidence, this motion requires a majority of two thirds of the members of the Joint Committee. With the increase of this majority the possibility of a de facto coup d'état by the joint committee should be made more difficult.

The change of a coalition partner or even just individual coalition members to the opposition is legitimate according to the provisions of the Basic Law. However, he is always in the public eye of treason, because according to the arguments of the political group negatively affected by the change, the voters could have trusted in their voting decision that they were also choosing a certain candidate for chancellor by choosing a party . The subsequent change is an unacceptable deception of the voter in terms of democracy theory. The Federal Constitutional Court opposed this argument in a ruling on the vote of confidence from 1983 and equated democratic legitimacy with constitutional legitimacy.

The constructive vote of no confidence has been used twice in the history of the Federal Republic: in 1972 the CDU / CSU parliamentary group tried unsuccessfully to overthrow Federal Chancellor Willy Brandt and elect Rainer Barzel as Chancellor; In 1982 the CDU / CSU and FDP jointly overthrew Federal Chancellor Helmut Schmidt and elected Helmut Kohl as Federal Chancellor.

Vote of confidence

Chancellor Gerhard Schröder during a conversation with US diplomats on the sidelines of the Munich Security Conference in 1999

If the Federal Chancellor has the impression that the majority in the Bundestag no longer supports his policy, he can put a vote of confidence in accordance with Article 68 of the Basic Law and thus force the Bundestag to act itself. He can also combine the question of trust with a decision on the matter, i.e. a draft law or another proposal. If the Bundestag does not approve the Federal Chancellor's motion to express confidence in him with an absolute majority, there are three options:

  • The Federal Chancellor can decide not to draw any constitutional consequences.
  • The Federal Chancellor can propose to the Federal President to dissolve the Bundestag; the Federal President decides on this proposal politically independently. When the newly elected Bundestag convenes, the term of office of the previous Federal Chancellor automatically ends, although a new election by the new Bundestag is possible.
  • The Federal Government can apply to the Federal President to declare a legislative emergency, provided that the Federal Council agrees and the Bundestag has previously rejected a draft bill that has been designated as urgent. The Federal President decides on this application in turn politically independently. Due to the legislative emergency, the Bundestag can be largely disempowered for six months.

In the history of the Federal Republic of Germany, the question of confidence has been asked five times. Twice ( Schmidt 1982 and Schröder 2001) it was a question of a real question of trust, while with the questions of trust by Brandt 1972, Kohl 1982 and Schröder 2005 the dissolution of the Bundestag was sought and achieved. In 1983 and 2005, MPs sued the Federal Constitutional Court against this approach. As a result, the court dismissed the complaints on both occasions.


In Germany, the usual and correct form of address for the Federal Chancellor is simply "Mr. Federal Chancellor" or "Ms. Federal Chancellor". In international diplomatic correspondence, the term excellence , which is also used for foreign heads of government and republican heads of state, is used. In the protocol hierarchy in Germany, which is not regulated by law, but is widely followed , the Federal Chancellor is in third place, behind the Federal President and the President of the Bundestag.

Assessment of the office

The construction of a strong Federal Chancellor who is only dependent on the Bundestag has proven itself in the predominant opinion of political science. While the interplay between the Bundestag and Bundesrat in legislation is regularly criticized and the office of the Federal President in its current form is occasionally questioned, both the office and the powers of the Federal Chancellor are almost undisputed. Even if Konrad Adenauer's position of power, which manifested itself in the term Chancellor's Democracy , which was coined during his tenure, was not retained to the same extent by his successors, the Chancellor is the most important and most powerful German politician.

The relatively strong constitutional position, which results, among other things, from the type of appointment and the formation of a cabinet, as well as the difficulty of withdrawing it only through a constructive vote of no confidence , and the regular occupation of a high party office in connection with relatively stable party political relationships, ensures great continuity in the Office of the Federal Chancellor taken care of: Olaf Scholz is only the ninth person to hold the office. However, the long average term of office of the Federal Chancellor of around nine years has also been criticized. In this context, it has already been proposed to limit the Chancellor's term of office to eight years, which is not unproblematic in its practical implementation, as was the case with the US President , and Gerhard Schröder also supported this idea before his term in office. He later moved away from her, especially since he stood for re-election in the 2005 Bundestag elections after serving as chancellor for two terms (1998-2005) .

Hopes for a strong Federal Chancellor have been fulfilled on the whole, but fears of an overly powerful ruler have not come true, especially since the power of the Federal Chancellor is limited compared to the Reich President of the Weimar Republic or the US President. In this respect, the saying of former Federal President Herzog that the Basic Law was a stroke of luck for Germany can also be applied to the construction of the office of Federal Chancellor.

As a constitutional lawyer, Roman Herzog also criticized some “petrefacts” of the Basic Law. It is a "feat" that Article 61 provides for the Federal President to be charged before the Federal Constitutional Court, so that it is not the Federal Chancellor, who has every opportunity to manipulate, but the Federal President who is threatened with the possibility of organ charges. The right to propose under Article 63 paragraph 1 is a regression of the right to choose, which was a matter of course during the Imperial and Weimar periods . That can now be deleted.

The expression Federal Chancellor

Chancellor Angela Merkel at the Hamburg G20 meeting in 2017, with Donald Trump and Theresa May

In connection with the election of Angela Merkel as Federal Chancellor, some considerations were made with regard to the linguistic approach to the first female incumbent. It was established that - although the Basic Law only speaks of the “Federal Chancellor” in the generic masculine form - the official salutation for a woman in the highest government office is “Ms. Federal Chancellor”. It also became clear that Angela Merkel is the first Federal Chancellor (in the feminine), but at the same time the eighth Federal Chancellor (in the generic masculine). A male Federal Chancellor following Angela Merkel could therefore not call himself the “eighth Federal Chancellor” (only “ninth”), as there is no purely male job title (with a few exceptions) in German . The Federal Office is maintained due to the reference to the grade in the generic masculine in its grammatical form; so it is not called “Federal Chancellery”.

In this context, the term " first lady" is also given special consideration, which is also used in the German context with reference to the wives of federal chancellors.

Also in connection with the first election of a woman to the office of Federal Chancellor, the word “Federal Chancellor” was chosen by the Society for German Language as Word of the Year on December 16, 2005 , because the expression raises linguistically interesting questions and, in the opinion of the jury, before For a few decades, a female Federal Chancellor would have been addressed as "Mrs. Federal Chancellor".

In 2004 the title “Ms. Federal Chancellor” was included in the Duden .

The internet domain bundeskanzlerin.de was reserved in 1998 by the then student Lars Heitmüller. He had announced that he would transfer her to the first Federal Chancellor free of charge, which finally took place in November 2005.

German Chancellor since 1949

Federal Chancellor of the Federal Republic of Germany
No. image Name (life data) Political party Taking office End of term of office 1 Length of term of office Cabinets German Bundestag
1 Federal archive B 145 Bild-F078072-0004, Konrad Adenauer.jpg Konrad Adenauer


CDU September 15, 1949 October 16, 1963 14 years, 1 month, 1 day

(5144 days)

I , II , III , IV / V 1st , 2nd , 3rd , 4th
2 Federal archive B 145 Bild-F041449-0007, Hamburg, CDU federal party conference, Ludwig Erhard.jpg Ludwig Erhard


CDU 2 October 16, 1963 December 1, 1966 3 years, 1 month, 15 days

(1142 days)

I , II 4th, 5th
3 Kurt Georg Kiesinger (Nürburgring, 1969) .jpg Kurt Georg Kiesinger


CDU December 1, 1966 October 21, 1969 2 years, 10 months, 20 days

(1055 days)

I. 5.
4th Federal archive B 145 Bild-F057884-0009, Willy Brandt.jpg Willy Brandt


SPD October 21, 1969 May 7th 1974 4 years, 6 months, 16 days

(1659 days)

I , II 6th , 7th
- Federal Archives Picture 146-1989-047-20, Walter Scheel.jpg Walter Scheel
(executive) 3


FDP May 7th 1974 May 16, 1974 9 days Brandt II 7th
5 Helmut Schmidt (07/13/1977) .jpg Helmut Schmidt


SPD May 16, 1974 October 1, 1982 8 years, 4 months, 15 days

(3060 days)

I , II , III 7th, 8th , 9th
6th Bundesarchiv B 145 Bild-F074398-0021 Kohl (cropped) .jpg Helmut Kohl


CDU October 1, 1982 October 27, 1998 16 years, 26 days

(5870 days)

I , II , III , IV , V 9th, 10th , 11th , 12th , 13th
7th Gerhard Schröder (cropped) .jpg Gerhard Schröder

(* 1944)

SPD October 27, 1998 November 22, 2005 7 years, 26 days

(2583 days)

I , II 14. , 15.
8th Angela Merkel July 2010 - 3zu4 (cropped 2) .jpg Angela Merkel

(* 1954)

CDU November 22, 2005 December 8, 2021 16 years, 16 days

(5860 days)

I , II , III , IV 16. , 17. , 18. , 19.
9 2021-09-12 Politics, TV-Triell Federal Parliament Election 2021 1DX 3801 by Stepro (cropped) .jpg Olaf Scholz

(* 1958)

SPD December 8, 2021 in office 0 years and 2 days

(2 days)

I. 20th
1The term of office also includes the periods in which the Federal Chancellors formally only continued business between the meeting of the new Bundestag or their resignation and the election of a new Federal Chancellor or the re-election as Federal Chancellor within the meaning of Article 69 of the Basic Law :
  • Konrad Adenauer (October 6 to 9, 1953, October 15 to 22, 1957, October 17 to November 7, 1961 and October 15 to 16, 1963),
  • Ludwig Erhard (October 19 to 20, 1965 and November 30 to December 1, 1966),
  • Kurt Georg Kiesinger (October 20-21, 1969),
  • Willy Brandt (December 13-14, 1972),
  • Helmut Schmidt (December 14-15, 1976 and November 4-5, 1980),
  • Helmut Kohl (March 29, 1983: a few hours, February 18 to March 11, 1987, December 20, 1990 to January 17, 1991, November 10 to 15, 1994 and October 26 to 27, 1998),
  • Gerhard Schröder (October 17 to 22, 2002 and October 18 to November 22, 2005),
  • Angela Merkel (October 27 to 28, 2009, October 22 to December 17, 2013, October 24, 2017 to March 14, 2018 and from October 26 to December 8, 2021).
3Since Willy Brandt had asked Federal President Gustav Heinemann not to be entrusted with the continuation of business in accordance with Article 69 Paragraph 3 of the Basic Law , at the request of the Federal President, the previous deputy of the Federal Chancellor , Walter Scheel, ran the business until Helmut Schmidt was elected of the Federal Chancellor (see also: End of the term of office ) .

Konrad Adenauer (1949–1963)

Federal archive B 145 Bild-F078072-0004, Konrad Adenauer.jpg

Konrad Adenauer's tenure was largely shaped by events in foreign policy. He pushed through the ties to the West, joining NATO and founding the ECSC , the cornerstone of the European Union , against the resistance of the SPD . He promoted Franco-German reconciliation and signed the Franco-German friendship treaty in 1963 . He also campaigned heavily for German-Jewish reconciliation . In terms of domestic politics, as well as his successor Ludwig Erhard, he is credited with the economic miracle , the strong economic recovery in West German society. Through socio-political decisions such as the burden equalization legislation or the dynamic pension , he achieved the integration of refugees, the compensation of victims of the Second World War and the formation of a stable society with a broad middle class. His strict rejection of Ludwig Erhard as his successor, his behavior in the Spiegel affair , his ambiguity when asked about his candidacy for federal president in 1959 and his unconditional adherence to power in 1962/63 are noted negatively. Overall, with his interpretation of the powers of the Federal Chancellor, Konrad Adenauer laid important groundwork for his successors' understanding of office. His 14-year term in office lasted longer than the democratic phase of the Weimar Republic until the handover of power to Hitler. He was already 73 years old when he took office and ruled until he was 88. This made him the oldest Federal Chancellor and was also called "the old one".

Ludwig Erhard (1963–1966)

Federal archive B 145 Bild-F022484-0016, state election campaign trip Federal Chancellor Erhard.jpg

Ludwig Erhard came to power as a man of the economic miracle , which was underlined by the external appearance. This earned him the nickname "the fat one". His chancellorship, however, was already under a bad star because of the attacks by Adenauer on his successor and the onset of a slight economic weakness. The most important foreign policy act of his chancellorship is the establishment of diplomatic relations with Israel, while accepting violent protests from Arab states. He tried to strengthen relations with the United States of America , which is why he was called an " Atlanticist " in contrast to the " Gaullist " Adenauer. Erhard finally fell over economic problems and the disagreement in his party. After the FDP ministers withdrew from the government in October 1966, negotiations began on a grand coalition , and Erhard finally resigned.

Kurt Georg Kiesinger (1966–1969)

Federal archive B 145 Bild-F024017-0001, Oberhausen, CDU party congress Rhineland, Kiesinger (cropped) .jpg

The Chancellor of the first grand coalition , Kurt Georg Kiesinger , presented a different picture of a Federal Chancellor. “Chief Silberzunge” mediated between the two major parties, CDU and SPD , instead of determining. An important topic of his term of office was the enforcement of the emergency laws . Because of his former membership in the NSDAP , he was exposed to attacks by the 1968 generation; with this the extra-parliamentary opposition overlapped . Kiesinger's Union missed an absolute majority in the 1969 Bundestag election by just seven seats. As a social-liberal coalition was subsequently formed from the SPD and FDP and the Union parties went into opposition for the first time, Kiesinger left office after only two years and 325 days; He is thus the Federal Chancellor with the shortest term of office to date.

Willy Brandt (1969–1974)

Federal archive B 145 Bild-F057884-0009, Willy Brandt.jpg

Willy Brandt was the first social democrat in the Federal Chancellery. He advocated the Eastern Treaties and thus promoted reconciliation with Germany's eastern neighbors; his kneeling from Warsaw received a lot of international attention. He also put relations with the GDR on a new basis. This attitude gave him fierce opposition in conservative circles, which in 1972 even led to a narrowly unsuccessful vote of no confidence in him. On the other hand, he received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1971 for his foreign policy efforts . Domestically, he wanted to “dare more democracy”; because of this, he was particularly popular with younger voters. During his tenure, the 1973 oil crisis fell , which led to an increase in unemployment, which in turn damaged Brandt's reputation. After his close colleague Günter Guillaume was exposed as a GDR spy, Brandt resigned. He justified this officially with allegations that he was likely to be blackmailed by Guillaume's espionage on the basis of women’s stories and thus represented a risk for the Federal Republic of Germany. His resignation takes place because there should be no doubt about the integrity of the Chancellor. Political observers today agree that the agent affair was only the trigger for the planned resignation. The actual cause of the resignation is generally assumed to be Brandt's fatigue and depression, which also led to criticism of his indecisive leadership style within the party.

After the resignation of Federal Chancellor Willy Brandt on May 7, 1974, Walter Scheel led the business of government until Helmut Schmidt was elected Chancellor on May 16, 1974.

Helmut Schmidt (1974–1982)

Federal Chancellor Helmut Schmidt.jpg

Helmut Schmidt took office as Willy Brandt's successor. The terror of the Red Army faction , especially in the “ German Autumn ” of 1977, shaped the first years of his term in office: On this issue, Schmidt strictly pursued the policy that the state must not allow itself to be blackmailed and at the same time the rule of law must be upheld. Domestically, he pursued a rather conservative course - for a social-liberal coalition. His support for the NATO double resolution , with which many SPD members disagreed, heralded the end of his term of office. In 1982 there was finally a break with the coalition partner FDP due to differences in economic policy. Because of his open and direct way of saying even unpopular things, he was also called "Schmidt-Schnauze".

Helmut Kohl (1982-1998)

KAS-Kohl, Helmut-Bild-14701-1.jpg

Helmut Kohl was elected as the new Federal Chancellor by a constructive vote of no confidence against Helmut Schmidt with the votes of the CDU, CSU and the majority of the FDP parliamentary group. At the beginning of his term in office he promised a “spiritual and moral turnaround ”. In the first few weeks of his chancellorship, he brought about the dissolution of the Bundestag and early elections by means of a constitutionally controversial vote of confidence . His personal vision was a “Europe without barriers”, which the Schengen states finally achieved with the Schengen Agreement . Kohl also strongly advocated the establishment of the euro . Helmut Kohl's name is closely linked to German reunification : in 1989 he seized the opportunity after the fall of the Berlin Wall and in international negotiations ensured the approval of the Soviet Union for reunification and the all-German membership of NATO . Domestically, the reunification created major problems, as the economy in East Germany, contrary to Kohl's assessment, had collapsed from the “ blooming landscapes ” to come. The difficulties of rebuilding the East were decisive for his later term in office. Finally, he was voted out of office in 1998 because of record unemployment . After Kohl's term of office it became known that he had accepted donations for the benefit of the CDU in violation of the party law and put them into "black coffers". At 16 years and 26 days in office, Kohl is the Federal Chancellor who has served the longest to date. That is why he is still called the “eternal Chancellor” today.

Gerhard Schröder (1998-2005)

Gerhard Schröder (cropped) .jpg

Gerhard Schröder began shortly after starting his chancellorship with his red-green coalition , a number of reform -projects, which towards the end of the first term, a phase of " steady hand followed". In foreign policy, led Schröder initially the transatlantic partnership as his predecessors: 1999 and 2001 supported Germany as part of the alliance loyalty to NATO in Kosovo and in Afghanistan . In 2002, however, Schröder officially refused the US to approve the Iraq war . In addition to his crisis management during the flood of the century in eastern and northern Germany, this is an important reason for his re-election in 2002 . In 2003 he named his reform program for the second term in office with Agenda 2010 , especially since he had not been able to halve unemployment - as announced at the beginning of his term of office. This program went too far for the political left, while it did not go far enough for business groups. All of this led to mass withdrawals from the SPD, the loss of numerous state and local elections and the formation of a new left-wing tendency beyond the SPD, which led to the establishment of the WASG alternative . After another severe SPD defeat in the state elections in North Rhine-Westphalia in 2005 , Gerhard Schröder achieved the dissolution of the Bundestag and early elections in autumn 2005 by means of a vote of confidence , also because he saw the coalition's confidence in him being impaired. Although he narrowly lost these elections after massive loss of votes, he managed to keep the SPD involved in the government because of the unexpectedly small difference between CDU / CSU and SPD in the election results and the entry of the Left Party into parliament to form a grand coalition of the Union and led the SPD.

Angela Merkel (2005-2021)

Angela Merkel - July 2010 - 3zu4 cropped.jpg

Angela Merkel was elected Chancellor on November 22, 2005. The first woman and scientist to hold the highest government office in Germany relied on a grand coalition of CDU / CSU and SPD. She was also the first former citizen of the GDR as all-German chancellor and was the youngest holder of office when she took office at the age of 51.

She had given up her reputation as "Kohl's girl" when she broke with her former sponsor because of his donation affair. At the beginning of her term of office, Merkel had very high approval ratings, which were also related to the solution to foreign policy crises, which was found to be good. When dealing with domestic political problems such as the federalism and health care reforms , critics also emerged from her own party and accused Merkel of weak leadership.

The 2009 Bundestag election resulted in a black and yellow majority. Merkel was re-elected as Federal Chancellor on October 28, 2009. While the international financial crisis intensified and the euro was in danger, the German government made a name for itself with its tax policy, which in some cases was sharply criticized. The military and the civil service were suspended and replaced by voluntary variants. The extension of the service life of the nuclear power plants was initially decided and reversed after the nuclear disaster in Fukushima .

In the 2013 federal election , the FDP failed to make it into the Bundestag for the first time in the history of the Federal Republic. As a result, Merkel again formed a coalition with the SPD and was elected Chancellor for the third time on December 17, 2013. The most important achievement of Merkel's chancellorship is the reduction in unemployment , which is partly due to the previous reforms by Gerhard Schröder, while the greatest challenges are dealing with the financial crisis since 2007, the euro crisis since 2009 and the refugee crisis since 2015 .

After the 2017 federal elections , it was initially difficult to form a majority, as explorations for a so-called Jamaica coalition made up of Union parties, the FDP and the Greens failed and the SPD was initially unwilling to work together. After the agreement on a coalition agreement and its successful approval by the parties involved, the CSU, CDU and SPD, Angela Merkel was elected Chancellor for the fourth time on March 14, 2018.

For the federal election in 2021 , she no longer stood as the Union's candidate for chancellor.

With a term of office of 16 years and 16 days, she is just behind Helmut Kohl, who was ten days longer, the Federal Chancellor with the second longest term.

Olaf Scholz (since 2021)

Olaf Scholz 2021 cropped.jpg

Olaf Scholz was elected to office on December 8, 2021. He leads a coalition of the SPD, Bündnis 90 / Die Grünen and FDP. This alliance, known as the traffic light coalition , is the first of its kind at the federal level.

Federal Chancellor who was also Federal Foreign Minister

Two Federal Chancellors served at the same time as Federal Foreign Minister:


General and term of office

The then Chancellor Schmidt with his predecessors in office Kiesinger (l.) And Brandt (r.) In Bonn (1979)

If the only executive officer Walter Scheel is not counted, there were eight Federal Chancellors, including Angela Merkel. Helmut Kohl was in office the longest at 16 years and 26 days, closely followed by Angela Merkel , who was only ten days less in office; the shortest is Kurt Georg Kiesinger at the age of two years and eleven months.


The SPD has four Federal Chancellors, the CDU has five, including the only female Chancellor. Other parties did not have elected chancellors.

Adenauer (CDU) was formerly a member of the center , Kiesinger (CDU) was a member of the NSDAP , SPD Chancellor Brandt had belonged to a left-wing splinter party, the SAP . Angela Merkel came to the CDU together with the Democratic Awakening .

The CDU provided the Federal Chancellor for the longest time, namely (up to and including 2021) 52 years. The SPD will have 20 years (until 2021). The longest time in which any party (the CDU) was the uninterrupted chancellor was the 20 years from 1949 to 1969.

Konrad Adenauer brought together representatives from a total of five parties in his second cabinet and thus holds the record (four when he took office, three at the end; CDU and CSU counted as two parties).

Titles and offices

Ludwig Erhard, Helmut Kohl and Angela Merkel have completed their doctorates . All of the Federal Chancellors have received several honorary doctorates .

Erhard was a soldier (NCO) in the First World War . Kiesinger was exempt from armed service due to his ministerial work during the Second World War , Schmidt was a soldier (first lieutenant in the armed forces, major in the armed forces).

It is common that a chancellor was previously a minister : Erhard fourteen years (economics), Brandt three years (foreign affairs), Schmidt five years (defense, finance, economics), Scholz six years (labor and social affairs, finance) and Merkel eight Years (women, environment), which (as of 2021) was the longest member of the federal government. Former Prime Ministers of a German federal state were Kiesinger (Baden-Württemberg), Kohl (Rhineland-Palatinate) and Schröder (Lower Saxony). Olaf Scholz was First Mayor of Hamburg from 2011 to 2018 . Willy Brandt was Governing Mayor of the State of Berlin from 1957 to 1966 . Adenauer (Cologne) was the mayor of a large city.

The majority of the chancellors had parliamentary experience. Kiesinger was so far the only Chancellor who was not a member of the German Bundestag while he was chancellor, but was a member of the Bundestag before (1949–1958) and afterwards (1969–1980). From October 26, 2021 until the election of Olaf Scholz, Angela Merkel was also no longer a member of the Bundestag. No Federal Chancellor was a member of the Reichstag . With the exception of Merkel and Gerhard Schröder, who was re-elected to the Bundestag in 2005 but resigned his mandate two days after the election of his successor, all of the Chancellors were members of the Bundestag for a long time after their term of office ended. After resigning in 1974, Brandt was a member of the Bundestag until his death in 1992, for a total of 31 years (1949–1957, 1961, 1969–1992). This is followed by Merkel with 31 years of membership in the Bundestag (1990–2021) and Schmidt with 30 years (1953–1962, 1965–1987). Erhard was a member of the Bundestag for 28 years (from 1949 until his death in 1977), Kohl for 26 years (1976-2002), Adenauer for 18 years (1949-1967) and Schröder for a total of 13 years (1980-1986, 1998-2005).

Earlier Bundestag - Group leaders were Schmidt, Kohl and Merkel.


Helmut Schmidt at the age of 95 at the Munich Security Conference 2014

The youngest when she took office was Chancellor Merkel at the age of 51. The oldest Federal Chancellor when he took office was Adenauer at the age of 73. Adenauer still holds the age record as incumbent Chancellor, he only resigned at the age of 87. The youngest Federal Chancellor to leave office was Willy Brandt at the age of 60. So far, every Federal Chancellor was younger than his predecessor at the beginning of his term of office; With the exception of Gerhard Schröder and Olaf Scholz, every newly elected Chancellor was younger than all his predecessors when they took office.

The first three Federal Chancellors did not take office until they were over 60. Since then - starting with Willy Brandt - all Federal Chancellors except Olaf Scholz have had their 60th birthday in office.

Helmut Schmidt, who was 96 years and 322 days old, has so far reached the maximum age of a former chancellor. Schmidt also holds the record for the longest period as a former chancellor. 33 years and 40 days passed between his election and his death. The youngest Chancellor to die is Willy Brandt at 78 years and 295 days. Konrad Adenauer had the shortest time as former chancellor (3 years and 185 days).

Since the resignation of the first Federal Chancellor, Konrad Adenauer, there has always been at least one living former Federal Chancellor alongside the incumbent. So far there have been three periods in which three former chancellors were alive in addition to the incumbent: from 1974 to 1977 (Erhard, Kiesinger, Brandt), from 1982 to 1988 (Kiesinger, Brandt, Schmidt) and from 2005 to 2015 (Schmidt, Kohl , Schröder). Since Helmut Kohl's death in 2017, Gerhard Schröder was temporarily the only former chancellor to live until 2021. This was previously the case after the death of Willy Brandt, when Helmut Schmidt was the only living former chancellor from 1992 to 1998. Since 2021, Schröder and Angela Merkel have again been living with two former chancellors.

See also


Federal Chancellor as a person

Federal Chancellor as a political institution and function

  • Arnulf Baring : In the beginning there was Adenauer. The emergence of chancellor democracy. Munich 1982, ISBN 3-423-10097-4
  • Volker Busse, Hans Hofmann: Federal Chancellery and Federal Government. Tasks - organization - working method. 5th, revised and updated edition. Müller, Heidelberg 2010, ISBN 978-3-8114-7734-6 .
  • Karlheinz Niclauß : Chancellor Democracy. Governance from Konrad Adenauer to Angela Merkel , Springer, Wiesbaden 2015, ISBN 978-3-658-02397-3 .
  • Wolfgang Rudzio : The political system of the Federal Republic of Germany. UTB. 2000, ISBN 3-8100-2593-3 , pp. 283-314.
  • Erik Werk: The virtuoso Chancellor , satire, e-enterprise, Lemgo 2015.

Web links

Commons : Federal Chancellor  - Album with pictures, videos and audio files
Wiktionary: Federal Chancellor  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

  1. a b Guide to addresses and salutations (PDF; 2.0 MB), Federal Ministry of the Interior - Inland protocol, December 2016.
  2. ↑ List of Abbreviations. (PDF; 49 kB) Abbreviations for the constitutional bodies, the highest federal authorities and the highest federal courts. In: bund.de. Federal Office of Administration (BVA), accessed on May 23, 2017 .
  3. ^ Protocol-based priority issues. Federal Ministry of the Interior, accessed on November 22, 2020 .
  4. Bodo Pieroth: Article 65 . In: Hans Jarass, Bodo Pieroth (Ed.): Basic Law for the Federal Republic of Germany Commentary . 13th edition. CH Beck, Munich 2014, p. 797 .
  5. ^ Breit, Massing: Government and Government Action , Wochenschau Verlag, 2008, pp. 33–35, 62.
  6. Cf. Oscar W. Gabriel , Everhard Holtmann (Ed.): Handbuch Politisches System der Bundes Republik Deutschland , 3rd Edition, Oldenbourg, Munich 2005, p. 256 .
  7. Bodo Pieroth: Article 64 . In: Hans Jarass, Bodo Pieroth (Ed.): Basic Law for the Federal Republic of Germany Commentary . 13th edition. CH Beck, Munich 2014, p. 796 .
  8. Bodo Pieroth: Article 64 . In: Hans Jarass, Bodo Pieroth (Ed.): Basic Law for the Federal Republic of Germany Commentary . 13th edition. CH Beck, Munich 2014, p. 796-797 .
  9. Herzog, in: Maunz / Dürig, Basic Law Comment 77th EL July 2016, Article 63 Basic Law No. 21-24.
  10. Section 15 of the Federal Election Act
  11. Section 15, Paragraph 2, No. 1 in conjunction with V. m. § 13 of the Federal Election Act
  12. Article 54.1 of the Basic Law
  13. a b Bodo Pieroth: Article 63 . In: Hans Jarass, Bodo Pieroth (Ed.): Basic Law for the Federal Republic of Germany Commentary . 13th edition. CH Beck, Munich 2014, p. 795 .
  14. Bodo Pieroth: Article 63 . In: Hans Jarass, Bodo Pieroth (Ed.): Basic Law for the Federal Republic of Germany Commentary . 13th edition. CH Beck, Munich 2014, p. 794 .
  15. Hellmut Königshaus : Bundeswehr. In: staatslexikon-online.de. Retrieved December 8, 2021 .
  16. Hartmut Wilhelm: Where the Federal Chancellor Governed the Association of Reservists of the German Armed Forces , June 24, 2019
  17. FALLEX 66: Sincerely, Der Spiegel , June 18, 1967.
  18. Waldemar Schreckenberger died at the age of 87 on August 8, 2017.
  19. Section 11 of the Act on the Legal Relationships of Members of the Federal Government
  20. Zero round for government and Federal President because of Corona , on presse-augsburg.de
  21. The Office of the Federal Chancellor: Individual questions on remuneration and other services. (PDF) Scientific Services of the German Bundestag , July 30, 2020, accessed on December 8, 2021 .
  22. E.g. von Mangoldt / Klein, Art. 69, note V 7b; Herzog in Maunz / Dürig, Art. 69 marginal number 59.
  23. A lesser opinion of the lawyers considers the appointment of Walter Scheel to be fundamentally inadmissible, e. B. Heinhard Steiger in: Hans-Peter Schneider , Wolfgang Zeh , Parliamentary Law and Parliamentary Practice in the Federal Republic of Germany , de Gruyter, Berlin / New York 1989, p. 779.
  24. ^ Hans D. Jarass and Bodo Pieroth : Basic Law for the Federal Republic of Germany. Comment. 11th edition, Munich 2011, ISBN 978-3-406-60941-1 , p. 781 f.
  25. a b Decision of the Federal Constitutional Court on the vote of confidence from 1983 (2 BvE 1/83 of February 16, 1983)
  26. Section 9, Paragraph 1, No. 2 of the Act on the Legal Relationships of Members of the Federal Government
  27. ^ Decision of the Federal Constitutional Court on the vote of confidence from 2005 (2 BvE 4/05 of August 25, 2005) .
  28. Roman Herzog : Relics of the constitutional constitution in the Basic Law. In: Karl Dietrich Bracher et al. (Ed.): State and parties. Festschrift for Rudolf Morsey on the occasion of his 65th birthday. Berlin 1992, pp. 85-96.
  29. Kerstin Schenke: The Federal Chancellor and the Federal Chancellor 1949 - 2009. In: Federal Archives . Retrieved December 10, 2021 .
  30. Gerd Langguth : Angela Merkel - Rise to Power: Biography . Deutscher Taschenbuch Verlag , 2007, ISBN 978-3-423-34414-2 , pp. 8 .
  31. Alfons Kaiser : Word of the Year. The career of the Federal Chancellor. In: FAZ.net , December 16, 2005 (on the term Federal Chancellor ).
  32. Caroline Bock: Student secures URLs of choice , Focus-Online, June 1, 2005.
  33. Guido Knopp: Chancellor. The mighty of the republic. Goldmann 2000, pp. 7 f., 17-83.
  34. Guido Knopp: Chancellor. The mighty of the republic. Goldmann 2000, pp. 8-10, 83-161.
  35. Guido Knopp: Chancellor. The mighty of the republic. Goldmann 2000, pp. 10-12, 161-227.
  36. Guido Knopp: Chancellor. The mighty of the republic. Goldmann 2000, pp. 12f., 227-289.
  37. Guido Knopp: Chancellor. The mighty of the republic. Goldmann 2000, pp. 13f., 289-359.
  38. Guido Knopp: Chancellor. The mighty of the republic. Goldmann 2000, pp. 14f., 359-418.