Navigation and service

Interaction between constitutional organs

Interdependence of constitutional organs

In a country like the Federal Republic of Germany, the constitutional organs cannot act in isolation. Given the complementary nature of their functions, they must consult and cooperate with each other if they are to exercise them properly. The Federal President has manifold contacts with the other constitutional organs.


There is necessarily interaction with the German Bundestag because under the Basic Law the Federal President has the right or duty

  • to propose a person for election as Federal Chancellor (Article 63 (1) of the Basic Law),
  • to dissolve the Bundestag if necessary, should a person standing for election as Federal Chancellor fail to obtain a majority of Bundestag members' votes (Article 63 (4) of the Basic Law) or should the incumbent Federal Chancellor fail to obtain a vote of confidence (Article 68 of the Basic Law),
  • to demand the convening of the Bundestag (Article 39 (3), third sentence, of the Basic Law),
  • at the request of the Federal Government and with the consent of the Bundesrat to declare a state of legislative emergency with respect to a bill (Article 81 (1), first sentence, of the Basic Law).

It is also standard practice for the Federal President to invite members, the Presidium and the committees of the Bundestag for talks. This gives him an opportunity both to obtain first-hand information and to influence political developments. Only in exceptional circumstances does the Federal President attend sessions of the Bundestag.

Bundesrat, “deputizing” for the Federal President

The Federal President has a special relationship with the Bundesrat in that under Article 57 of the Basic Law the President of the Bundesrat assumes the powers of the Federal President, should he be unable to perform his duties (state visit abroad, illness, holiday) or should the office fall prematurely vacant (resignation).

In such circumstances the President of the Bundesrat is acting Federal President and cannot therefore perform his normal duties of office. Particularly in the most frequent of these circumstances – when the Federal President is on a state visit abroad – the President of the Bundesrat does not assume all his duties, since the Federal President is after all absent in an official capacity. In such cases the President of the Bundesrat “deputizes” for the Federal President only in so far as a personal presence in Germany is required or if official documents have to be signed. However, the Federal President will send messages of congratulation or condolence even when abroad.

Federal Government, countersignature

The Federal President is involved in the formation of the Federal Government and thereafter remains in close contact with it. According to Article 58, first sentence, of the Basic Law, orders and directives of the Federal President require for their validity the countersignature of the Federal Chancellor or the competent Federal Minister.

This provision is intended to ensure the coherence of government action. Clearly, therefore, the Federal Chancellor should keep the Federal President informed on issues of government policy and the work of individual Ministers by providing him with relevant documents and written reports on particularly important issues as well as by briefing him in person where necessary.

The Federal President receives the Federal Chancellor regularly for talks on current policy issues. He also holds talks with individual Federal Ministers and senior officials. The Head of the Office of the Federal President or his deputy attend Cabinet meetings and report back to the Federal President. This is another way of ensuring that the Federal President has the information he needs to perform his duties.

Federal Constitutional Court

The Federal President also has many connections with the Federal Constitutional Court. When its judges are appointed, dismissed or retire, they are presented with the relevant official documents by the Federal President. On their investiture they take the oath required under Article 11 of the Federal Constitutional Court Act in the presence of the Federal President.

It is also customary for the Federal President to visit the Federal Constitutional Court in Karlsruhe and to maintain an exchange of views with the members of both senates.