5 facts about the election of Germany's Federal President

The new Federal President will be elected on 12 February. Why Jogi Löw, head coach of Germany's national football team, has a vote – and other things you need to know.

dpa - Schloss Bellevue, Sitz des Bundespräsidenten

Who elects the President of the Federal Republic of Germany?

The Federal President is not elected directly by the German people but by the Federal Assembly. It meets solely for this purpose every five years, unless a Federal President ends his or her term of office prematurely – but this has only happened twice since 1949. The Federal Assembly is made up of all the members of the Bundestag – currently 630 men and women – and an equal number of representatives of the 16 federal states (Länder).

Why can Germany soccer coach Jogi Löw vote?

The state representatives are elected by the state parliaments (Landtage) according to the principles of proportional representation. The number of delegates each state may send to the Federal Assembly depends their respective population figures. The unusual thing is that the representatives don't need to be members of the Landtag or even live in the state. Thus, the political parties always also nominate a number of prominent personalities as representatives(xxx). In 2017, they include, for example, actresses such as Iris Bergen for the SPD in Hesse and Veronica Ferres for the CDU in North Rhine-Westphalia. Football coach Jogi Löw will be represent Alliance 90/The Greens in Baden-Württemberg. And The Left in Thuringia have nominated Semiya Şimşek Demirtas, the daughter of a murder victim of a radical right-wing group, the so-called 'NSU'.

How does the election work?

The election is secret and uses hidden ballot cards. The person who receives the votes of a majority of the Federal Assembly members is elected. If no one reaches this majority in two rounds of voting, the candidate who wins the most votes in the third ballot is elected. So there is always a result.

Who is standing in the election?

Any German with the right to vote in elections for the Bundestag and is at least 40 years old can be elected. Every member of the Federal Assembly can propose a candidate. Frank Walter Steinmeier (SPD), who was Foreign Minister until 27 January 2017, is standing in the election as the candidate of the coalition parties CDU/CSU and SPD. Rival candidates are Christoph Butterwegge (Die Linke),  Albrecht Glaser (AfD),  Alexander Hold (Freie Wähler), Engelbert Sonneborn (Piratenpartei).

What are the tasks of the Federal President?

The Federal President represents the Federal Republic of Germany as its Head of State. He represents the country abroad and appoints the members of government, federal judges and federal civil servants. He signs and promulgates laws. He dismisses the government and can dissolve parliament prematurely in exceptional cases. Unlike the US President and other state presidents, he has no right to veto laws passed by the parliamentary bodies.

The election of the Federal President on 12 February will be broadcast live on the internet at www.bundestag.de, beginning at 12 noon CET.

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