New chancellor? Resignation, elections, vote of confidence: This is how it works in Germany
- In the history of the Federal Republic, there have been several attempts to force a chancellor out of office at an early stage – with varying degrees of success.
- After the withdrawal of the Corona measures at Easter, criticism of the chancellor is now growing, along with calls for a vote of confidence.
- But what ways are there to remove a head of government from office??
Berlin. Several times in the history of the Federal Republic, chancellors have had to leave office early. Helmut Kohl became chancellor by a constructive vote of no confidence against Helmut Schmidt. Willy Brandt had to resign because of the Guillaume affair. Gerhard Schroder, on the other hand, asked for a vote of confidence twice during his chancellorship – and still managed to stay in office.
After the withdrawal of the Corona resolutions at Easter, criticism of Chancellor Angela Merkel is now also getting louder. Left-wing parliamentary group leader Dietmar Bartsch has called on Merkel to call for a vote of confidence. In turn, government circles say Merkel is not thinking of resigning.
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Opposition calls on Merkel to vote of confidence
But what possibilities would there be at all to exchange a person at the head of the government?? An overview:
Constructive vote of no confidence
The constructive vote of no confidence (Article 67 of the Basic Law) is the only legal way for the Bundestag to replace a chancellor against his will and without new elections. Parliament can vote no confidence in a head of government with an absolute majority, but at the same time must elect a new chancellor. The Federal President must then dismiss the old Chancellor. There must be 48 hours between the motion and the election.
So far, the vote of no confidence has only been used twice: in 1972 when Rainer Barzel (CDU) stood against SPD Chancellor Willy Brandt (unsuccessfully) and in 1982 when Helmut Kohl (CDU) successfully stood up to SPD Chancellor Helmut Schmidt.
However, the Basic Law does not stipulate that a chancellor must be replaced by an opposition candidate. Meaning: theoretically, the GroKo could agree to install a new GroKo chancellor (from the CDU/CSU or SPD), and enforce this. A new chancellor would not have to be a member of the Bundestag. Realistically, today’s head of government would probably resign before it got that far.
Resignation of the chancellor
A resignation of the Chancellor is not expressly regulated in the Basic Law – but is permissible as a matter of course.
If Angela Merkel were to resign voluntarily (or politically coerced), Article 63 of the Basic Law would apply. This regulates the election of the chancellor.
Paragraph 1 states: "The Federal Chancellor is elected by the Bundestag without debate on the proposal of the Federal President."
Another – and actually the normal – way to replace (or not) a head of government is regular elections (scheduled for fall 2021) or early federal elections.
Angela Merkel has declared that she will not run again in any of these cases. Should she decide for herself that she no longer wants to be chancellor, she would essentially have two options: She could resign. If the Bundestag then fails to elect a successor with the necessary absolute majority in two rounds of voting, the Federal President can, according to Article 63, Paragraph 4 of the Basic Law, either appoint as head of government within seven days the person who has received the most votes (this would correspond to a minority government), or call new elections.
Vote of confidence
The only way in the history of the Federal Republic of Germany to hold early elections is by a vote of confidence.
According to Article 68 of the Basic Law, a Federal Chancellor can ask the Federal President to dissolve the Bundestag after a majority of the deputies have refused to place their trust in the incumbent Federal Chancellor. In this case, the Federal President can dissolve the Bundestag – but he doesn’t have to. He is free in his decision according to the Basic Law.
So far, new elections have only occurred twice after a lost vote of confidence: In December 1982, the black-yellow government under Helmut Kohl failed to win a majority in the Bundestag; in May 2005, the red-green government under Gerhard Schroder (SPD) did the same.