BERLIN (Reuters) – Germany’s new lower house of parliament, the Bundestag, met for the first time on Tuesday following federal elections last month.
Here’s a look at why it’s meeting now, before a government is formed, and what happens next.
WHY IS HE ALREADY SUMMONED?
Germany elected a new Bundestag – the 20th in its post-war federal history – in a national election on September 26.
The constitution stipulates that parliament must meet no later than 30 days after polling day, thus ending the term of its predecessor.
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WHAT HAPPENS DURING THE INAUGURAL SESSION?
On the program, the election of a President of the Bundestag, or speaker, traditionally from the largest parliamentary group – in this case the center-left Social Democrats (SPD) – and other members of the parliamentary presidium.
The president helps set the schedule for debates and sets parliamentary rules.
The SPD – currently in talks on forming a coalition government with the Greens and Free Democrats (FDP) – has appointed health policy specialist Baerbel Bas.
His appointment would ensure that the country’s three main political posts – the others being Chancellor and Federal President – are not all held by men.
The Bundestag is able to pass laws once members are sworn in, although this rarely happens while coalition talks are still ongoing. The Bundestag usually did not meet until the election of a Chancellor was on the agenda.
WHAT HAPPENS TO ANGELA MERKEL?
Under the constitution, a chancellor’s term ends when the new Bundestag meets. However, if no new government has been formed, the outgoing chancellor remains in office as an interim until a successor is elected.
There are no formal restrictions on the powers of the Acting Chancellor during this period. Yet Merkel is a consensus seeker, and previous chancellors did not make sweeping decisions during such windows.
WHEN DOES A NEW CHANCELLOR TAKE OFF?
The political experts aim to fill the many gaps left in a preliminary 12-page coalition agreement reached between the SPD, the Greens and the FDP in the coming weeks so that a government can be formed.
Germany’s last full coalition agreement, reached between Merkel’s conservatives and the SPD in 2018, was 175 pages long and contained commitments on the legislation the parties would pass.
There is no deadline for forming a government, and negotiations between election day in 2017 and Merkel’s swearing-in for her fourth and final term took a record 171 days.
Agreements on previous coalitions took between 23 and 86 days, and the leaders of the SPD, Greens and FDP aim to have the next chancellor – most likely Olaf Scholz of the SPD – elected by the Bundestag in the week of December 6.
HOW DOES THE CHANCELLOR ELECTION WORK?
The Federal President presents a candidate whom he considers capable of winning an absolute majority in the Bundestag. So far, every candidate for chancellery has succeeded on the first try.
(Reporting by Miranda Murray; Additional reporting by Alexander Ratz; Editing by Sarah Marsh and John Stonestreet)
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