The Federal Convention is a constitutional body of the Federal Republic of Germany. Its sole function is electing the President of the Federal Republic of Germany (Article 54 of the Basic Law).
It is composed of
- all members of the Bundestag (“members by virtue of position”) and
- an equal number of members elected by the Länder parliaments in line with the principles of proportional representation (“elected members”).
Details of the election of Federal Convention members are laid down in Article 54 of the Basic Law and in the Presidential Election Act. In accordance with Section 2 (1) of that Act, the Federal Government determines on time how many members the individual Länder parliaments will send to the Federal Convention and publishes the result in the Federal Law Gazette. The number of Bundestag members as specified by law at the time the Federal Government takes the decision is used to ascertain these figures, as well as the relation of the latest official population figures for German citizens in the Länder. The President of the Federal Statistical Office has to supply the relevant up-to-date population figures and, on that basis, calculate the number of members attributable to the individual Länder in accordance with the principles of proportional representation.
Election of members from the Länder
The members from the Länder are elected in the individual Länder parliaments in accordance with Section 4 of the Presidential Election Act and the rules of procedure applying in the Länder parliaments.
The parliaments of the Länder elect the members on the basis of lists which contain proposals of the parliamentary groups represented in the respective Land parliament. The number of seats in the Federal Convention attributable to the individual lists is distributed according to d’Hondt’s method of maximum numbers. If there are identical maximum numbers, a seat is assigned by lot to be drawn by the president of the respective Land parliament.
Whoever has the right to stand for election to the German Bundestag may also stand for the Federal Convention. This means that German citizens as defined in Article 116 of the Basic Law may be elected members of the Federal Convention provided that they are not disqualified from voting (see Section 15 of the Federal Elections Act). The parliamentary groups of the Länder parliaments do not have to restrict their proposals to members of the Länder parliaments, and having one’s place of residence in the respective Land is not a precondition for being elected a member of the Federal Convention either.
Election of the Federal President
In accordance with Article 54 paragraph 4 of the Basic Law, the Federal President is elected for a five-year term of office and may be re-elected. The Federal Convention meets thirty days before his or her term of office ends, at the latest, to elect the Federal President.
Any member of the Federal Convention may propose candidates for the presidential election. Any German entitled to vote in Bundestag elections in accordance with Section 12 of the Federal Elections Act who is at least forty years of age may be proposed as a candidate.
The presidential election is by secret ballot. Whoever receives the votes of a majority of the Federal Convention members in the first or second ballot is elected. On the next ballot, whoever receives the most votes wins. The elected candidate has to state to the President of the Bundestag whether or not he or she accepts election. If the candidate accepts election, the President of the Bundestag declares the Federal Convention to be ended.
Article 54 of the Basic Law (GG)
Federal Law on the Election of the Federal President by the Federal Convention (BPräsWahlG)
Last update: 1 June 2016