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Federal Government discharged

Government stays on as acting government

Federal President Joachim Gauck has presented the Chancellor and her Cabinet ministers with their certificates of discharge. He asked the Chancellor to stay on as acting head of state until such time as her successor is officially appointed.

After Federal President Joachim Gauck presented the outgoing Cabinet with certificates of discharge After Federal President Joachim Gauck presented the outgoing Cabinet with certificates of discharge Photo: Bundesregierung/Bergmann

At the ceremony, which was held at Schloss Bellevue, the Federal President thanked the Chancellor and the government. "You have served our country and our people well," said the Federal President, before he presented the Chancellor and all outgoing Cabinet ministers with their certificates of discharge.

The constituent session of the new German Bundestag on 22 October marks the end of the period of office of the outgoing government. Since the election of the new Chancellor was not on the agenda of the constituent session of the Bundestag, technically the Federal Republic of Germany would have been without a government as of this day. To prevent this, article 69, paragraph 3 of the German Basic Law or constitution provides for the Chancellor and Cabinet ministers to stay on in a caretaker or acting capacity if requested so to do by the Federal President until such time as a successor is appointed.

Parliamentary state secretaries also remain in office on a caretaker basis

The official period of office of parliamentary state secretaries ends along with the period of office of the federal minister to whom they report, with the opening session of the new Bundestag. Should the minister stay in office on a caretaker or acting basis, the parliamentary state secretary too will stay on. When the new minister is appointed, the acting minister and parliamentary state secretary together vacate their posts.

Even parliamentary state secretaries who have not been re-elected to the Bundestag will remain in office during the caretaker period of "their" minister. They will not receive the papers to officially end their period of office until the acting government hands over the reins to the new government.

The authority of the acting government

An acting government basically has the same authority as a "regular" government. Its scope for action is not officially limited to "ongoing business". Nevertheless, in practice the transitional nature of an acting government calls for maximum political restraint.

The acting government is, however, entitled to initiate legislation including the national budget. Cabinet ministers retain the powers vested in them under the provisions of article 65, sentence 2 of the German Basic Law or constitution. This includes the right to issue legal ordinances and administrative regulations.

The Chancellor heading an acting government cannot call for a vote of confidence under the provisions of article 68 of the German Basic Law, because he or she was not elected to office by the new Bundestag, and as an acting Chancellor may not meet the conditions for a dissolution of the Bundestag. Equally there can be no vote of no confidence under the provisions of article 67 of the German Basic Law. The parliament has the normal rights of parliamentary control over the acting government.

Tuesday, 22. October 2013

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