Wikipedia 10K Redux by Reagle from Starling archive. Bugs abound!!!

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The Federal Republic (Bundesrepublik) consists of the aforementioned 16 federal states (Bundesländer). The federal government (Bundesregierung) has the final say on most matters, but state-specific legislation, control over the police and cultural affairs are handled by the states' governments.

The head of state is the federal president (Bundespräsident). The president has no real power (he may dismiss parliament, though, but this has never happened so far), but is a representational figure (like [[England]]'s queen). He is elected by the federal assembly (Bundesversammlung).

The head of government is the federal chancellor (Bundeskanzler). He is elected by the federal parliament (Bundestag) and is usually the candidate of the party with the most seats in parliament. He appoints a vice-chancellor (Vizekanzler), who is a member of his cabinet, usually ths foreign minister. When there is a coalition government (which is almost always the case), the vice-chancellor usually belongs to the smaller party of the coalition.

The heads of the federal states' governments are called minister presidents (Ministerpräsidenten). They form a cabinet as well, although it is usually much smaller than the federal government. The 16 minister presidents form the Bundesrat, which can be seen as a second chamber of German parliament, some fields of legislation require approval from the Bundesrat. The Bundesrat also sends representatives to the federal assembly, which elects the federal president. 

It should be noted that heads of governments may change the structure of ministries whenever and however they see fit. For example, in the middle of February 2001, the federal Ministry of Agriculture was renamed to Ministry of Consumer Protection, Food and Agriculture as a consequence of the [[BSE]] crisis. For that measure, competences from the Ministry of Justice, the Ministry of Economy and the Ministry of Health were transferred to the new Ministry of Consumer Protection.

Since 1998 the [ government] is build from a coalition of the [ Social Democratic Party of Germany (SPD)] and [ Bündnis 90 / Die Grünen](The Green Party / ecological oriented party). Chancellor is Gerhard Schröder (SPD), vice-chancellor is Joschka Fischer (Green). The federal president is Johannes Rau. The next election for the [ German Parliament] will be in the autumn of 2002.