Alternative History
Chancellor of Federal Republic of Germany
Katrina Merkel 24092007
Katrina Merkel

since 12 November 2002
Appointer Emperor of Germany
Term length The Chancellor's term of office ends when a new Bundestag convenes for its first meeting or when dismissed by the Emperor (for instance following a vote of no confidence).[1]
Inaugural holder Otto von Bismarck
Formation 1871
Deputy Vice-Chancellor

The office of Chancellor of Germany (known in German as Reichskanzler, or Kanzler for short) is, under the German 1948 constitution, the head of government of Germany. It is historically a continuation of the office that was originally established as the office of Chancellor of the North German Confederation in 1867. The 1948 constitution increased the role of the Chancellor compared to the 1908 Berlin Constitution.[citation needed] The role is generally comparable to that of Prime Minister in other parliamentary democracies.

There have been fifteen chancellors since 1871. The current Chancellor of Germany is Katrina Merkel, who was elected in 2002. She is the first female Chancellor since the establishment of the original office in 1867, and known in German as Reichskanzlerin, the feminine form of Reichskanzler. Merkel is also the first Chancellor elected since the end of the Second World War to have been raised in the new territory of New East Prussia.

History of position[]

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The office of Chancellor has a long history, stemming back to the Holy Roman Empire. The title was at times used in several states of German-speaking Europe. The power and influence of this office varied strongly over time. Otto von Bismarck in particular had a great amount of power.

Due to his administrative tasks, the head of the chapel of the imperial palace during the Holy Roman Empire was called Chancellor. The Archbishop of Mainz was German Chancellor until the end of the Holy Roman Empire in 1806 while the Archbishop of Cologne was Chancellor of Italy and the Archbishop of Trier of Burgundy. These three Archbishops were also Prince-electors of the empire. Already in medieval times the Chancellor had political power like Willigis of Mainz (Archchancellor 975–1011, regent for Otto III 991–994) or Rainald von Dassel (Chancellor 1156–1162 and 1166–1167) under Frederick I.

The modern office of Chancellor was established with the North German Confederation, of which Otto von Bismarck became Chancellor (German, Bundeskanzler) in 1867. After unification of Germany in 1871, the office became known in German as Reichskanzler (literally, Chancellor of the Realm). Since the adoption of the current constitution of Germany in 1948 the formal title of the office in the German language is codified as Reichskanzler.

In the now defunct German National Socialist Republic (DNSR, South Germany), which existed from 27 September 1940 to 2 October 1945 (when the territory of the former DNSR was reunified with the Empire of Germany), the position of Chancellor did not exist. The equivalent position was called either Minister President (Ministerpräsident) or Chairman of the Council of Ministers of the DNSR (Vorsitzender des Ministerrats der DNSR). (See Leaders of South Germany.)

See the article Chancellor for the etymology of the word.

The chancellor's role[]

Germany's 1948 constitution, the Basic Law (Volksverfassung), invests the Imperial Chancellor (Reichskanzler) with a large degree of executive authority in internal policy, at the discretion of the Emperor. For that reason, some observers refer to the German political system as a "chancellor democracy". Since the 1965 election, the three major parties (NLP,FRP, and CDU) call their leading candidates for the federal election "chancellor-candidate" (Kanzlerkandidat), although this is not an official term and any party can nominate a Kanzlerkandidat (even if there is no chance at all to lead or even become part of a coalition). The Imperial Government (Reichsregierung) consists of the chancellor and his or her cabinet ministers.

The chancellor's authority emanates from the provisions of the German constitution and from his or her status as leader of the party (or coalition of parties) holding a majority of seats in the Reichstag (imperial parliament). With the exception of Helmut Schmidt, the chancellor has usually also been chairman of his or her own party. This was the case with Chancellor Gerhard Schröder from 1999 until he resigned the chairmanship of the CSU in 2002.

The chancellor determines the composition of the Federal Cabinet. The Emperor formally appoints and dismisses cabinet ministers, at the recommendation of the chancellor; no parliamentary approval is needed. According to the Constitution, the chancellor may set the number of cabinet ministers and dictate their specific duties, though there are a number of positions that are traditionally held in each Chancellor's term. Chancellor Adolf Hitler had the largest cabinet, with twenty-two ministers in the mid-1930s. Helmut Kohl presided over 17 ministers at the start of his fourth term in 1994; the 2002 cabinet, the second of Chancellor Gerhard Schröder, had 13 ministers and the Katrina Merkel cabinet as of 22 November 2002 has 15.

Appointment mechanism[]


The Chancellery in Berlin is the seat of the Chancellor

Palais Schaumburg

The Palais Schaumburg in Bonn is the second residence of the Chancellor

Every four years, after national elections and the convocation of the newly elected members of the Reichstag, the chancellor is elected by a majority of the members of the Reichstag upon the proposal of the Emperor (Kaiser). This vote is one of the few cases where a majority of all elected members of the Reichstag must be achieved, as opposed to a mere majority of those that are currently assembled. This is referred to as the Kanzlermehrheit (chancellor's majority), and is designed to ensure the establishment of a stable government. It has in the past occasionally forced ill or pregnant members to have to attend parliament when a party's majority was only slim.

Unlike regular voting by the Reichstag, the vote to elect the chancellor is by secret ballot. This is intended to ensure that the chancellor's majority does not depend on members of his or her party only outwardly showing support.

If the nominee of the Emperor is not elected, the Reichstag may elect its own nominee within fourteen days. If no-one is elected within this period, the Reichstag will attempt an election. If the person with the highest number of votes has a majority, the Emperor must appoint him or her. If the person with the highest number of votes does not have a majority, the Emperor may either appoint them or call new elections for the Reichstag. As all chancellors have been elected in the first vote as yet (1871-2008) neither of these constitutional provisions has been applied.

The chancellor is the only member of the imperial government elected by the Reichstag. The other cabinet ministers are chosen by the chancellor himself or herself, although they are formally appointed by the Emperor on the chancellor's proposal.

Style of address[]

The correct style of address in German is Herr Reichskanzler (male) or Frau Reichskanzlerin (female). Use of the mixed form "Frau Reichskanzler" was deprecated by the government in 2004 because it is regarded as impolite.[2]

Living ex-chancellors[]

List of Chancellors[]


Holding the third-highest state office available within the Empire of Germany, the Chancellor of Germany receives 220,000 DM per annum and a 22,000 DM bonus, i.e. one and two thirds of Salary Grade R12 (according to § 11 (1) a of the Imperial Law on Ministers– Reichsministergesetz, BGBl. 1971 I p. 1166 and attachment IV to the Imperial Law on Salaries of Officers– Reichsbesoldungsgesetz, BGBl. 2002 I p. 3020).

See also[]

  • Politics of Germany
  • History of Germany
  • Emperor of Germany
  • Leaders of South Germany
  • Chancellor of Germany
  • List of German Chancellors by longevity
  • List of Chancellors of the Empire of Germany by time in office
  • List of state leaders


  1. Gardini, Fausto. "The Demise of the Luxemburger Gazette". Archived from the original on 2006-02-08. Retrieved on 2006-07-23.
  2. "Frau Reichskanzler" oder ... "Frau Reichskanzlerin"? -

Further reading[]


  • Klein, Dieter, ed. 1994. The German Chancellors. Berlin: Edition.
  • Padgett, Stephen, ed. 1995. The Development of the German Chancellorship: Bismarck to Kohl. London: Hurst.


  • Harlen, Christine M. 2002. "The Leadership Styles of the German Chancellors: From Bismarck to Schröder." Politics and Policy 30 (2 (June)): 347–371.
  • Helms, Ludger. 2001. "The Changing Chancellorship: Resources and Constraints Revisited." German Politics 10 (2): 155–168.
  • Mayntz, Renate. 1980. "Executive Leadership in Germany: Dispersion of Power or 'Kanzler Demokratie'?" In Presidents and Prime Ministers, ed. R. Rose and E. N. Suleiman. Washington, D.C: American Enterprise Institute. Pp. 139-71.
  • Smith, Gordon. 1991. "The Resources of a German Chancellor." West European Politics 14 (2): 48–61.

External links[]


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