How To Talk About German Politics: Facts About Germany’s Political System + Vocabulary

Germany has a political system that is a bit like a big team working together to make decisions for the country.

Whether you want to admit it or not, talking about German politics will come up here and there when you start your German language learning journey. So, it’s pretty important to learn the facts about the German political system, and the vocabulary connected to it.

DW Euromaxxx made a great video on how German politics, elections and voting in Germany looks like:

Let’s explore the interesting world of German politics together!

1. What is German politics about?

So, just like we mentioned earlier, German politics is about people working together to set rules for the country in all areas of life.

Germany is a democracy, where different political parties have their own ideas about how they could make the country better.

Germany has two big parts in its government: the Bundestag and the Bundesrat.

People in Germany vote to choose who gets to be in the Bundestag, where people have talks and feuds, and decide on new rules and laws.

The Bundesrat is the council, a legislative body that represents different regions of Germany.

At the top of this political system is the Chancellor. The Chancellor helps guide the whole country, and their task is to manage all the parts of the system. Of course, the Chancellor isn’t working alone. Germany also has a President. The President’s job is to represent the country and make sure that everyone follows the rules.

To talk about German politics, you can use these words and common German phrases:

GermanEnglish
die DemokratieDemocracy
die politischen ParteienPolitical Parties
der BundestagBundestag
der BundesratBundesrat
wählenVote
die Regeln und GesetzeRules and Laws
die RegionenRegions
der KanzlerChancellor
der PräsidentPresident
die RegierungGovernment
die EntscheidungenDecisions
das LandCountry

2. The Bundestag: political parties, parliament and the political system

The Bundestag is the federal parliament of Germany and it’s one of the most important institutions in the country’s political system. It’s where elected representatives, known as Abgeordnete (Members of Parliament), meet to discuss and pass laws. The Bundestag has a key role in electing the Bundeskanzler (Chancellor), who is the head of government.

The current (2024) Bundeskanzler in Germany is Olaf Scholz.

The Bundestag‘s representatives are elected by the citizens of Germany through general elections, which happen every four years.

Major Political Parties in the Bundestag 2024

Here are some of the major political parties in the Bundestag. It’s good to be up-to-date with their views, too!

These are the most important and biggest political parties in Germany in 2024:

Christlich Demokratische Union (CDU) / Christlich-Soziale Union (CSU)

  • English: Christian Democratic Union/Christian Social Union
  • Views: The CDU/CSU (alternatively called as the Union) is a center-right political alliance. They put highlight on economic stability, conservative social values, and a strong commitment to European integration.

Sozialdemokratische Partei Deutschlands (SPD)

  • English: Social Democratic Party of Germany
  • Views: The SPD is a center-left party that focuses on social justice, workers’ rights, and welfare programs. They want more government intervention in the economy to ensure equality.

Die Grünen (The Greens)

  • English: The Greens
  • Views: The Greens prioritize environmental issues, sustainability, and social equality. They push for renewable energy sources, climate protection, and human rights.

Freie Demokratische Partei (FDP)

  • English: Free Democratic Party
  • Views: The FDP is a liberal party that champions free-market policies, individual liberties, and minimal government intervention in the economy.

Alternative für Deutschland (AfD)

  • English: Alternative for Germany
  • Views: The AfD is a right-wing party famous for its nationalist and anti-immigration stance. They often criticize the European Union and want stricter border controls and a reduction in immigration.

Die Linke (The Left)

  • English: The Left
  • Views: Die Linke is a left-wing party that focuses on social equality, anti-capitalism, and pacifism. They want welfare programs, higher taxes on the wealthy, and greater government control over the economy.

Check out this important vocabulary list about the Bundestag and the political parties in German:

GermanEnglish
der BundestagBundestag
die AbgeordnetenMembers of Parliament
der BundeskanzlerChancellor
die WahlenElections
die Christlich Demokratische Union (CDU)Christian Democratic Union
die Christlich-Soziale Union (CSU)Christian Social Union
die Sozialdemokratische Partei Deutschlands (SPD)Social Democratic Party of Germany
Bündnis 90/Die GrünenAlliance 90/The Greens
die Freie Demokratische Partei (FDP)Free Democratic Party
die Alternative für Deutschland (AfD)Alternative for Germany
Die LinkeThe Left
die PlenarsitzungenPlenary Sessions
die AusschüsseCommittees
die DebattenDebates
die GesetzeLaws
die UmweltEnvironment
die NachhaltigkeitSustainability
die GerechtigkeitJustice
die MenschenrechteHuman Rights

3. Elections and election campaigns in Germany

Since elections are part of the democratic process, it’s no different in Germany. Citizens choose their representatives on different levels of government.

These are the different types of elections held in Germany:

  1. Bundestag Elections (Federal Elections): every four years, voters elect members of the Bundestag.
  2. Landtag Elections (State Elections): every five years, voters elect representatives to the state parliaments.
  3. Local Elections: every five to six years, voters elect city councils, mayors, and other local officials.
  4. European Parliament Elections: held every five years, voters in Germany elect representatives to the European Parliament.

Election campaigns are the same in Germany as in other democratic countries. It’s an intense period where all the parties and candidates try to win as many votes as possible through different methods.

They use posters, television and radio ads, social media. The candidates also participate in live debates and interviews on TV and radio.

german politics symbolised with a german flag on flagpole

There are rallies and public meetings everywhere where political leaders held speeches. In these campaigns, parties publish election programs to inform voters about what they stand for.

Elections usually take place on Sundays, so people can vote freely without having to take a day off from work. Voters then got to local polling stations to cast their ballots.

Germany uses a mixed-member proportional representation system for Bundestag elections.

You can talk about German politics and the election campaigns with these words and phrases:

GermanEnglish
die WahlenElections
der WahlkampfElection Campaign
der BundestagFederal Parliament
die LandtagswahlenState Elections
die KommunalwahlenLocal Elections
die EuropawahlenEuropean Parliament Elections
die PlakatePosters
die FernsehwerbungTelevision Ads
die RadiospotsRadio Ads
die Sozialen MedienSocial Media
die KandidatenCandidates
die DebattenDebates
die WahlprogrammeElection Programs
die WahlurneBallot Box
das WahllokalPolling Station
die ErststimmeFirst Vote
die ZweitstimmeSecond Vote
die WahlbeteiligungVoter Turnout
die FreiwilligenVolunteers
die WahlplakateElection Posters

4. Important chunks for talking about German politics with Conversation Based Chunking

There’s more to cover with the following chunks; first, we’ll share a table with some of the most important chunks and then, you can see all of them in action in a real German conversation:

GermanEnglish
das WahlsystemElectoral System
das VerhältniswahlrechtProportional Representation
die DirektmandateDirect Mandates
die Fünf-Prozent-Hürde5% Threshold
die WahlzettelBallot Papers
die BriefwahlPostal Voting
die WahlkampfkostenCampaign Financing
das WahlprogrammParty Manifesto
die WahlkommissionElectoral Commission
die KoalitionsverhandlungenCoalition Negotiations
der KoalitionsvertragCoalition Agreement
der MinisterpräsidentMinister-President (State Premier)
die BundestagswahlFederal Election
die LandtagswahlState Election
die freie und faire WahlenFree and Fair Elections

If you ever engage in a real German dialogue, keep this conversation in mind:

Anna: Hallo Stefan, weißt du, wie das Wahlsystem in Deutschland funktioniert? (Hi Stefan, do you know how the electoral system in Germany works?)
Stefan: Ja, Deutschland verwendet das Verhältniswahlrecht und die Direktmandate. (Yes, Germany uses proportional representation and direct mandates.)
Anna: Was bedeutet die 5%-Hürde? (What does the 5% threshold mean?)
Stefan: Parteien müssen mindestens 5% der Zweitstimmen erreichen, um ins Parlament zu kommen. (Parties must get at least 5% of the second votes to enter the parliament.)
Anna: Wie funktioniert die Briefwahl? (How does postal voting work?)
Stefan: Du kannst deine Wahlzettel per Post abschicken, wenn du nicht zum Wahllokal gehen kannst. (You can mail your ballot papers if you can’t go to the polling station.)
Anna: Was passiert nach der Bundestagswahl? (What happens after the federal election?)
Stefan: Die Parteien führen Koalitionsverhandlungen, um einen Koalitionsvertrag zu erstellen. (The parties conduct coalition negotiations to create a coalition agreement.)
Anna: Danke, Stefan. Das war sehr hilfreich! (Thanks, Stefan. That was very helpful!)
Stefan: Gern geschehen, Anna. (You’re welcome, Anna.)

If you want to use these chunks in conversations, there’s a method for you: it’s called Conversation Based Chunking.

And you can even practice them with this exercise right here:

With lexical chunks, you learn the language without memorizing vocabulary lists and learning grammar definitions. Do you want to learn German with this effective method?

No more waiting! You can sign up right now, and we’ll send you the German Conversation Based Chunking Guide with an essential German chunking list and practice exercises.

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