The Federal Convention, commonly known as the Federal Assembly (German: Bundesversammlung), is one of two non-standing constitutional organizations of the Federal Republic of Germany's federal institutional architecture, along with the Joint Committee. The members of the Federal Convention are the representatives of the federal government and they meet at least once a year to discuss issues before them.
The convention was established by Article 103 of the Basic Law for the unification of Germany. It meets in public session for three days each January and can extend its meetings if necessary. Its work is conducted by committees of the delegates representing their governments.
The convention has the power to make laws and to amend the Constitution. However it cannot declare war or make treaties without parliamentary approval. It also has the power to dismiss the president should he or she prove incapable of performing his or her duties.
In practice, the convention does not operate as a separate entity from the other institutions of the German government. Rather, its membership includes the presidents of both houses of the national parliament and the chancellor, meaning that these individuals hold the power to determine its agenda and modus operandi. The only official appointed by the president is the chairman of the convention who is selected by vote of the house leaders. The convention typically consists of between 100 and 150 people including observers from foreign countries.
The delegates of the member nations were present at the Federal Convention. The German Confederation's first fundamental legislation (Bundesakte) indicated how many votes each member state had for two potential diet formulations. These numbers were retained when the Confederation was transformed into a federal government in 1871. After the end of World War I, the former German states were divided between France, Great Britain and the new nation of Poland. In 1945, after World War II, these regions formed the basis of the German Democratic Republic (East Germany). West Germany joined this union in 1949.
In general, the size of the delegations to the Bundesrat are proportional to the population of the states they represent. However, some states have greater voting power than others - usually the larger states. For example, Bavaria and Hamburg each have 16 seats in the Bundesrat, while Saxony-Anhalt and Bremen have 15 seats each.
Since the reunification of Germany in 1990, all states have equal representation in the Bundesrat except for Berlin, which has an additional vote to ensure its autonomy from the Federal Government. The capital city's population is much smaller than those of the other states, so it gives them more influence over federal politics.
There are currently 82 members of the Bundesrat. They are elected directly by citizens aged 18 or older.
The Bundestag is the German parliament. Germany is formally referred to as the Bundesrepublik (Federal Republic). The name "Bundestag" means "Federal Council of Germany".
In English, the term "parliament" usually refers to the assembly that governs a country. In Germany, however, there is no single government consisting of a single body; instead, there are three separate but equal branches of government: the legislative branch, the Bundestag; the executive branch, the Bundesrat; and the judicial branch, the Federal Court of Justice.
Thus, the English word "parliament" does not accurately describe the Bundestag. Instead, it is more appropriate to say that the Bundestag is the legislature of Germany. Do note that this is different from saying that the German people are represented in the Bundestag. They are actually represented by their members of Parliament (MPs).
An MP represents the citizens of a federal state in the Bundestag. There are currently 537 seats in the Bundestag available for election every five years. Voters select one person per seat during general elections, with some exceptions such as when there is a parliamentary vacancy or when a party receives less than 5% of the vote.