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Germany is a federal republic, consisting of 16 states ('Bundesländer'). The federal parliament ('Bundestag') is elected every four years in a fairly complicated system, involving direct and proportional representation. A party will be represented in Parliament if it can gather at least 5% of all votes or at least 3 directly won seats. The parliament elects the Chancellor ('Bundeskanzler', currently Angela Merkel) on its first session, who will serve as the head of government.

The formal head of state is the President ('Bundespräsident', currently Horst Köhler), who gets barely involved into day to day politics and has mainly ceremonial and representative duties. Nevertheless every law passed by the parliament has to be signed by the president. He can also suspend the parliament ('Bundestag'), but all executive power lies with the chancellor.

The 'Bundesländer' are represented at the federal level through the Federal Council ('Bundesrat'). Many federal laws have to be approved by the council. This can lead to a situation where Council and Parliament are blocking each other if they are dominated by different parties.

The two most powerful parties are the Christian Democratic Party ('Christlich Demokratische Union (CDU)') and the Social Democratic Party ('Sozialdemokratische Partei Deutschlands (SPD)'). Due to the proportional voting system, smaller parties can also be represented in parliament. "Smaller" parties of relative importance are the Christian Social Party ('Christlich Soziale Union' (CSU)', most important party within Bavaria, a kind of CDU subsidiary), Liberals ('Freiheitlich-Demokratische Partei (FDP)'), the Green party ('Bündnis 90/Die Grünen') and since summer 2005, the new Left Party (Linkspartei.PDS), founded from the "PDS" and the Alternative for Work and Social justice (WASG) (as important as CDU or SPD in Eastern Germany). There have been some attempts by extreme right-wing parties (NPD - National Democratic Party / REP - Republicans) to get into parliament, but so far they have failed the 5% requirement (except in some State parliaments, currently Saxony and in Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania).

82 079 454 (July 1998 est.)

Age structure:
0-14 years: 16% (male 6 570 582; female 6 240 671)
15-64 years: 68% (male 28 688 052; female 27 532 099)
65 years and over: 16% (male 4 866 122; female 8 181 928) (July 1998 est.)

Population growth rate: 0.02% (1998 est.)

Birth rate: 8.84 births/1 000 population (1998 est.)

Death rate: 10.77 deaths/1 000 population (1998 est.)

Net migration rate: 2.08 migrant(s)/1 000 population (1998 est.)

Sex ratio:
at birth: 1.06 male(s)/female
under 15 years: 1.05 male(s)/female
15-64 years: 1.04 male(s)/female
65 years and over: 0.59 male(s)/female (1998 est.)

Infant mortality rate: 5.2 deaths/1 000 live births (1998 est.)

Life expectancy at birth:
total population: 76.99 years
male: 73.83 years
female: 80.33 years (1998 est.)

Total fertility rate: 1.25 children born/woman (1998 est.)

noun: German(s)
adjective: German

Ethnic groups: German 91.5% Turkish 2.4% Italians 0.7% Greeks 0.4% Poles 0.4% other 4.6% (made up largely of people fleeing the war in the former Yugoslavia)

Religions: Protestant 38% Roman Catholic 34% Muslim 1.7% unaffiliated or other 26.3%

Languages: German

definition: age 15 and over can read and write
total population: 99% (1977 est.)
male: NA%
female: NA%



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