Freedom in the World
Freedom Rating (1 = best, 7 = worst)
Civil Liberties (1 = best, 7 = worst)
Political Rights (1 = best, 7 = worst)
Parliamentary elections in September 2009 resulted in the formation of a majority coalition consisting of the two major center-right parties, the Christian Democratic Union and Christian Social Union (CDU/CSU) and the Free Democratic Party (FDP). The CDU’s Angela Merkel was reelected as chancellor. The Social Democratic Party (SPD), part of the previous grand coalition with the CDU/CSU, experienced the greatest decline in voter support of any party in German federal elections in 60 years.
In November, the controversial trial of John Demjanjuk—a Ukrainian-born former U.S. citizen and alleged World War II Nazi concentration camp guard—began in Munich; Demjanjuk is suspected of facilitating the murder of thousands of Jews at the Sobibor concentration camp. The trial has been contentious because Mr. Demjanjuk is elderly and in poor health, and he is the only low-ranking official and the only foreign suspect to have been charged with Holocaust-related crimes. His trial is likely to be the last for Nazi-era war crimes.
Germany is an electoral democracy. The constitution provides for a lower house of parliament, the 622-seat Bundestag (Federal Assembly), elected at least every four years through a 50-50 mixture of proportional representation and single-member districts, as well as an upper house, the Bundesrat (Federal Council), which represents the states. The country’s head of state is a largely ceremonial president, chosen jointly bythe Bundestag and a group of state representatives to serve up to two five-year terms. In Germany’s federal system, state governments have considerable authority over matters such as education, policing, taxation, and spending. The chancellor, the head of government, is elected by the Bundestag and usually serves for the duration of a four-year legislative session, which can be cut short only if the Bundestag chooses a replacement in a so-called constructive vote of no confidence.
Women’s rights are well protected, with generous maternity policies and antidiscrimination laws. There are 6 women in the 16-member federal cabinet. Limited same-sex partnership rights are respected.