First session of the Bundestag: move chairs in parliament


Status: 10/26/2021 3:56 a.m.

Four weeks after the general election, the Bundestag will meet for the first time. It is getting fuller than before, but the government bench remains empty. What is happening today – and has Chancellor Merkel been dismissed?

The new Bundestag meets today for its constituent session. That is the latest possible date. The Basic Law stipulates that parliament must meet for the first time no later than the 30th day after the election – it took place on September 26th. Since then, things have been screwed, assembled and wired in Parliament. A record 736 MPs must be accommodated. Because the fixed furniture in the plenary hall has reached its capacity limits, around three dozen conference chairs had to be set up in addition to the striking blue armchairs. And other things are also different today compared to the constituent meeting in 2017. An overview.

What is happening today

At 8.30 a.m. there will be an ecumenical service in Berlin’s St. Mary’s Church. The session of the Bundestag begins at 11 a.m. in the Reichstag building. Federal President Frank-Walter Steinmeier will take part in both events.

And even if Schäuble will no longer be President of the Bundestag in the future, he will be able to open the constituent session today as President of the Bundestag – and say goodbye with a final speech from the front row in the Bundestag. He has been a member of Parliament since 1972. Until 2017, the rule was that the eldest member in terms of age took over the role of age president. Because it was feared at the time that the post could go to the AfD, the regulation was changed. This is having an impact this year: Because the oldest member of the new Bundestag is not 79-year-old Schäuble, but 80-year-old ex-AfD parliamentary group leader Alexander Gauland. The senior president first appoints a few members as temporary secretaries, after which all members of the Bundestag are called by name.

What corona precautions are there?

The outgoing President of the Bundestag Schäuble has ordered that the 3-G rule applies on Tuesday – only MPs who have recovered, have been fully vaccinated or are currently tested should be admitted to the plenary chamber. Anyone who does not want to disclose their immunization status and do not want to be tested must sit in the grandstands of the plenary hall – while observing the distance requirement. A voting booth and a voting urn should be available there. The opportunity to make speeches is also guaranteed there. AfD party and parliamentary group leader Tino Chrupalla will not be able to attend today’s first meeting. He was infected with the corona virus and is in quarantine at home. Chrupalla had always left open whether he was vaccinated.

How does the election of the new Bundestag Presidium work?

After the quorum has been established, the President of Parliament as well as the deputies and secretaries are elected. The president is traditionally the largest parliamentary group – this time it is the SPD. The Social Democrats have proposed their previous deputy parliamentary group leader, Bärbel Bas, for the post.

The new Bundestag in numbers

Heike Keuthen, ARD news, daily news 5:00 p.m., 25.10.2021

In addition, each parliamentary group is entitled to one of the vice positions in the presidium. Aydan Özoguz will probably run for the SPD. Claudia Roth is running again for the Greens, Wolfgang Kubicki for the FDP and Petra Pau want to run again for the Left. In the case of the Union, it initially came down to a battle vote between several interested parties, and it was only at the last minute that the parliamentary group agreed on Yvonne Magwas.

The AfD parliamentary group sends the Thuringian MP Michael Kaufmann into the race for a deputy post. However, the chances of his choice are slim. In the last legislative period, the AfD parliamentary group had put up candidates several times, but all of them failed to achieve the necessary majority. That should be the case again this time. So there should be five Bundestag Vice-Presidents again – from the Union, SPD, FDP, Greens and Left.

How big is the new Bundestag?

With 736 members, the 20th Bundestag has more members than any of its predecessors. The largest parliamentary group is the SPD with 206 members, followed by the CDU / CSU with 197. In third place are the Greens, who have 118 members. On top of that come the FDP with 92, the AfD with 82 and the Left Party with 39 members. There are also two non-attached MPs: Stefan Seidler from the Südschleswigschen Voters’ Association and the AfD politician Matthias Helferich.

The plenary hall has to be extensively rebuilt.

Image: EPA

Mainly men continue to sit in the Bundestag. The proportion of female MPs rose only slightly with the general election – from 30.7 to 34.7 percent. The proportion of parliamentarians with at least one parent who was not born with German citizenship is growing from around eight to 11.3 percent. The new Bundestag has also become younger: The average age is now 47.3 years. After the 2017 federal election, it was 49.4 years. One in four MPs is now under 40 years of age (26.2 percent). After the 2017 election, it was not even one in five (17.9 percent). The youngest MP is the Green politician Emilia Fester at the age of 23. For the first time, two openly living trans people moved into the Bundestag: the Green politician Nyke Slawik (27) and her party colleague Tessa Ganserer (44).

Who sits where in the new Bundestag?

So far in the plenary hall – seen from the Bundestag presidium – the AfD has been sitting on the far right, next to it the FDP, then the Union, the Greens, the SPD and then the Left Party. The Liberals pushed for a change because they no longer want to sit next to the AfD. But the Union is reluctant, it does not want to move to the right and thus free up space in the middle. The dispute is also a symbolic one. Especially since the parties of the possible traffic light coalition would then sit together en bloc. For the time being, everything will remain as it is. However, as soon as the newly elected MPs have started their work, they can decide on a different seating plan. Provided there is a majority.

Will Chancellor Merkel and her ministers be dismissed?

Steinmeier handed Chancellor Angela Merkel (CDU) and the members of the government their dismissal certificates late on Tuesday afternoon. However, the cabinet remains in office until a new government is elected. And that can take time: since German reunification in 1990, the formation of a new government has taken between 30 and 171 days.

Who is on the government bench?

No one. It remains empty. There is still no new government and the term of office of the old one is over. Merkel and her outgoing ministers will therefore take their seats in the visitor or honorary gallery. Outgoing MPs also sit here. Incidentally, Olaf Scholz will not be to be found here. He is a member of the ranks of the SPD parliamentary group.

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