plsc20hw7_chancellor - The New German Chancellor Angela...

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The New German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Germany’s new Chancellor, is leader of a coalition government wherein two of the major parties involved - the Christian Democrats (CDU) and the Social Democrats (SDP) – are usually in contention. (Rippert, 2005) This makes it a hard situation for students and scholars of Political Science to assess Merkel’s power in government, both formal and informal. In class, we have learned that a German chancellor has basic formal and informal powers that he or she can exercise. Formal powers are powers set forth in the Constitution; they are not easily lost by the chancellor. (Smyth, 2006) Informal powers, just as important as formal powers, are derived from party politics, the structure of parliament as a whole, and also public opinion of the chancellor. (Smyth, 2006) More specifically, Merkel’s formal powers lay in her right “to appoint and dismiss cabinet ministers and to dissolve the legislature and call elections.” One would think a chancellor with such powers would be quite powerful. This is fairly misleading, however, because Merkel cannot in actuality appoint or dismiss cabinet ministers as she pleases. Her power to do so – though defined in the Constitution – is constrained by the coalition government that she (or rather, the CDU) shares with the opposing SPD. (Smyth, 2006)
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