The President of the German Bundestag, Dr. Norbert Lammert © German Bundestag
The President of the German Bundestag represents the Bundestag and, therefore, the legislative branch in Germany. In protocol terms, he or she occupies the second highest office of state after the Federal President – superior in rank to the Federal Chancellor and the President of the Bundesrat.
The duties of the President of the German Bundestag are detailed in the Rules of Procedure: "The President shall represent the Bundestag and conduct its business. He shall uphold the dignity and rights of the Bundestag, further its work, conduct its debates fairly and impartially, and maintain order in the Bundestag."
One of the central duties performed by the President of the German Bundestag, and probably the best known, is the conduct of parliamentary sittings.
The President opens and closes sittings, calls items of business and grants Members leave to speak.
Overall, the President ensures the maintenance of parliamentary order during sittings. For example, he or she may warn Members who have spoken too long, direct them to discontinue speaking and even exclude them from plenary sittings and committee meetings for up to 30 sitting days.
When plenary sittings are being conducted, the President and Vice-Presidents usually alternate in the Chair every two hours. The power to conduct sittings and the power to maintain order pass to the new President in the Chair at each changeover.
The duties of the President of the German Bundestag go far beyond the neutral and impartial conduct of plenary sittings.
As the representative of the whole Parliament, he or she also acts as an ambassador for the Bundestag in the public domain. He or she is invited to state receptions, holds speeches on important political and social occasions, preserves the dignity of the Bundestag and defends the rights of its Members.
Furthermore, the President is the head of the Administration of the German Bundestag. Its approximately 2,500 members of staff are subject to the supreme authority of the President, who also exercises police powers and proprietary powers in the premises of Parliament.
The other members of the Presidium support the President of the German Bundestag in his or her work. The Presidium meets regularly in sitting weeks to discuss matters relating to the management of Parliament. These meetings are also attended by the Secretary-General of the German Bundestag, who is in charge of the day-to-day running of the Administration of the German Bundestag.
The Presidium is consulted when personnel decisions that affect the senior tenured civil servants and salaried employees of the Administration have to be taken and is also involved when important contracts are concluded. The items of business it discusses frequently include Parliament’s public relations work.
Furthermore, the members of the Presidium all sit on the Council of Elders. This is the most important coordinating body within the Bundestag and supports the President in the management of parliamentary business.