Vice-Chancellor of Germany

The vice-chancellor of Germany, unofficially the vice-chancellor of the Federal Republic of Germany (German: Vizekanzler der Bundesrepublik Deutschland), officially the deputy to the federal chancellor (German: Stellvertreter des Bundeskanzlers), is the second highest ranking German cabinet member. The chancellor is the head of government and, according to the constitution, gives this title of deputy to one of the federal ministers. It is common that the title is given to the major minister provided by the (smaller) coalition partner.

Deputy to the Federal Chancellor of the Federal Republic of Germany
Stellvertreter des Bundeskanzlers
Bundesadler Bundesorgane.svg
Coat of arms of the German Government
2021-12-07 Unterzeichnung des Koalitionsvertrages der 20. Wahlperiode des Bundestages by Sandro Halank–018 (cropped).jpg
Robert Habeck
since 8 December 2021
StyleMr. Vice-Chancellor (informal)
His Excellency (diplomatic)
StatusDeputy of the head of Government
Member ofFederal Cabinet
SeatAs Federal Minister; currently Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Climate Action, Berlin/Bonn
NominatorChancellor of Germany or the coalition party
AppointerChancellor of Germany
Term lengthAt the Chancellor's pleasure
Constituting instrumentGerman Basic Law (German Constitution)
Formation24 May 1949; 73 years ago (1949-05-24)
First holderFranz Blücher

In everyday politics, being a vice chancellor is more an honorary title. The vice-chancellor may head cabinet meetings when the chancellor is abroad. The function of vice chancellor is to use the specific constitutional powers of the chancellor in case that the chancellor is unable to perform their duties. This kind of substitution has never been made use of in the history of the Federal Republic.

Should a chancellor resign, die or be permanently unable to perform the duties of office, the vice chancellor does not automatically become the next chancellor. In such a case the Federal President assigns a minister to serve as acting chancellor until the Bundestag (parliament) elects a new chancellor.[1]).

Although Stellvertreter is the constitutional term, most Germans know the deputy by the expression Vice-Chancellor (Vizekanzler). Chancellor (Kanzler) is the traditional term for the German head of government since 1867/71. A general deputy was introduced by law in 1878 (Stellvertretungsgesetz). In the Weimar Republic of 1919–1933, the office of Vizekanzler was mentioned in the internal reglement of the government. The current office or title has existed since the constitution of 1949.

The current vice-chancellor of Germany is Robert Habeck, who took office on 8 December 2021, succeeding Olaf Scholz, who gave up the role in order to become chancellor.


Such an office was initially established by the 1878 Stellvertretungsgesetz (Deputation Act), which provided for the imperial chancellor appointing a deputy, officially known as Allgemeiner Stellvertreter des Reichskanzlers (General Deputy to the Imperial Chancellor). In addition to the general deputy, who could sign for all the affairs of the chancellor, the chancellor could appoint deputies with limited responsibilities. The act was revised on 28 October 1918, when the possibility of appointing deputies with limited responsibilities was removed and the vice-chancellor was given the right to appear before parliament.[2]

In the Weimar Republic, the office was considered less important. It was not even mentioned in the constitution. Usually it was held by the minister of justice or the interior. The most known office holder is Franz von Papen, a former chancellor who formed a coalition government of national socialists and conservatives. Adolf Hitler became Chancellor, and Papen Vice-Chancellor. It became soon obvious that the position of Vice-Chancellor provided no powers and was unsuited to constrain Hitler. Papen was convinced that him being trusted by president Hindenburg made him an important political player; soon, Hindenburg's trust went from Papen to Hitler.

In the Federal Republic (since 1949), the Chancellors have had no interest in allowing the Deputy to use the title for self promotion.[3] Since 1966 it became customary that the coalition partner of the governing party received the ministry of the exterior who was also appointed Deputy. The ministry of the exterior was considered to be the most important cabinet post besides the Chancellorship. This tradition faded away in the time of Merkel's office, partially, because political heavyweights of the coalition partner chose a different ministry for personal preference.

Office and appointment mechanismEdit

The German cabinet consists of the Chancellor and the Federal Ministers. According to the Basic Law (Article 69.1), the Chancellor appoints one of the ministers as Vice-Chancellor. In contrast to the appointment of a cabinet minister, there is no need for a formal appointment by the President. The appointment is an exclusive power of the Chancellor.

The Chancellor is theoretically free to choose a deputy chancellor. In practice, a German government is usually based on a coalition of two or more parties and the Chancellor gives the title to a minister of the second largest coalition party upon recommendation of that party's leadership.

The German Vice-Chancellor can be regarded as the equivalent of a deputy prime minister in other parliamentary systems. Unlike the Vice President post in presidential systems of governments, the German Vice-Chancellor is not the automatic successor in the event that a sitting Chancellor suddenly leaves office.

A German cabinet exists only as long as the current Chancellor is in office. The end of a Chancellor's term in office (either by death or resignation or the first meeting of a newly elected Bundestag) automatically terminates the office of any minister. If this happens, the President of Germany appoints the former Chancellor or, if this is not possible, one of the former cabinet ministers (not necessarily, but most likely the former Vice-Chancellor) as Acting Chancellor, until the parliament elects a new Chancellor.[4] When in 1974 Chancellor Willy Brandt resigned and refused to remain in office until his successor's election, President Gustav Heinemann ensured a corresponding precedent and appointed former Vice-Chancellor Walter Scheel as Acting Chancellor.

The Basic Law does not state who shall perform the Chancellor's powers and duties, if both the Chancellor and the Vice-Chancellor are unable to do so. The German cabinet's rules of procedure state that in absence of both office-holders cabinet meetings shall be chaired by a cabinet member designated for this purpose by either the Chancellor or the Vice-Chancellor or, if such a designation has not taken place or if the designee is not able to do so, by the present cabinet member with the longest uninterrupted membership in the federal government (§22.1).[5] It is however unclear, whether this provision extends to other powers of the office of Chancellor. In an expertise issued by the Bundestag's scientific service in 2014, the legal opinion is that this is the case.[6]

List of vice-chancellorsEdit

German Reich (1871–1945)Edit

German Empire (1871–1918)Edit

Political party:   FKP   FVP

No. Portrait Name Term start Term end Days Party Portfolio Cabinet
1   Otto Graf zu Stolberg-Wernigerode
1 June 1878 20 June 1881 1115 FKP Bismarck
2   Karl Heinrich von Boetticher
20 June 1881 1 July 1897 5855 FKP Secretary of State for the Interior Bismarck
3   Arthur von Posadowsky-Wehner
1 July 1897 24 June 1907 3644 FKP Secretary of State for the Interior Hohenlohe-Schillingsfürst
4   Theobald von Bethmann Hollweg
24 June 1907 14 July 1909 751 Independent Secretary of State for the Interior Bülow
5   Clemens von Delbrück
14 July 1909 22 May 1916 2501 Independent Secretary of State for the Interior Bethmann Hollweg
7   Karl Helfferich
22 May 1916 9 November 1917 536 Independent Secretary of State for the Interior
(until 23 October 1917)
Bethmann Hollweg
8   Friedrich von Payer
9 November 1917 10 November 1918 366 FVP Hertling

Weimar Republic (1918–1933)Edit

Political party:   DDP   Centre   DVP   SPD   DNVP

No. Portrait Name Term start Term end Days Party Portfolio Cabinet
1   Eugen Schiffer
13 February 1919 19 April 1919 65 DDP Deputy Minister-President &
Minister of Finance
The office was vacant from 19 April to 30 April 1919.
2   Bernhard Dernburg
30 April 1919 20 June 1919 51 DDP Deputy Minister-President &
Minister of Finance
3   Matthias Erzberger
21 June 1919 3 October 1919 104 Centre Deputy Minister-President (until 14 August 1919) &
Minister of Finance
  Eugen Schiffer
3 October 1919 27 March 1920 176 DDP Minister of Justice Bauer
5   Erich Koch-Weser
27 March 1920 21 June 1920 86 DDP Minister of the Interior Müller I
The office was vacant from 21 June to 25 June 1920.
6   Rudolf Heinze
25 June 1920 4 May 1921 313 DVP Minister of Justice Fehrenbach
The office was vacant from 4 May to 10 May 1921.
7   Gustav Bauer
10 May 1921 14 November 1922 553 SPD Minister of Finance Wirth I
Wirth II
The office was vacant from 14 November 1922 to 13 August 1923.
8   Robert Schmidt
13 August 1923 3 November 1923 82 SPD Minister for Reconstruction Stresemann I
The office was vacant from 3 November to 30 November 1923.
9   Karl Jarres
30 November 1923 15 December 1924 381 DVP Minister of the Interior Marx I
Marx II
The office was vacant from 15 December 1924 to 28 January 1927.
10   Oskar Hergt
28 January 1927 12 June 1928 501 DNVP Minister of Justice Marx IV
The office was vacant from 12 June 1928 to 30 March 1930.
11   Hermann Dietrich
30 March 1930 30 May 1932 792 DDP Minister of Finance (from 26 June 1930) Brüning I
Brüning II
The office was vacant from 30 May 1932 to 30 January 1933.

Nazi Germany (1933–1945)Edit

No. Portrait Name Term start Term end Days Party Portfolio Other positions Cabinet
The Deputy to the Chancellor of the Reich
12   Franz von Papen
30 January 1933 7 August 1934 554 Non-partisan Minister President of Prussia
(until 10 April 1933)
From 7 August 1934 until 20 September 1949, the office of the Vice-Chancellor of Germany was abolished.

Federal Republic of Germany (1949–present)Edit

Political party:   FDP   CDU   SPD   Green

No. Portrait Name Term start Term end Days Party Portfolio Cabinet
1   Franz Blücher
20 September 1949 29 October 1957 2961 FDP (until 1956)
FVP (1956–57)
DP (1957–)
Marshall Plan
(later renamed in
Economic Cooperation)
Adenauer III
2   Ludwig Erhard
29 October 1957 16 October 1963 2178 CDU Economic Affairs Adenauer IIIIV
3   Erich Mende
17 October 1963 28 October 1966 1107 FDP Intra-German Relations Erhard III
The office was vacant from 28 October to 8 November 1966.
4   Hans-Christoph Seebohm
8 November 1966 1 December 1966 22 CDU Transport Erhard II
5   Willy Brandt
1 December 1966 22 October 1969 1054 SPD Foreign Affairs Kiesinger
6   Walter Scheel
22 October 1969 16 May 1974 1668 FDP Foreign Affairs Brandt III
7   Hans-Dietrich Genscher
First term
17 May 1974 17 September 1982 3045 FDP Foreign Affairs Schmidt IIIIII
8   Egon Franke
17 September 1982 1 October 1982 14 SPD Intra-German Relations Schmidt III
The office was vacant from 1 October to 4 October 1982.
  Hans-Dietrich Genscher
Second term
4 October 1982 18 May 1992 3516 FDP Foreign Affairs Kohl IIIIIIIV
10   Jürgen Möllemann
18 May 1992 21 January 1993 248 FDP Economic Affairs Kohl IV
11   Klaus Kinkel
21 January 1993 27 October 1998 2104 FDP Foreign Affairs Kohl IVV
12   Joschka Fischer
(born 1948)
27 October 1998 22 November 2005 2583 Green Foreign Affairs Schröder III
13   Franz Müntefering
(born 1940)
22 November 2005 21 November 2007 729 SPD Labour and Social Affairs Merkel I
14   Frank-Walter Steinmeier
(born 1956)
21 November 2007 27 October 2009 706 SPD Foreign Affairs Merkel I
15   Guido Westerwelle
27 October 2009 16 May 2011 565 FDP Foreign Affairs Merkel II
16   Philipp Rösler
(born 1973)
16 May 2011 17 December 2013 946 FDP Economic Affairs Merkel II
17   Sigmar Gabriel
(born 1959)
17 December 2013 14 March 2018 1548 SPD Economic Affairs
Foreign Affairs
Merkel III
18   Olaf Scholz
(born 1958)
14 March 2018 8 December 2021 1365 SPD Finance Merkel IV
19   Robert Habeck
(born 1969)
8 December 2021 Incumbent 473 Green Economic Affairs and Climate Protection Scholz


  1. ^ Ute Mager, in: von Münch/Kunig: Grundgesetz-Kommentar II, 5. Auflage 2001, Rn. 10/11 zu Art. 69.
  2. ^ "Gesetz, betreffend die Stellvertretung des Reichskanzlers ["Stellvertretungsgesetz"] (17.03.1878)". (in German). Retrieved 2019-08-26.
  3. ^ Roman Herzog, in: Maunz/Dürig: Kommentar zum Grundgesetz, 2008, Art. 69, Rn. 9.
  4. ^ Georg Hermes, in: Horst Dreier (Hrsg.) Grundgesetz-Kommentar, Band 2, 2. Auflage 2006, Art. 69, Rn. 7, 17-19.
  5. ^ "Geschäftsordnung der Bundesregierung".
  6. ^ Wissenschaftlicher Dienst des Bundestages. Sachstand. Vertretungsregelungen für das Amt des Bundeskanzlers und des Bundespräsidenten (AZ: WD 3-3000-016/14), p. 3–4.