Germany (German: Deutschland), officially known as the German Democratic Republic (GDR; Deutsche Demokratische Republik, DDR), is a country in Western Europe. Its capital and largest city is Berlin. The country is a one-party socialist federation of 15 bundesländer (states), governed by the Socialist Unity Party of Germany; due to the federal constitution of Germany, the states have equal status and share sovereignty with the German federal government, and each have their own government which is relatively autonomous from the federal government in Berlin.
The 2016 census recorded a total population of 80,458,139, making Germany the most populous country in Europe not including the Soviet Union. It is considered to be the most economically developed member state of Interpact, and has one of the highest standards of living in the world. The German Democratic Republic is also a member of the United Nations, the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe, and the World Trade Organisation.
Germany is governed as a socialist republic in which the economy is divided between state-owned enterprises and employee-owned cooperatives. It is a great power with a strong economy; it has the world's fourth-largest economy by nominal GDP, and the fifth-largest by PPP. As a global leader in several industrial and technological sectors, it is both the world's third-largest exporter and importer of goods. A developed country with a very high standard of living, it upholds a social security and universal health care system, environmental protection, and a tuition-free university education.
The ruling political party of Germany and the founding party of the socialist GDR is the Socialist Unity Party of Germany (Sozialistische Einheitspartei Deutschlands, SED), which was established as a merger of the Communist Party of Germany and Social-Democratic Party of Germany following World War II, although by the GDR's establishment in 1949 the SED had de facto become a pro-Soviet communist organisation. This reflected the political need of the leadership to establish a democratic regime in the country in the face of general ignorance of the concept of working class political power viz. the dictatorship of the proletariat, which ensures the most democratic form of government possible by ensuring the rule of the working class, i.e. the majority (democracy being understood as "rule of the majority"). As such, the only other political parties allowed to participate in politics and contest legislative elections were required to be members of the National Front of Democratic Germany, nominally led by the SED.
The highest institution of state power in the German Democratic Republic is the Volkstag (People's Diet); it is a bicameral legislature with two nominally equal chambers: the Länderkammer (States' Chamber) and the Volkskammer (People's Chamber), both directly elected. The Länderkammer consists of 64 seats, four for each federated state of the GDR regardless of populations; the Volkskammer consists of 299 seats, each representing a single census electoral district of roughly equal population. The Volkstag meets at a joint sitting of both chambers to elect the Council of Ministers, the executive branch of government which oversees all ministries and state commissions. The Volkstag also elects the State Council of Germany, which serves as the collective head of state of the German Democratic Republic; the office of Chairperson of the State Council of Germany has a role similar to that of president in parliamentary republics. In addition to its role as head of state, however, the State Council is also empowered by the constitution to act on behalf of the Volkstag between legislative sessions, giving it a degree of legislative authority including the power to pass resolutions carrying the full force of law and recommend legislation to the Volkstag. The State Council of Germany is also responsible for convening and hosting plenary sessions of the Volkstag.
The Volkstag also includes representatives from the mass organisations like the Free German Youth (Freie Deutsche Jugend, FDJ), or the Free German Trade Union Federation. There was also a Democratic Women's Federation of Germany, with seats in the Volkskammer.
The Volkstag elects the Chief Justice of Germany to lead the Supreme Court of Germany, which unlike the executive branch of government represented by the Council of Ministers, is independent of the Volkstag. Unlike the Council of Ministers which requires its members to be party members of the SED, and also unlike the Volkstag which only allows National Front of Democratic Germany members, justices and legal personnel of the judiciary are not required to be a member of any political party.
Law and order
The Ministry for State Security (informally known as the Stasi) serves as the primary security agency in Germany, and also handles a degree of foreign intelligence responsibilities. It is considered to be one of the most effective intelligence agencies in the world, and is modelled on the KGB of the Soviet Union during that country's post-World War II occupation of Germany and establishment of a socialist regime with similar political security apparatuses. Like all ministries of the German federal government which oversee executive administration in a particular domain of the nation or economy, the Ministry for State Security is subordinate directly to the Council of Ministers. Despite Germany's nominal state sovereignty, in practice the Stasi is functionally subordinate to the KGB, to which it answers and with which it regularly cooperates in intelligence-sharing and national security operations.
Regular civilian policing is the responsibility of the Volkspolizei-Bereitschaft (VPB) under the Ministry of Interior. It consists of a federal law enforcement and investigation service, and a regular state police force which handles all state-level law enforcement in the 16 states of the GDR. All municipalities in the country contract from their state directorate of the VPB; for example, the Berlin Police Department is a municipal department of the VPB Berlin State Directorate (Landesdirektion VPB der Hauptstadt Berlin).
The legal system of Germany is considered socialist law, with an influence of liberalist interpretations due to the legacy of common law in the country prior to the establishment of socialism, effecting a climate for legal precedent based upon previous rulings to a degree not seen in other Eastern Bloc countries. As the GDR is a federal republic, each constituent state has its own civil and criminal code which is passed by its local unicameral legislature.