Harbarth becomes vice president of the constitutional court

The CDU member of the Bundestag Harbarth is to become the new Vice President and later President of the Federal Constitutional Court. After concurring reports, the leaderships of the Union, SPD, Greens and FDP have agreed on this.

Union parliamentary group Vice Stephan Harbarth is to become the new Vice President of the Federal Constitutional Court – and thus in all probability the successor to President Andreas Vobkuhle after 2020. The "FAZ", the dpa and the ARD report unanimously.

The 46-year-old is to replace Vice President Ferdinand Kirchhof as chairman of the First Senate in Karlsruhe, who is retiring for reasons of age – the faction leaders of the Union, SPD, Greens and FDP have agreed on this. This means that he should move up to the head of the court in two years’ rotation when Vosskuhle’s term of office ends. In terms of protocol, the President of the Constitutional Court is the fifth man in the state.

Federal constitutional judges are generally elected to office by a two-thirds majority, either by the Bundestag or the Bundesrat. Because of complicated electoral regulations, Harbarth has to be voted twice: the Bundestag elects him as constitutional judge, the Bundesrat as vice-president. Both houses will meet again for plenary sessions the week after next.

Time was pressing

With his 68th birthday, Kirchhof should have left office at the end of June. However, the search for candidates turned out to be particularly difficult this time: Traditionally, the major parties alternately have the right to propose. Vosskuhle was an SPD candidate, this time it was the turn of the Union.

Difficult candidate search

Because of the two-thirds majority, however, behind the scenes it has to be explored which candidates the other parties support. This has become complicated because of the great losses suffered by the mainstream parties. In addition to the votes of the SPD, at least those of the FDP are needed in the Bundestag.

Once the judges are in office, they decide independently without being bound by party politics. The term of office of the 16 constitutional judges is twelve years. Candidates must be at least 40 years old, be qualified to serve as judges and be eligible for election to the Bundestag.

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