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The Federal Republic of Germany is a constitutional parliamentary democracy; citizens periodically choose their representatives in free and fair multiparty elections. The last national election was held in September 2002 and resulted in a continuation of the coalition government of the Social Democratic Party (SPD) and Green Party. The head of the Federal Government, the Chancellor, is elected by the Bundestag, the only directly democratically legitimized legislative body. The second legislative body is the Bundesrat, which represents the 16 states at the federal level and is comprised of members of the state governments. The powers of the Chancellor and of the Parliament are set forth in the Basic Law (Constitution). The 16 states represented in the Bundesrat enjoy significant autonomy, particularly regarding law enforcement and the courts, education, the environment, and social assistance. The judiciary is independent.
Civilian authorities maintained effective control of the security forces. State governments are primarily responsible for law enforcement, and the police are organized at the state level. There have been instances in which police committed human rights abuses.
A well-developed industrial economy provided citizens with a high standard of living. The population was approximately 82 million.
The Government generally respected the human rights of its citizens; although there were problems in some areas, the law and judiciary provided effective means of addressing individual instances of abuse. There were at least two reports of alleged police mistreatment or use of excessive force against detainees, which the Government investigated. There were some limits on freedom of assembly and association. There was some government and societal discrimination against minority religious groups. Instances of societal violence and harassment directed at minority groups and foreign residents continued, and the Government at times did not provide adequate protection. Women continued to face some wage discrimination in the private sector, as did minorities and foreigners. Trafficking in persons, particularly women and girls, was a problem, which the state and federal governments took steps to address.
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