German federal election, 1998

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German federal election, 1998
Germany
1994 ←
27 September 1998 (1998-09-27)
→ 2002

All 669 seats in the Bundestag
335 seats were needed for a majority
  First party Second party Third party
  Gerhardschroeder01.jpg Helmut Kohl und William S. Cohen (headshot).jpg Fischer und Paul Wolfowitz (Headshot).jpg
Leader Gerhard Schröder Helmut Kohl Joschka Fischer
Party SPD CDU/CSU Green
Leader since 1973
Last election 252 seats 294 seats 49 seats
Seats won 298 245 47
Seat change Increase46 Decrease49 Decrease2
Popular vote 20,181,269 17,329,388 3,301,624
Percentage 40.9% 35.1% 6.7%
Swing Increase4.5% Decrease6.4% Decrease0.6%

  Fourth party Fifth party
  Wolfgang Gerhardt (headshot).jpg Gregor gysi.vortrag 1997.universitaet-hildesheim.jpg
Leader Wolfgang Gerhardt Gregor Gysi
Party FDP PDS
Leader since 1995 1990
Last election 47 seats 30 seats
Seats won 43 36
Seat change Decrease4 Increase6
Popular vote 3,080,955 2,515,454
Percentage 6.2% 5.1%
Swing Decrease0.7% Increase0.7%

German Federal Election - Party list vote results by state - 1998.png

Party list election results by state: red denotes states where the SPD had the absolute majority of the votes; pink denotes states where the SPD had the plurality of votes; and light blue denotes states where CDU/CSU had the plurality of votes

Chancellor before election

Helmut Kohl
CDU/CSU

Elected Chancellor

Gerhard Schröder
SPD

Coat of arms of Germany.svg
This article is part of a series on the
politics and government of
Germany
Foreign relations

German federal elections took place on 27 September 1998, to elect members to the 14th Bundestag, the parliament of the Federal Republic of Germany.

Issues and campaign[edit]

Since the German reunification on 3 October 1990, the unemployment rate in Germany had risen from 4.2% to 9.4% in 1998, with the Federal Labor Office registering more than 4 million unemployed. The unified Germany had to fight economic and domestic difficulties even as it actively participated in the project of European integration. Most people blamed the centre-right coalition government among the Christian democrats/Christian democrats of Bavaria (CDU/CSU), and the liberal Free Democratic Party (FDP) for the economic difficulties. The long-time Chancellor Helmut Kohl's government was regarded by many as not having fully implemented the unification, in view of the mass protests in many eastern German towns due to job losses and social welfare cuts.

The 1998 campaign began with both the CDU and SPD questioning who would lead their parties. There had been rumours that Helmut Kohl would resign and allow Wolfgang Schäuble to take the reins of the CDU but these rumours were obsolete when Kohl announced in April 1997 that he would seek the chancellorship for a sixth term. The two contenders for the SPD nomination were Oskar Lafontaine, the party's chairman, and Gerhard Schröder, Minister-President of Lower Saxony.

On 1 March 1998, Schröder led the SPD to victory in the Lower Saxony state election, effectively receiving the SPD nomination for federal chancellor. Schröder had announced he would withdraw his bid for the nomination if he received below 42 percent of the popular vote. In the 1998 general elections, Schröder received 47.9 percent.[1] Following this election Lafontaine withdrew his bid and Schröder was inaugurated in the May 1998 convention. For the SPD, Schröder offered a new face for the party. He gave the party a new vigor, one that was lacking in the CDU after Kohl proclaimed his nomination. Many in the CDU questioned if Kohl had made the right choice for the party.

The CDU campaign was based on the experience and reputation of Kohl. One of the CDU's main slogans was 'Safety, not Risks.' "Kohl exploited his familiarity and experience, as well as his status as Europe's longest serving head of government."[2] The SPD on the other hand ran the campaign using strategies developed in the United States and the United Kingdom. The SPD set up election headquarters and introduced 'rapid rebuttal units' not unlike those used by Bill Clinton in his successful presidential bid in 1992.[3] The SPD avoided direct attacks at Kohl but rather focused on their message of a “new center".’[4]

The FDP had usually ridden on the coattails of the CDU, and was mostly disapproved in the polls. With the SPD well ahead in the polls, many of the voters from the CDU had less incentives to vote for the FDP. The FDP was also having trouble projecting a coherent platform to voters. The Greens too were having issues concerning their platform.

The two factions in the Greens, the fundamentalists and the pragmatists, had problems settling on their platform since the founding of the Green party.

The major issue of the 1998 campaign was unemployment. In 1996, the unemployment rate in Germany surpassed the government's "limit" of 4 million unemployed people. Both parties blamed high labor costs, high taxes and the high welfare costs as the causes of the problem. During the campaign, Schröder used this issue against Kohl calling him 'the unemployment chancellor.' Unemployment was worst in the former East Germany. While the national rate stood at 9.4 percent, former East Germany was suffering with unemployment at 20 percent. Many in the former East Germany blamed Kohl for the slow economic recovery.

Another issue at hand were Germany's tax and welfare reforms. While the CDU/CSU had offered proposals to reduce benefits in healthcare and pensions, the SPD controlled Bundesrat secured the passage of the bill. The proposed bill also offered tax cuts that were to benefit the rich, something the SPD opposed. While Kohl continually pushed the issue of European integration, the issue fell short from voters' minds. Schröder, on the other hand, almost ignored the issue. Many voters in Germany had other concerns besides the European Union.

Results[edit]

e • d Summary of the 27 September 1998 German Bundestag election results
Parties Constituency Party list Total seats
Votes  % +/− Seats +/− Votes  % +/− Seats +/− Seats +/−  %
Social Democratic Party (SPD) 21,535,893 43.8 +5.5 212 +109 20,181,269 40.9 +4.5 86 −63 298 +46 44.5
Christian Democratic Union (CDU) 15,854,215 32.2 −5.0 74 −103 14,004,908 28.4 −5.8 124 +57 198 −46 29.6
Christian Social Union (CSU) 3,602,472 7.3 −0.5 38 −6 3,324,480 6.8 −0.5 9 +3 47 −3 7.0
Alliance '90/The Greens 2,448,162 5.0 −1.5 0 ±0 3,301,624 6.7 −0.6 47 −2 47 −2 7.0
Free Democratic Party (FDP) 1,486,433 3.0 −0.3 0 ±0 3,080,955 6.2 −0.7 43 −4 43 −4 6.4
Party of Democratic Socialism (PDS) 2,416,781 4.9 +0.8 4 ±0 2,515,454 5.1 +0.7 32 +6 36 +6 5.4
The Republicans (REP) 1,115,664 2.3 +0.6 0 ±0 906,383 1.8 −0.1 0 ±0 0 ±0 0
German People's Union (DVU) 601,192 1.2 +1.2 0 ±0 0 ±0 0
Pro DM 430,099 0.9 +0.9 0 ±0 0 ±0 0
The Grays – Gray Panthers (GRAUE) 141,763 0.3 −0.1 0 ±0 152,557 0.3 −0.2 0 ±0 0 ±0 0
Animal Protection Party 1,734 0.0 +0.0 0 ±0 133,832 0.3 +0.1 0 ±0 0 ±0 0
National Democratic Party (NPD) 45,043 0.1 +0.1 0 ±0 126,571 0.3 +0.3 0 ±0 0 ±0 0
Federation of Free Citizens – The Offensive (BFB) 134,795 0.3 +0.3 0 ±0 121,196 0.2 +0.2 0 ±0 0 ±0 0
Ecological Democratic Party (ödp) 145,308 0.3 −0.1 0 ±0 98,257 0.2 −0.2 0 ±0 0 ±0 0
Party of Bible-abiding Christians (PBC) 46,379 0.1 ±0 0 ±0 71,941 0.1 ±0 0 ±0 0 ±0 0
Anarchist Pogo Party (APPD) 1,676 0.0 +0.0 0 ±0 35,242 0.1 +0.1 0 ±0 0 ±0 0
Natural Law Party (Naturgesetz) 35,132 0.1 ±0 0 ±0 30,619 0.1 −0.1 0 ±0 0 ±0 0
Feminist Party (DIE FRAUEN) 3,966 0.0 +0.0 0 ±0 30,094 0.1 +0.1 0 ±0 0 ±0 0
Chance 2000 3,206 0.0 +0.0 0 ±0 28,566 0.1 +0.1 0 ±0 0 ±0 0
Bavaria Party (BP) 1,772 0.0 ±0 0 ±0 28,107 0.1 ±0 0 ±0 0 ±0 0
Family Party (FAMILIE) 8,134 0.0 +0.0 0 ±0 24,825 0.1 +0.1 0 ±0 0 ±0 0
Christian Centre (CM) 9,023 0.0 ±0 0 ±0 23,619 0.0 ±0 0 ±0 0 ±0 0
Solidarity (BüSo) 10,260 0.0 ±0 0 ±0 9,662 0.0 ±0 0 ±0 0 ±0 0
Party of the Non-voters (Nichtwähler) 6,827 0.0 +0.0 0 ±0 0 ±0 0
Car-drivers' and Citizens' Interests Party (APD) 1,458 0.0 ±0 0 ±0 6,759 0.0 ±0 0 ±0 0 ±0 0
Social Equality Party (PSG) 6,226 0.0 +0.0 0 ±0 0 ±0 0
Alliance for Germany (Deutschland) 1,946 0.0 +0.0 0 ±0 6,196 0.0 +0.0 0 ±0 0 ±0 0
Party of the Willing to Work and Socially Vulnerable (PASS) 10,449 0.0 ±0 0 ±0 5,556 0.0 ±0 0 ±0 0 ±0 0
Marxist-Leninist Party (MLPD) 7,208 0.0 ±0 0 ±0 4,731 0.0 ±0 0 ±0 0 ±0 0
FORUM 6,296 0.0 +0.0 0 ±0 4,543 0.0 +0.0 0 ±0 0 ±0 0
Alternative Citizens' Movement 2000 (AB 2000) 4,097 0.0 +0.0 0 ±0 3,355 0.0 +0.0 0 ±0 0 ±0 0
Democratic Party (DPD) 1,172 0.0 +0.0 0 ±0 2,432 0.0 +0.0 0 ±0 0 ±0 0
Humanist Party (HP) 532 0.0 +0.0 0 ±0 435 0.0 +0.0 0 ±0 0 ±0 0
German Social Union (DSU) 8,180 0.0 ±0 0 ±0 0 ±0 0
Statt Party (STATT) 4,406 0.0 ±0 0 ±0 0 ±0 0
German Communist Party (DKP) 2,105 0.0 ±0 0 ±0 0 ±0 0
Centre Party (Zentrum) 2,076 0.0 ±0 0 ±0 0 ±0 0
Middle Class Party (DMP) 1,924 0.0 +0.0 0 ±0 0 ±0 0
Free Social Union (FSU) 763 0.0 ±0 0 ±0 0 ±0 0
Freedom Party (FP Deutschlands) 131 0.0 +0.0 0 ±0 0 ±0 0
Electoral groups and independents 66,026 0.1 ±0 0 ±0 0 ±0 0
Invalid/blank votes 780,507 638,575
Totals 49,947,087 100 ±0.0 328 ±0 49,947,087 100 ±0.0 341 -3 669 -3 ±0
Registered voters/turnout 60,762,751 82.2 60,762,751 82.2
Source: Federal Returning Officer


298 245 47 43 36
SPD CDU/CSU Grüne FDP PDS


Popular Vote
SPD
  
40.93%
CDU/CSU
  
35.14%
B'90/GRÜNE
  
6.70%
F.D.P.
  
6.25%
PDS
  
5.10%
REP
  
1.84%
DVU
  
1.22%
Other
  
2.82%
Bundestag seats
SPD
  
44.54%
CDU/CSU
  
36.62%
B'90/GRÜNE
  
7.03%
F.D.P.
  
6.43%
PDS
  
5.38%

Post-election[edit]

Results[edit]

Seat results – SPD in red, Greens in green, PDS in purple, FDP in yellow, CDU/CSU in black

Toward the end of the campaign, polls placed the CDU/CSU and FDP coalition in a tie with the SPD and Green coalition. Despite these polls, the final numbers told a different story. The SPD-Green coalition won an unexpectedly large victory, taking 345 seats and earning a strong majority in the Bundestag—the first centre-left absolute majority in post-World War II Germany. The SPD won 40.9 percent of the vote, due to an increase of 4.5 percent from 1994.

The CDU/CSU-FDP coalition was severely mauled. It had gone into the election with a solid majority and 341 seats, but was cut down to 288 seats. The CDU/CSU was particularly hammered; it lost 6.2% of its 1994 vote, and lost 109 electoral districts to the SPD. Germany's mixed-member proportional system, in which a slate of statewide delegates are elected alongside the electorate delegates, softened the blow somewhat, so the CDU/CSU only suffered a net loss of 49 seats. It was still the CDU/CSU's worst defeat ever. By contrast their junior coalition partner, the FDP, saw their vote hold up well and netted a loss of just 4 seats.

A new government was formed by a coalition between the SPD and the Greens, with the SPD's Gerhard Schröder as chancellor and Greens leader Joschka Fischer as vice-chancellor and foreign minister. It was the first Red-Green coalition government at the federal level in Germany, as well as the first purely centre-left government in post-World War II Germany.

Helmut Kohl, incriminated in a scandal, stepped down as chairman of the CDU, and CSU chairman Theodor Waigel stepped down as well.

Legacy[edit]

The 1998 German election was historic in many ways. It resulted in a centre-right government being succeeded by a left-wing one—the first in postwar Germany (the SPD's previous term in government had been at the helm of a centre-left coalition).

In addition, it brought to an end the sixteen-year rule of Helmut Kohl – the second-longest of any German chancellor, and the longest tenure for a democratically elected head of government in German history. It has been compared to the defeat of Winston Churchill in 1945 – both were seen as conservative wartime leaders, and in both cases both were turned out of office by the electorate once the war was over. It should be noted, however, that Churchill was ousted before World War II was even over, while Kohl managed to hang onto power for two more terms after the reunification of Germany (which is often considered to be the end of the Cold War).[citation needed]

Literature[edit]

  • Conradt, David P.; Kleinfeld, Gerald R.; Søe, Christian, eds. (2000). Power Shift in Germany: The 1998 Election and the End of the Kohl Era. Berghahn Books. 

References[edit]

  1. ^ Pulzer, Peter. "The German Federal Election of 1998." West European Politics July 1999: 241–249.
  2. ^ ibid.
  3. ^ Green, Simon. "The 1998 German Bundestag election: The end of an era." Parliamentary Affairs Apr 1999: 52. :Pg. 306–320. LexisNexis Academic. Leslie F. Maplass Library, Macomb, IL. 24 Feb
  4. ^ ibid.