West German federal election, 1972

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German federal election, 1972
West Germany
1969 ←
19 November 1972
→ 1976

All 518 seats in the Bundestag
260 were needed for a majority
  First party Second party Third party
  Bundesarchiv B 145 Bild-F057884-0009, Willy Brandt.jpg Bundesarchiv B 145 Bild-F027712-0016, Bonn, CDU Vorstandssitzung, Rainer Barzel.jpg Bundesarchiv Bild 146-1989-047-20, Walter Scheel.jpg
Leader Willy Brandt Rainer Barzel Walter Scheel
Party SPD CDU/CSU FDP
Leader since 1964 1971 (CDU) 1968
Last election 237 250 31
Seats won 242 234 42
Seat change Increase5 Decrease16 Increase11
Popular vote 17,175,169 16,806,020 3,129,982
Percentage 45.8% 44.9% 8.4%
Swing Increase3.1% Decrease1.2% Increase2.6%

Chancellor before election

Willy Brandt
SPD

Elected Chancellor

Willy Brandt
SPD

Seat results -- SPD in red, FDP in yellow, CDU/CSU in black

Federal elections were held in West Germany on 19 November 1972. In the first snap elections since 1949, the Social Democratic Party remained the largest party in the Bundestag, winning 242 of the 518 seats.

Campaign[edit]

The Social-liberal coalition of SPD and FDP had lost its majority after several Bundestag MPs (like former FDP ministers Erich Mende and Heinz Starke or SPD partisan Herbert Hupka) had left their party and become members of the CDU/CSU opposition to protest against Chancellor Willy Brandt's Neue Ostpolitik, especially against the de facto recognition of the Oder-Neisse line by the 1970 Treaty of Warsaw.[citation needed]

Barzel in victory pose at a CDU election rally in Cologne

On 27 April 1972 the opposition had tried to have CDU leader Rainer Barzel elected new chancellor in a motion of no confidence, but Barzel surprisingly missed the majority in the Bundestag by two votes. Rumours that at least one member of CDU/CSU faction had been paid by the East German Stasi intelligence service were confirmed by Markus Wolf, former head of the Hauptverwaltung Aufklärung, in 1997.[citation needed] Nevertheless the following budget debates revealed that the government's majority was lost and only the upcoming organisation of the 1972 Summer Olympics in Munich delayed the arrangement of new elections. On 22 September 1972 Chancellor Brandt deliberately failed in asking for a vote of confidence and made President Gustav Heinemann dissolve the Bundestag the next day.[citation needed]

In the tense campaign, the CDU/CSU attacked Brandt as being too lenient towards Eastern Europe and having the wrong ideas on the economy. SPD and FDP profited from the enormous personal popularity of the chancellor, laureate of the 1971 Nobel Peace Prize. He gained the support by numerous celebrities of the West German culture and media scene (e.g. Günter Grass), expressed by the slogan Willy wählen! ("Vote for Willy!").[citation needed]

Results[edit]

Voter turnout was 91.1%, the highest ever since 1949. In 1970 the voting age had been lowered from 21 to 18.

e • d Summary of the 19 November 1972 German Bundestag election results
Parties Constituency Party list Total seats
Votes  % +/− Seats +/− Votes  % +/− Seats +/− Seats +/−  %
Social Democratic Party (SPD) 18,228,239 48.9 +4.9 152 +25 17,175,169 45.8 +3.1 78 −19 242 +5 46.7
Christian Democratic Union (CDU) 13,304,813 35.7 −1.4 65 −22 13,190,837 35.2 −1.4 112 +6 186 −15 35.9
Christian Social Union (CSU) 3,620,625 9.7 +0.2 31 −3 3,615,183 9.7 +0.2 17 +2 48 −1 9.3
Free Democratic Party (FDP) 1,790,513 4.8 ±0 0 ±0 3,129,982 8.4 +2.6 41 +11 42 +11 8.1
National Democratic Party (NPD) 194,389 0.5 −3.1 0 ±0 207,465 0.6 −3.7 0 ±0 0 ±0 0
German Communist Party (DKP) 146,258 0.4 +0.4 0 ±0 113,891 0.3 +0.3 0 ±0 0 ±0 0
European Federalist Party (EFP) 7,581 0.0 −0.1 0 ±0 24,057 0.1 −0.1 0 ±0 0 ±0 0
Free Social Union (FSU) 1,864 0.0 ±0 0 ±0 3,166 0.0 ±0 0 ±0 0 ±0 0
Electoral groups and independents 9,497 0.0 −0.1 0 ±0 0 ±0 0
Invalid/blank votes 457,810 301,839
Totals 37,761,589 100 ±0.0 248 ±0 37,761,589 100 ±0.0 248 ±0 518 ±0 ±0
Registered voters/turnout 41,446,302 91.1 41,446,302 91.1
Source: Federal Returning Officer
^† — includes the non-voting delegates for West Berlin (12 SPD, 9 CDU, 1 FDP).


Popular Vote
SPD
  
45.85%
CDU/CSU
  
44.86%
F.D.P.
  
8.36%
Other
  
0.93%
Bundestag seats
SPD
  
46.37%
CDU/CSU
  
45.36%
F.D.P.
  
8.27%

The SPD celebrated their best result ever, representing the largest faction in the German parliament for the first time since the 1930 Reichstag elections. It enabled the party to nominate Annemarie Renger for President of the Bundestag, she was the first Social Democrat and also the first woman to hold this office.

Post-election[edit]

Election night: Brandt and Scheel declare victory at 10:20pm

On 14 December 1972 the Bundestag MPs of the social-liberal coalition re-elected Willy Brandt chancellor. His Cabinet Brandt II returned to government the next day, again with FDP chairman Walter Scheel as vice-chancellor and foreign minister. Defeated Rainer Barzel resigned as CDU chairman on 9 May 1973, he was succeeded by Helmut Kohl.

On 7 May 1974, Brandt would resign in the course of the Guillaume Affair, after one of his personal aides had been unmasked as a Stasi agent. The coalition continued under his party fellow Helmut Schmidt, while Brandt remained SPD chairman until 1987.

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]