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Germany's flag on top of the German parliament in BerlinImage: AP

Postwar German Coalition Governments

DW staff (aal)
September 18, 2005

As part of 2005 election coverage DW-WORLD has put together a short history of previous goverments that have sat at the head of the German Bundestag.


CDU and FDP (1949-57 and 1961-1963) -- Chancellor: Konrad Adenauer (CDU)

Konrad Adenauer
Konrad Adenauer (1957)Image: AP

Adenauer, one of the founding fathers of the Christian Democrats (CDU), was elected Chancellor in West Germany's first democratic election in 1949. He presided over the postwar "economic miracle," played an important role in reconciliation with France and guided West Germany's entry into NATO. Adenauer's CDU won an absolute majority in 1957 and ruled for four years before turning to the liberal Free Democrats (FDP) as a coalition partner again after the 1961 election.

CDU and FDP (1963-1966) -- Chancellor: Ludwig Erhard (CDU)

Erhard, economy minister under Adenauer and credited with the "economic miracle," was the architect of Germany's "social market economy." But disputes between the CDU and FDP over the budget led to the collapse of the coalition and Erhard's resignation in late 1966, just over a year after Erhard had won the 1965 general election.

CDU and SPD (1966-1969) -- Chancellor: Kurt-Georg Kiesinger (CDU)

The FDP-CDU split paved the way for the formation of Germany's only postwar "grand coalition" consisting of the CDU and the Social Democrats (SPD). A former Nazi party member who served in the foreign ministry during World War II, Kiesinger was targeted for criticism by radical, left-wing student movements in West Germany during this period.

SPD and FDP (1969-1974) -- Chancellor: Willy Brandt (SPD)

Willy Brandt
Bundeskanzler Willy Brandt (1969)Image: dpa

Brandt became the first SPD chancellor of the postwar era after the 1969 elections when the SPD left the "grand coalition" in favour of an alliance with the small kingmaker FDP. Brandt pursued a policy of rapprochement with Communist East Germany and the Soviet bloc, known as "Ostpolitik" for which he later won a Nobel Peace Prize. He resigned in 1974 after one of his aides was exposed as an East German spy.

SPD and FDP (1974-1982) -- Chancellor: Helmut Schmidt (SPD)

Schmidt's reign was marked by economic turbulence, oil shortages, further attempts toward detente with the Soviet bloc, and plagued by left-wing radicalism and militancy. The FDP abandoned the coalition government in September 1982, briefly leaving the SPD as the sole governing party until
Schmidt lost a parliamentary no-confidence vote. He was replaced by Helmut Kohl and in a renewal of the CDU-FDP coalition.

CDU and FDP (1982-1998) -- Chancellor: Helmut Kohl (CDU)

Helmut Kohl stellt sein Buch vor Erinnerungen 1930 - 1982
former chancellor Helmut Kohl at a press conference in 2004.Image: AP

The center-piece of Kohl's legacy is his role in German reunification and European integration after the end of the Cold War. From 1990 Kohl worked to integrate the eastern states of former communist East Germany but failed to make needed domestic economic reforms. Kohl spent 16 years in office until he lost his bid for a fifth term to Gerhard Schroeder in 1998, making him the only post-war chancellor voted out of office.

SPD and Greens (1998-present) -- Chancellor: Gerhard Schröder (SPD)

Under the SPD-Greens coalition, the first troops were sent into combat abroad since World War Two. Schröder forged close relations with France and Russia, forming a three-way alliance with them in opposition to the US-led Iraq war. High unemployment, sluggish economic growth, and painful reforms of the social welfare system during Schröder's second term led to an erosion of the government's popularity and prompted Schröder to call for new elections one year ahead of schedule.

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