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History of the German election campaigns: Was there more tinsel in the past?


In the Federal Republic of Germany there have been epic battles before elections since 1949, sometimes dreary and hopeless candidates - a foray through the election campaigns of eight decades.

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Showdown with a mood of change: the incumbent and the challenger on posters in 2005 - it was close.

The Union got 35.2 percent of the vote, the SPD 34.2 percent.

The “elephant round” after the election is unforgettable: “Do you seriously believe that my party will accept an offer from Ms. Merkel to talk about this matter, in which she says she would like to become Chancellor?” Gerhard Schröder began and continued: “Well, I mean, we have to leave the church in the village.

The Germans clearly voted on the candidate question.

You can't seriously deny that. ”Of course, things turned out differently, Merkel became chancellor in a grand coalition - and Schröder later became an economic lobbyist, especially for Russian energy companies (“ Gerdgas ”, as he occasionally says himself).

Photo: Christian Charisius / REUTERS

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The slogan from 1957: Konrad Adenauer was Germany's first Federal Chancellor from 1949 and ruled for 14 years.

For the 1957 Bundestag election, the Union posted "No experiments".

It campaigned for the preservation of what had been achieved and stirred up fears that a social democratic government could endanger the success of the economic boom and the collapse of the Federal Republic.

With 50.2 percent, the Union won an absolute majority in 1957 - the best election result in the history of the Bundestag elections.

Photo: CC BY-SA 3.0 / Foundation House of History EB.No.


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In the background, the Cold War: The large poster behind Erich Ollenhauer, then SPD chairman and opponent Adenauer, clearly shows what the hard arguments of the 1950s were about - about ties to the West and the chance for reunification, membership of NATO and Germany The pursuit of nuclear weapons.

In 1956, the year before the general election, Soviet troops marched into Hungary, and the blockade of Berlin was only a few years ago.

All of this shaped dramatic election campaigns;

At that time the Federal Republic debated fundamental questions and decisions about direction.

Photo: Bettmann / Bettmann Archive

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It should rain red roses for him: Konrad Adenauer, alias »Der Alte«, already had a knack for media staging at a time when the press, radio and the gradually emerging television dominated public political discussions.

He was happy to have himself photographed as a rose grower in his garden in Rhöndorf - or while playing boccia in his holiday home in Cadenabbia on Lake Como.

Adenauer suspiciously confronted the public broadcasters, disparaged them as "red radio" and thought of a remedy: through a government broadcaster, only apparently private.

The Federal Constitutional Court, however, banned the start of broadcasting, which was planned for January 1, 1961, and »Adenauer-TV« did not become anything.

Photo: BPA / ullstein bild

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Willy Brandt at a young age: He was already a member of the SPD in the first Bundestag, from 1957 Governing Mayor of Berlin, from 1966 Vice Chancellor and Foreign Minister in the first grand coalition, then from 1969 Federal Chancellor for five years.

In addition, Brandt was party leader of the Social Democrats for 23 years.

His political opponents took him very hard, especially in the 1960s: Adenauer and other Union politicians often referred to him as "Brandt alias Frahm" because he was born Herbert Frahm and had taken the name Willy Brandt while in exile in Norway;

at the same time it was an allusion to his illegitimate birth.

The photo shows him in a tent camp in Norway in 1935.

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The first SPD Chancellor: On October 21, 1969, Willy Brandt took his oath of office in front of Bundestag President Kai-Uwe von Hassel in the Bundestag and broke new ground, especially in Ostpolitik.

During the election campaigns, he was attacked with hard hitting.

While a number of politicians with a National Socialist past remained unmolested in the Bundestag and in the government apparatus, Brandt had to endure many infamous abuse because of his time in exile.

For example, Franz Josef Strauss, once a Wehrmacht officer, said in 1961: "There is one thing that one may ask Mr. Brandt: What did you do outside for twelve years?"


A0009 / dpa

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The two Helmuts in the 1976 federal election campaign: The incumbent Chancellor Helmut Schmidt and his challenger Helmut Kohl rarely put their heads together, as here at an event in Frankfurt am Main in May 1976.

Photo: Heinz_Wieseler / picture alliance / Heinz_Wieseler / dpa

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In 1976 the Union relied on the slogans »Safe, Social and Free« and - under the influence of CSU Chairman Strauss - the polarizing »Freedom instead of Socialism«, the SPD on »Model Germany«.

In the end, 48.6 percent of the voters voted for the Union, which narrowly missed the absolute majority.

The SPD (42.6 percent) was able to continue its coalition with the FDP (7.9 percent).

Photo: Peter Popp / picture alliance / dpa

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When Franz Josef Strauss managed to get the chancellor candidate in 1980, the scandalous CSU man from Bavaria experienced a hostility like no other union politician - in the »Stop Strauss« campaign with banners like »Fascism or Freedom«, an echo of the "freedom instead of socialism" slogan.

In the end, his candidacy failed, the Union became the strongest party with 44.5 percent, but the SPD and FDP together achieved 53.5 percent.

Photo: Henning Christoph / ullstein bild - Henning Christop

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Was it more tinsel in the past?

Certainly not in 1994, when Social Democrat Rudolf Scharping was allowed to try his luck against long-term Chancellor Helmut Kohl.

In a member survey in 1993, the honest Westerwälder was able to prevail against the gruff Lower Saxony Gerhard Schröder and against the party left Heidemarie Wieczorek-Zeul and became SPD chairman.

With a lot of good will you can call the candidate down-to-earth, his awkward appearances and wooden speeches were always good for a spontaneous yawn, at least there was no optimism.

The hoped-for rise turned into an unstoppable descent of "Comrade Acumen," as he was derisively called.

Photo: Mrotzkowski / ullstein bild

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Politics with no beard: For a moment in 1994 it looked as if something might still go wrong.

It wasn't because of Rudolf Scharping's charisma.

A little hope sprouted in the SPD when it came up with the "Troika," which put Gerhard Schröder and Oskar Lafontaine at the side of the lackluster candidate as escorts.

And even more so by the ailing FDP, which was widely punished with contempt for its attempt to profile itself as the "party of the better-earners" and threatened to fail at the five percent hurdle.

It recovered somewhat, finally the black-yellow government coalition was confirmed: 41.4 percent for the Union, 6.9 percent for the FDP;

on the other hand, the SPD with 36.4 percent and the Greens with 7.3 percent did not arrive.


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Can a Bayer become Chancellor?

At least not Edmund Stoiber, even if he shows himself in a classic victory pose at an event in the Munich Olympic Hall on September 7, 2002.

Chancellor Schröder was very happy with the flooding of the Elbe during the election campaign, when he took his rubber boots out of the closet, waded through the mud and celebrated crisis management: almost like Helmut Schmidt once did during the storm surge in Hamburg in 1962.

And only surpassed by Brandenburg's Social Democratic Environment Minister Matthias Platzeck, who found his best role as "dikemaster" in the floods.

And Stoiber?

He complained about flood tourists, but made himself late to the crisis area.

Photo: imago stock & people / imago / Sammy Minkoff

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Sharp: It could hardly have ended closer - the SPD and Union each achieved 38.5 percent in 2002, and on election night Stoiber believed himself to be the winner;

this is how some daily newspapers also described it.

That was premature, in the end the Social Democrats won 6027 votes more than the CDU / CSU.

Red-Green could continue to rule.

Photo: Gero_Breloer / picture-alliance / dpa / dpaweb

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In the Guidomobil in an unprecedented disgrace: The FDP had proclaimed "Project 18" for the 2002 federal election, the target being 18 percent.

Her front man Guido Westerwelle presented himself research as a candidate for chancellor and toured the country with a camping bus named "Guidomobil", even when the news was dictated by floods.

Westerwelle wore the right footwear for the Gaga election campaign with an 18 on the sole.

On election day, the FDP was 12.6 percent short of 18 - a complete fiasco.

Photo: Ulrich Baumgarten / ullstein bild

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The election campaigns from 2009, when Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier wanted to become Chancellor for the SPD (here at a performance in Berlin) were rather dreary and hopeless for the Social Democrats.

He lost significantly, and his social democratic successors Peer Steinbrück 2013 and Martin Schulz 2017 (the one with the train) experienced similar bitter defeats that became apparent early on.

Photo: Michael Dalder / REUTERS

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How times are changing: In the 1960s, most of the German population fulfilled their civic duty in the voting booth.

Postal voting was introduced in 1957, at that time just under five percent used this option.

Photo: Uta Poss / ullstein bild

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The mail bags are coming: In this photo from 1957, election letters from German citizens who are abroad arrive at the Munich election office.

The proportion of postal voters has risen almost steadily since then and reached just under 29 percent in the 2017 federal election.

Now it should be almost 40 percent in 2021 in the wake of the corona pandemic.

This also means that many voters made their decision a long time in advance - election day itself is no longer as central as it has been in past decades.

Photo: dpa / ullstein bild

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In the end: Angela Merkel ruled for 16 years, as long as only Helmut Kohl before her (title of SPIEGEL issue 36/2021). It is now open which party will be the strongest after their term in office and which coalition Germany will govern. The election evening and the coming weeks will be exciting - the election campaign was less.

(Texts: Jochen Leffers)

Source: spiegel

All news articles on 2021-09-20

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