Bundestag election 1998
The 1998 Bundestag election took place on September 27, 1998. The result of the election to the 14th German Bundestag was a novelty in the history of the Federal Republic : For the first and so far only time a federal government was completely voted out, while the "senior partner" changed when the government changed in 1982 ( SPD to CDU / CSU ) the former junior partner SPD took over the role of senior in the 1969 Bundestag election (→ Brandt I Cabinet ) and after the 2005 Bundestag election the former SPD senior partner would become a junior partner in a new government. With the SPD, a party won more than 20 million votes for the first time. At the same time, the parties that traditionally classify themselves as “ left of the center ” received more than 50 percent of the votes for the first time.
The CDU / CSU's candidate for chancellor was the sixth time (five of them in a row) after 16 years in the office of Chancellor Helmut Kohl . The then Prime Minister of Lower Saxony , Gerhard Schröder , stood for the first time for the SPD .
The SPD became the strongest parliamentary group for the first time since 1972 . The Union and SPD achieved their worst result since the federal election in 1953 , based on the entire electoral area of 1998. After the election, the FDP was no longer involved in the government for the first time in 29 years. The PDS achieved parliamentary group status in the German Bundestag for the first time .
As a result of the election, a red-green coalition was formed , the first at federal level.
The dominant theme of the election campaign was economic policy and in particular the fight against unemployment . Representative surveys by the Wahlen research group on the most important problems in Germany (multiple answers were possible) showed that unemployment was the most important issue. The values were between 83 and 91% of Germans throughout the year. The topics asylum / foreigners (8 to 16%, 14% in September) and pensions / old age (9 to 12%; 9% in September) followed a long way behind .
In contrast to the 1994 federal election , when a short-term economic recovery helped the Kohl government at the time to re-elect, the number of unemployed in Germany has risen steadily since 1996. The government presented an economic reform package that included tax cuts and cuts in non-wage labor costs . However, the SPD-dominated Federal Council blocked some of the laws. According to surveys, the accusation made by the federal government, especially against the then SPD chairman Oskar Lafontaine , that the SPD was acting destructively, hardly met with any response from voters. The alliance for work , in which the government, trade unions and employers' associations were supposed to take part, failed after a short time without being able to show any concrete successes.
While the reform attempts were criticized by most economists as "half-hearted", they were rejected by large parts of the population. In particular, cuts in wages in the event of illness led to extensive protests. The summer of 1998 was marked by large demonstrations against the government's attempts at reform. People feared cuts in health and pension insurance , among other things .
Only parties that were already represented in the Bundestag could justifiably hope to be elected to parliament: CDU / CSU, FDP, SPD, Bündnis 90 / Die Grünen and the PDS. Still, there were many small parties that hoped to benefit from government party funding . Both between the Union and the FDP and between the SPD and Bündnis 90 / Die Grünen there was an early decision on a joint coalition after a possible election win.
The governing parties wanted to continue the course they had taken. They have been in government for 16 years and have seen their policies as successful and promised to maintain them. After this strategy succeeded in winning the 1994 Bundestag election against the background of an economic upswing at the time, the work of the past few years should essentially continue unchanged. Only the question of whether Helmut Kohl or parliamentary group leader Wolfgang Schäuble should run as the top candidate caused discussions within the party.
Kohl decided the question on his own initiative by declaring his intention to run as candidate for chancellor on April 3, 1997, his 67th birthday.
Immediately after the CDU party convention in Leipzig in October 1997, however, he presented Schäuble as his future successor, without prior approval. The tactical move of grandmaster quality should make it clear within the party that only Helmut Kohl determined the person and timing of his successor. He reduced Schäuble to a candidate "... by the grace of Kohl". In addition, Kohl now had to defend himself against the accusation that he was only a chancellor on call . In any case, he wanted to remain in office until 2002, thus setting Schäuble to a five-year crown princehood.
While the governing parties were able to build on the work of previous years, the situation was different, especially with the SPD. 1994 also failed on their own disunity and internal struggle grave, Oskar Lafontaine had in a surprising crucial vote in 1995 party chairmanship over. For a long time it was unclear whether he or Gerhard Schröder would run as candidate for chancellor. Both stood for a different economic policy direction: Lafontaine for a more demand-oriented “classic social democratic ” approach, Schröder for a continuation of the black and yellow program in a more moderate version. The constellation in which the SPD finally took - Schröder as chancellor candidate Oskar Lafontaine as finance minister - promised both traditional voters and swing voters in the political center to appeal. The content-related and personal conflicts of this constellation only came to light after the formation of the government.
Public perception was based on a directional decision between two different camps, which was reflected in the election campaign . Two opposing policy approaches were also pursued in the two election programs . Although both parties called for tax cuts and further changes in income tax , the CDU wanted to achieve a much greater net relief than the SPD, which wanted to counter-finance the tariff cuts largely by reducing tax breaks. Both parties wanted to limit the national debt by lowering public spending or subsidies. The CDU wanted to fight unemployment by calling for “job-creating collective agreements”, the SPD “creating work by stimulating economic growth”. Both parties wanted to reform German citizenship law , although the SPD went one step further with its demand for simpler dual citizenship.
In their program, the Greens came very close to social democracy. In March, the Magdeburg party conference's demand for a long-term increase in the ecological tax up to a final price of DM 5 per liter of petrol caused harsh reactions, but in the final draft of the program, the traditional green topics of environmental protection and international cooperation were geared towards compatibility with the social democratic program . In the program, the section on “preventive policing” was longer than that on participatory democracy .
The PDS program was ambivalent. On the one hand, the specific interests of East Germany played a major role. Topics of the New Left , whose representatives the Greens were traditionally seen as, were often more pointed in the PDS program, but also often less detailed. Ultimately, the PDS program was very different from that of the other parties. As a socialist party , it relied on approaches from the traditional left: “A redistribution from top to bottom”, which would have to go hand in hand with a “real change in policy” and “not just a change of government”.
Organization within the parties
The CDU did not announce who belonged to the inner circle of the election campaign organization. In the spring of 1998 Helmut Kohl appointed the former editor-in-chief of the Bild-Zeitung Hans-Hermann Tiedje as his personal advisor and filled the position of government spokesman with Otto Hauser . In the press and political science it is certain that Friedrich Bohl , Anton Pfeifer , Andreas Fritzenkötter , Willi Schalk ( McCann Erickson advertising agency ), Renate Köcher ( Institute for Demoskopie Allensbach ) and Peter Hintze also belonged to the strategic center of the CDU election campaign. It is still not known with certainty whether Roland Koch was also part of this group, but it has been accepted by some newspapers.
Of these people, however, only Bohl and Pfeifer had reliable access to Kohl. In fact, he made almost all important decisions alone, the electoral commission usually only approved them retrospectively. In addition to Kohl's decision-making center, there were two important groups within the CDU that were involved in planning and coordinating the election campaign: On the one hand, the party's office under Peter Hintze, which was supposed to submit proposals and implement decisions. However, there were numerous coordination difficulties between the office and the strategic center, which gave the outside impression of an unprofessional and poorly coordinated election campaign. On the other hand, another strategic center was formed around the then parliamentary group chairman and designated successor to Kohl, Wolfgang Schäuble, which, however, pursued a different line than Kohl in numerous points and also made it public. The Union election campaign seemed even more uncoordinated. This became clear, for example, in the fact that Kohl consistently rejected a possible grand coalition , while Schäuble publicly considered it possible.
While the CDU's election campaign revolved around Kohl, three largely independent centers were formed in the SPD, but they managed to work together in a coordinated manner throughout the entire election campaign. They were grouped around the candidate for chancellor Gerhard Schröder, the party chairman Oskar Lafontaine and the SPD federal manager and chairman of the state association with the largest number of members in North Rhine-Westphalia, Franz Müntefering . All three had considerable intra-party power, but they also had to work together to win the election. Lafontaine knew that the SPD needed Schröder's popularity in the political center just as much as Schröder needed Lafontaine’s position of power within the party. Müntefering was busy with the practical implementation of the election campaign. He, or his confidante Matthias Machnig , founded Kampa '98 , which for the first time in party history concentrated large parts of election campaign planning and organization outside of the actual party bodies.
While CDU / CSU (“Union”) and SPD hardly differed in terms of their programs, both put very different political topics at the center of their political positioning in the election campaign. The Union emphasized the success of the tried and tested. Helmut Kohl and those associated with him played an important role in the party's campaign communication. It followed two basic lines. On the one hand, she tried to polarize the election campaign, on the other hand, she presented herself and especially Kohl as a guarantor of stability. The party's central election campaign slogan was Safe in the World of Tomorrow.
The Union tried to score points with Kohl's person and his successes like the German reunification or the European monetary union . She also pointed out the economic successes already achieved, which should not be jeopardized. The central slogan coined on cabbage was world class for Germany.
On May 2, 1998, heads of state and government of the European Community (including Kohl) decided to introduce the euro in Brussels . In an interview that became known in 2013 (from March 2002) Kohl said: In one case [introduction of the euro] I was like a dictator . He was aware that he was acting against the will of a broad majority of the population and that this would cost him votes.
Kohl's presentation appeared problematic: Gerhard Schröder led far ahead of Kohl in all surveys for the best chancellor . In surveys, the Chancellor was even behind the values of the Union parties. The subjects of German unity and monetary union hardly reached the voters. Instead, they were worried about their future and, above all, about their jobs. In addition, it was difficult to present a candidate who was controversial within the party and whose successor was intensely discussed as a safe bastion.
The Union tried to conjure up the image of stability and security also through an offensively led negative election campaign against a possible red-green government. The Union tried to give the impression that red-green wanted to cause a political shift to the left in society under the guise of a bourgeois election campaign. The party's campaign message tried to give the impression that it was a question of whether Germany will be led into the next millennium by a center coalition of the Union and FDP or a left-wing alliance of the SPD, Greens and PDS. Peter Hintze pointed this out at the CDU federal party conference in Bremen . Our motto is: black-red-gold instead of red-green-dark red. Part of the campaign was the action Don't let yourself be tapped, in which the Union wanted to benefit from the eco-tax plans, especially the Greens. Hintze justified it as follows: “Using the example of the Greens demand for a petrol price of 5 marks per liter, citizens nationwide should be made aware of which anti-human projects would have to be expected in Germany if Red-Green came to power . "
As it turned out on election evening, these were messages that could only be conveyed to the party's regular voters. While the FDP did paint a broader and broader picture of liberalism in its program , its campaign communication was largely limited to the neoliberal point of 'tax cuts'.
The SPD tried to use various thematic fields to give itself an image that was based on preserving what had been achieved and portrayed the party as a competent change maker. Your campaign revolved around the subject areas of economic policy, in which the SPD, according to its own statement, stood for innovation and order , and social policy , in which it wanted to score points with social justice ; she wanted to be an advocate for families and strongly emphasized the importance of youth and the future. The SPD tried to address the broadest possible political spectrum in which everyone should be able to identify.
The CDU spent about 50 million DM on the federal election campaign. Compared to previous election campaigns, three priorities can be identified: The CDU relied particularly heavily on the medium of television . Compared to the Bundestag election campaign in 1994, it switched more than twice as many spots (559 compared to 254), and compared to the SPD (88 election spots) it was even six times as many, which is remarkable because the SPD overall had a significantly higher election budget. From June 15 to July 10, the CDU also placed large-format advertisements on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, which contained short slogans that were based heavily on the usual headline style of the Bild newspaper. Finally, the party produced the Neue Bundesländer Illustrierte (NBI) especially for the election , the name and layout of which was based heavily on the Neue Berliner Illustrierte , which was popular in the GDR , printed in a print run of 6.5 million and distributed to all households in East Germany was distributed. It contained the yellow press topics and competitions already known from the old NBI and was also intended to remind the citizens of the former GDR of the progress made after eight years of reunification under Helmut Kohl.
Before the election, the SPD commissioned the empirical social research center polis with a detailed panel study that ran from January 1996 to the end of 1997. Based on this research and analysis, the party focused its election campaign on four specific groups of people who were considered particularly important for the election:
- Men over 45 years of age, often skilled workers , actually a classic regular voter potential of the SPD, which had turned away from the party in previous years and elected the CDU. In particular, these voters should be won back with promising recipes for combating unemployment.
- Younger men in good professional positions. Above all, they should be lured away by the Greens, which the SPD tried to achieve by presenting itself as a competent actor against social cuts and the economization of society.
- Younger women in good employee or civil servant positions. These stood for the politically indecisive swing voters, the New Center , which was often addressed in the election campaign . They too should be won over by the fact that the SPD positioned itself as a party against social cuts and economization. In addition, the Social Democrats promised them a “more contemporary” family policy than would be possible with the Union parties.
- The insecure who lean towards no party. They make up about 10% of the electorate . The SPD wanted to reach them by responding to their specific everyday concerns and trying to pursue deideologized politics.
The SPD started the election campaign very early compared to the usual procedure before a federal election. The first billboards were equipped as early as 1997, and in April 1997 the so-called innovation campaign began , the first motif of which was the advertisement: We have strong economic growth again . followed directly by This is how Germany could look in 2002. In the summer of 1997, the so-called double - headed campaign began , in which the two positions of innovation and social justice were linked and assigned to the two people Gerhard Schröder and Oskar Lafontaine. The theme campaign followed in the summer of 1998 , the aim of which was to combine key issues of the election campaign with positive messages and hope. In this way, even highly stressed, fearful topics such as unemployment could be addressed in a credible and positive (optimistic) manner . In the last four weeks, finally, there was a candidate campaign , in which, above all, Schröder's lead in popularity over Kohl was to be exploited.
In the media-led election campaign, the SPD bought less time in the mass media , but instead relied on spreading its campaign messages through the editorial reporting of the media. The aim was to make the election campaign so professional and interesting that the media reported about it.
On the one hand, several large billboards were used, which were set up directly in front of the SPD party headquarters and had been equipped with changing posters since spring 1997. The aim of the advertising agency was to make these posters so varied that the television media reported about them. This succeeded in 80% of the cases and was therefore an extraordinary success. Messages on the posters often referred to the person of Helmut Kohl, who had to be replaced, along with the central SPD election campaign slogan We are ready . Examples were a poster for the major Dortmund event in the central election campaign phase in August 1998 with the motif Helmut Kohl and the inscription invitation to farewell tour. Kick-off on August 23 in Dortmund or before that, in January 1998, pasted posters:
- Motif 1: A snowman . Label: He'll be gone in a few months
- Motif 2: Helmut Kohl. Inscription: He too
- Motif 3: SPD logo. Inscription: We are ready
The other central advertising medium, which in turn led to widespread media coverage, was the so-called guarantee card at the end of June 1998. It was used to spread the party's central election campaign messages, in particular to counteract the image that a future Schröder government would be arbitrary and non-binding . Both general political approaches and more jobs - through a concerted campaign for work, innovation and justice - were presented on it . Unemployment can be combated as well as relatively concrete measures such as Germany as a factory of ideas - doubling of investments in education, research and science in 5 years.
The event attracted extraordinarily intensive media coverage, even for a federal election. The main reason for this was the uncertain outcome of the election, or, as the Bild newspaper headlined on September 19: Gaaaanz close . On September 26, the headline was Bild Every vote counts , opened today with election fever: Who will be ahead tomorrow and RTL News with head-to-head races . Only the Lewinsky affair was able to compete for the headlines in July and August, while in the weeks leading up to the election this was the case in more than 50% of all reports in the main news programs. The record holder was RTL , on whose news program over 70% of all contributions, which were incidentally much longer than other political topics, dealt with the election.
Content-related issues in the reporting were above all economic policy , in particular measures to combat high unemployment , followed by foreign policy and reporting on the future of the welfare state . In contrast, other previously important topics such as education, internal security, the environment or infrastructure hardly played a role. Significant differences between the individual media could also be identified: while ARD and ZDF made over 50% of the contributions on content-related topics, RTL and Sat.1 only accounted for 31% and 38% of the reporting. In contrast, the news about election campaign appearances and opinion polls had a much higher priority among private broadcasters.
While Helmut Kohl managed to exploit the Chancellor's bonus by appearing in the media much more often (in 37% of all political reports) than his challenger Gerhard Schröder (26% of all reports), he was also able to record successes. Whenever Schröder appeared in a report, he was given considerably more time (on average 30 seconds) to get his statements to the man than Helmut Kohl was able to (on average 19 seconds). The party representatives of the CDU / CSU and FDP as a whole (89% and 37%) also appeared in the media more often than those of the SPD (67%) and the Greens (34%). Contributions through the PDS made up only 14%. The most significant difference here was again between RTL and ARD: RTL concentrated the most on the big issues (candidates for chancellor and large parties), while ARD gave them the least amount of space.
The turnout was 82.2%.
|fraction||Result as a percentage||Mandates||Specialty|
|SPD||40.9% (+ 4.5%)||298 (+46)||Strongest parliamentary group for the first time since 1972 and above the 40% limit for the first time since 1980|
|CDU / CSU||35.1% (−6.3%)||245 (−49)||For the first time since the 1949 Bundestag election below 40%|
|Alliance 90 / The Greens||6.7% (−0.6%)||47 (−2)|
|FDP||6.2% (−0.7%)||43 (−4)||The second worst result at federal level to date|
|PDS||5.1% (+ 0.7%)||36 (+6)||Fractional status for the first time|
|Others||6.0% (+ 2.4%)||u. a. Republican 1.8%, DVU 1.2%|
A total of 669 mandates, including 13 overhang mandates (all for the SPD).
Of the parties that did not make it into the Bundestag, the Republicans (1.8%), the DVU (1.2%) and the Pro DM (0.9%) passed the 0.5% hurdle and thus received reimbursement of election campaign costs .
Election result (detailed)
|Political party||First votes||percent||Direct
|Animal welfare party||1,734||0.004||-||133,832||0.271||-||-|
|BFB - the offensive||134,795||0.274||-||121,196||0.246||-||-|
|Natural law party||35,132||0.071||-||30,619||0.062||-||-|
|Instead of party||4,406||0.009||-||-||-||-||-|
The SPD had its regional strongholds in Saarland - this was certainly due to Lafontaine's extraordinarily high popularity there at the time - and in Bremen , where it reached over 50% in both countries. In Bavaria it reached only 34.4% despite gains, in Saxony not even 30% despite gains, with the CDU falling from 48.0 to 32.7%. The Greens were particularly successful in the city-states of Berlin and Bremen with 11.3% each; Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania and Saxony-Anhalt were the weakest states .
The Union was clearly the strongest force in its stronghold of Bavaria , but with 47.7% it remained below the expected 50 + X% of the votes cast. As a result, Theo Waigel declared that he would not run again as CSU chairman at the CSU party congress on January 16, 1999 . The best CDU country was Helmut Kohl's home country, Rhineland-Palatinate, with 39.1%. The CDU performed particularly poorly in Berlin (23.7%) and Brandenburg (20.8%). The FDP had the best results in its home countries of Baden-Württemberg and Hesse with just under 9 and just under 8% of the votes; in Brandenburg (2.8%) and Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania (2.2%) it had the worst.
The PDS showed great differences between eastern and western Germany. While it reached 20% or more everywhere in eastern Germany, it did not exceed 2.4% (Bremen) in the western German states, and not even above 1.5% in the larger states (Schleswig-Holstein and Lower Saxony). In Berlin, their result of 13% was slightly above the arithmetic mean from Eastern and Western countries.
The right-wing parties achieved the largest number of votes in Baden-Württemberg, which was probably due to the strong position of the Republicans, who were sitting in the state parliament there at the time , as well as in Berlin, where the Republicans and the DVU were almost tied. The DVU achieved its best election result in Saxony-Anhalt. The two parties in Schleswig-Holstein and Lower Saxony found little support from the voters.
Response rates and proportion of non-voters
The basic social lines of conflict ( cleavages ) that are typical of German voting behavior were also evident in this election. The SPD achieved its best results with unionized workers, the Union its with Catholics who regularly attend church. In both groups of voters, the respective party received around two thirds of the votes. In comparison to the 1994 federal election, however, it was noticeable that the SPD was able to gain voters in all social groups: this was particularly pronounced among employees and the self-employed in East Germany, both of which were the primary goals of the Neue Mitte election campaign. However, in terms of employment, social democracy continued to have its strongest support among workers. Only West German farmers and East German officials remained as loyal to the Union as before. Among the West German farmers, the proportion of Union voters rose by 10 percentage points to a total of 75%.
With the exception of the Greens and the CDU in East Germany, who suffered massive losses in comparison among first-time and young voters, the electoral migration that was decisive for the election took place primarily in the age group 35 and over. The SPD gained considerably everywhere, the PDS in eastern Germany and the CDU lost. In East Germany, the CDU could not even maintain its traditional strongest position among the over 60s, in West Germany this was the only age group in which it was still ahead. There were no noticeable differences in the gender-specific distribution of votes.
Follow the election
The result led to the first red-green coalition at federal level, to which Gerhard Schröder as Federal Chancellor and Joschka Fischer as Foreign Minister and Vice Chancellor belonged. Gerhard Schröder was elected Chancellor by the German Bundestag on October 27, 1998 with 351 votes, although only 344 members of the coalition were present.
On the night of the election, Helmut Kohl announced his resignation from the CDU chairmanship , which he had held since June 1973. His successor was Wolfgang Schäuble ; he had been chairman of the CDU / CSU parliamentary group since November 1991 .
In the constituent session of the 14th German Bundestag on October 26, 1998, Wolfgang Thierse (one of the deputy SPD party chairmen ) was elected for the first time as the successor to Bundestag President Rita Süssmuth in one of the high offices of the Federal Republic of Germany.
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- worst result was 5.8% in the 1969 Bundestag election
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