It is all the easier for me to say that, because even back on September 9, Mr. Chancellor, when you first mentioned new elections, I was the only one here who expressed a different opinion. In our conversation, we were both fully aware that the Basic Law allows for a number of different options. But I will repeat what I told you. I am profoundly convinced – and this is my own personal opinion – that the Basic Law first and foremost calls upon the parliament to act, and only when it can no longer act are new elections envisioned as a last resort.
This understanding of the constitution might stand in contrast to the general sentiment – more so today than in the early 1970s. I don’t deny that. And to make this visible and clear in sharp debates will be part of a common task. I will immediately add, to avoid any misunderstanding: The coalition made an agreement. I have learned to respect majorities. I expect my friends to respect majorities. I also respect majorities when they are laid down for the future in a coalition agreement. I would request, then, that my basic stance, which I still hold, not be regarded as an attempt to slip out of an agreement. But I see it as an obligation to express basic views at this moment with the same clarity that I had a few days ago, because that also belongs to the credibility that has repeatedly been emphasized.
Ladies and gentlemen, this obligation to take action does not contradict the stance that has already been expressed in this house. Mr. Chancellor, as chairman of the SPD party caucus you had responded to the speech I gave at the time of the government declaration of the Grand Coalition with these exact words: “It was the parliament that created the new government of its own accord – evidence of the ability of the German Bundestag to function.” I agree with you entirely. Today, the circumstances are not the same, but they are similar. And Helmut Schmidt continued back then to say that a government must be formed according to the options of a functioning majority. This should happen.
Or when someone – in agreement with then Chancellor Kiesinger – cited that the new government, literally, emerged not from a brilliant election victory, but from a crisis that our people followed with profound concern. Look, ladies and gentlemen, if we speak of credibility, then I also ask you not to doubt the credibility of that past statement when it applies just as well to a different situation.
I would like to repeat that interests in such situations can change. I do not reproach anyone if, based on his own interests, he makes different decisions. But when I get the feeling that suddenly someone’s own interests are veiled by his accusing the other side that its interests or its willingness to make a decision is contrary to law and customs, then I have to say that law and customs as laid down in the Basic Law absolutely legitimize the planned route. And anyone who doubts that should have the courage to say that on this point he thinks the Basic Law is wrong or should be changed.