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The FDP to Hold the Balance (October 2-3, 1982)

When the Free Democrats deserted the Social Democrats in favor of a coalition with the CDU/CSU, many accused them of back-stabbing a former coalition partner, and a crisis was triggered within the party. In this document, Wolfgang Mischnick, the parliamentary leader of the FDP, explains the decision of the party’s leaders in an address to the Bundestag.

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Declaration by Wolfgang Mischnick, FDP, on the End of the Social-Liberal Coalition (October 1, 1982)

This is a grave hour; I am convinced it is a grave hour for the state, because we know – no matter where we stand – that the stability of the Federal Republic of Germany, self-evident for over thirty-five years, is no longer as certain as it once was. Elections in the federal states have confirmed this. It is a grave hour for this parliament because I know (I feel the same way) that many representatives, across all party lines, are torn between what was seen as the basis of the decision in the 1980 election campaign and the job the constitution gives the representatives once they are elected.

It is a grave hour for my party because it is here more than anywhere that what develops is reflected – this discrepancy, this tension, these tense relations. And I openly admit that it is a grave hour for me personally. I deliberately created this coalition thirteen years ago, and I stood by it up to the last minute. Too long, some say. These critics might be right. Mr. Chancellor, on September 17 you made it clear in a conversation with me before you gave your speech here that this coalition was coming to an end. I asked you if that would be included in your speech. You answered yes. I asked you if you expected the Free Democratic ministers to resign, and you answered affirmatively. I asked you what would happen if they didn’t: Would you dismiss them? You confirmed that too. From your perspective, that is the consequence of your speech: Cooperation could no longer reasonably be expected. Mr. Chancellor, I would like to add one thing: If you then allow this to be characterized as betrayal, I am deeply disappointed.

I know that what was meant – and you don’t need to worry that I will fail to mention even a single reason that I consider important to name –, I know that this development, which you said could no longer be stopped, was also impaired by the fact that different opinions could be found within my party. But it is not as if they came only from the FDP; because they also came from the SPD – on the question of whether it still made any sense. And if the postulate “dignity” (and for me it is not just a postulate, but an inner conviction) is emphasized to such an extent, then, Mr. Chancellor and my colleagues from the SPD, please [emphasize it] also at the moment when it becomes clear that it is no longer possible to continue the common basis, when it is determined with dignity that there is objectively no more common ground on many issues. I think this is necessary.

I would also like to add here that it varies, that there are areas in which I am absolutely convinced that we could still work together tomorrow. But right now the focus is on the problem of economic, social, financial, and tax policies. And I would like to add: We must also consider the question from a different perspective than the one sometimes spoken of here, namely, whether this parliament is prepared in such a difficult situation to take action and be reprimanded for not turning directly to the voters.

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