GHDI logo

The First All-German Elections (November 30, 1990)

Helmut Kohl’s victory was already a foregone conclusion weeks before the early Bundestag elections in 1990. The situation, according to renowned journalist Robert Leicht, was attributable not only to Kohl’s leading role in the unification process but also to serious mistakes made by the SPD. But the appearance of stability, Leicht notes, is deceptive; he predicts that Kohl’s new government will be plagued by the unresolved problems of recent years.

print version     return to document list last document in previous chapter      next document

page 1 of 3

Will Everything Simply Remain the Same? Before the Bundestag Elections: Even Without a Change in Government, There Will Be a Change in the Issues

The first all-German elections, without a doubt, are a historic event. But will the outcome be anything other than the almost routine confirmation: “Keep it up, Germany”?

Based on what can be surveyed and sensed, the election results are by and large already certain. It’s only a matter of the margins now – and how power will be distributed in the conservative-liberal coalition. Can the FDP clearly make a mark for itself at the expense of the chancellor’s party, as it did in the last election victory of the social-liberal coalition in 1980? Even the political opponents of the government anticipate yet another victory for the Bonn coalition. It’s time for a change – this sort of basic wave of public opinion isn’t even cropping up in the opposition.

Were there – are there – no alternatives at all? Does everything have to be and stay the same because the process of German unification – during whose course walls crumbled and hardliners tumbled – is permanently cementing the political conditions here in this country?

That is definitely not the case. Certainly, we didn’t experience a very exhilarating election campaign. But the political events themselves this year were more exciting than virtually ever before. Politics was exciting because it was possible at various junctures for developments to take either the right or the wrong course. And nothing about that will change in the future. The appearance of apolitical stability is only an optical illusion.

Surely there was no alternative to the speedy implementation of unification between the two German states, that is, to the policy of the government. But there were most definitely alternatives to the policies of the opposition.

German-German unification, so goes the lament of the SPD above all, pushed everything else into the background, even the fact that Helmut Kohl was looking extremely tattered even as late as the spring of 1989. That is certainly true, but it was no reason for the Social Democrats to get caught in a tailspin and fall behind in the year of unification, especially since they were the political force whose assertive détente policies were an important prerequisite for the recent upheaval (at the end of the election campaign, even Helmut Kohl formally acknowledged this in his policy statement on the CSCE summit before the Bundestag).

Unification, people say, was the hour of the executive; the government had the means to act, the opposition did not. This is certainly true, but in principle the situation was also no different in previous years, when the Bonn government performed much more poorly.

No, the determining factor was not the assignment of roles, but rather the way in which the government and the opposition played their roles. Thus, referring to this year as the year of unification cannot conceal the present weaknesses of the Social Democrats; instead, it reveals them mercilessly.

first page < previous   |   next > last page