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Vote of No Confidence (April 1972)

The first constructive vote of no confidence in West German history was made possible by the defection of several members of the governing parties. Responding to both the vote and the defections, Chancellor Willy Brandt vehemently defended his policies and accused the opposition of power-mongering.

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Willy Brandt, Speech before the Bundestag

Mr. President, Ladies and Gentlemen:

The first question I had to ask myself before this day was: Are you even permitted to take part in this debate? Shouldn’t you better stay away from it? I have come to the conclusion, ladies and gentlemen, as you can hear and see, that I should say something. I think I owe it to the high office to which I was elected in October 1969, just as I owe it to the coalition of Social Democrats and Free Democrats that has supported me, and to my many friends in the country who have expressed their solidarity, especially in recent days, in such a moving way.

Let me perhaps briefly return to the question I asked myself. This is the first time that the constitutional option of the so-called constructive vote of no confidence is being employed here in the Bundestag. It is referred to as constructive because it is not intended merely to say the chancellor has to go, but at the same time it must be said – and that is the purpose of this article of the constitution – that we would like Candidate X as the new chancellor.

It is true that when electing the Federal Chancellor on the suggestion of the Federal President, there is explicitly no discussion. With the so-called constructive vote of no confidence, the procedure is different. And this alone shows that for the discussion and other actions, different standards apply than for the regular election of the chancellor. I think that was somewhat overlooked yesterday.

The opposition [in parliament] is important and besides that it is strong, but it is not the head of state. So this is not an election of a federal chancellor, as results from new Bundestag elections. This is why a lot of what was presented here yesterday about the procedure was erroneous.

I agree with those who resist the view that a party change is something defamatory. But I have my own opinion on whether one can arbitrarily take mandates along with him, ladies and gentlemen.

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