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General Elections - September 2005



226 seats



222 seats



61 seats



54 seats



51 seats

Other parties



The 2005 federal elections were held after Chancellor Schroeder asked for a Bundestag "vote of confidence" on the SPD-Greens coalition. The July 1, 2005, confidence motion failed, and President Koehler called for elections to be held on September 18, 2005, a year earlier than planned. After several weeks of negotiations, the CDU/CSU and SPD agreed to form a "grand coalition" under the leadership of Chancellor Angela Merkel. Angela Merkel and the new cabinet were sworn in on November 22, 2005.

With five million Germans out of work and an unemployment rate of more than 11 percent, many voters were uncertain about how far reforms should go and how the burden should be shared, even though they say their country needs to change.

Schroeder called the poll a year earlier than planned, seeking a new vote of confidence after a string of defeats in local elections. Schroeder said his modest reforms to the welfare system are helping to get Germany out of the economic doldrums while maintaining social protection for working-class voters.

Christian Democrat Angela Merkel, who could become Germany's first woman chancellor and the first former East German to lead the country, said Mr. Schroeder has failed to make things better. She says she wants to forge ahead with profound reforms to the labor market and tax system that will make Germany the country that, once again, will drive growth in Europe.

In the German election in September 2005, six party groups were voted into the Bundestag, which sit in the historic Reichstag Building. A total of 77.7 percent of the electorate participated in the 2005 poll.

Exit polls and television projections indicated German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder's Social Democrats and Christian Democrats led by conservative challenger Angela Merkel both would win about 220 seats, and about 35 percent of the vote.

The largest parliamentary group in the 16th German Bundestag was the CDU/CSU with 222 seats, followed by the SPD with 221 seats. The FDP has 61 seats, the Left 53 and Alliance 90/The Greens 51. In addition, there were three members who do not belong to any parliamentary group.

Projections also show large gains in seats for the Left Party, which includes former East German Communists. Both Schroeder and Merkel said they would reach out to potential coalition parties and try to put together a stable government. After several weeks of negotiations, the CDU/CSU and SPD agreed to form a "grand coalition" under the leadership of Chancellor Angela Merkel. Angela Merkel and the new cabinet were sworn in on November 22, 2005.

Angela Merkel, who became head of Germany's opposition Christian-Democrats in 2001, capped a meteoric rise as she became the country's first female Chancellor. The once little-known physicist, who was 51, made free-market reforms and lowering an 11.4 percent unemployment rate her priorities for Europe's largest economy. In foreign policy, she also favors improving ties with the United States, which were strained over Germany's opposition to the U.S.-led war in Iraq.

Raised in the former Communist East Germany, Ms. Merkel joined Christian-Democratic-led cabinets under Chancellor Helmut Kohl after German unification in 1990. She quickly rose to the top of the Christian-Democratic ranks after Mr. Kohl's 1998 election defeat and a party financing scandal toppled several of her superiors. Ms. Merkel is married to a chemist and has no children. She is known as a shy and private person - but also as a ruthless politician who sidelined adversaries on her way to the top.

After a winter and early spring in which the internal troubles of the SPD provided almost the only domestic headlines, politics returned to Germany in May 2006 as the government turned its attention to a series of domestic issues: passage of an anti-discrimination law and tax hikes (both on the rich and for all through the VAT), reform of the health care system, and amendments to the Hartz IV unemployment insurance scheme. Dealing with these contentious issues, after a "honeymoon" spent demonstrating the viability of the Grand Coalition, has prompted new debate within the coalition and cost the government and the Chancellor a significant measure of support according to polls. Striking, too, is the beginning of sniping at the government from CDU Ministers-President in several western states.

But there was nothing dramatic in these developments, work of both the cabinet and parliament continues to be professional and largely non-partisan, and that until at last 2008 there were no real threats to the Grand Coalition's stability and survivability. For both sides, the coalition must succeed if the parties were to mount a credible campaign for outright victory in 2009.

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