Countryaah website, Chancellor Gerhard Schröder and the Social
Democratic SPD managed to remain in short supply with the
government in the September elections, thanks to the
coalition party De Greene strengthening its position. The
SPD lost 47 seats and received a total of 251 of the 603
seats in the Bundestag, while the Greens increased by 8 and
got 55. The Christian Democratic CDU together with the
Bavarian sister party CSU received 248 seats, a total of 3
more than before. The big loser became the former communists
in the PDS who failed to get over the 5 percent barrier and
only got 2 seats for constituencies in Berlin.
During much of the electoral movement, the government
coalition seemed hopeless after the Christian Democratic CDU
/ CSU, which at the beginning of the year had appointed
Bavaria's head of government, CSU leader Edmund Stoiber, as
its chancellor candidate. Not least the rising unemployment,
Schröder lay in the barrel. In connection with the 1998
elections, he had promised to reduce the number of
unemployed to 3.5 million, but in January the symbolically
charged 4-million level was passed instead. The weak
economic growth did not make the situation easier for the
In August, however, many Germans' sympathies swung to
Schröder's advantage as he acted vigorously when floods hit
Central Europe, including vast areas of eastern and southern
Germany. The floods were the worst in modern times in the
region, forcing the largest evacuation since World War II.
Some 40 people died in Germany alone, 180 bridges and
thousands of houses were destroyed and 74 miles of road and
53 miles of railroad were severely damaged. The worst was
the state of Saxony, but great devastation was also caused
in Saxony-Anhalt, further north along the Elbe river and
Schröder was considered to be politically courageous when
he decided to postpone a promised tax cut at the turn of the
year to be able to allocate € 6.9 billion to rebuild after
the floods. He gathered other Central European leaders and
EU representatives to a summit in Berlin, and the EU also
pledged extensive support to the affected areas.
The Chancellor also strengthened his position among
voters by categorically rejecting all German support for a
possible war against Iraq, regardless of UN action. This
stubborn attitude led to a bottom freeze on relations with
the United States, which was a driving force in attacks to
overthrow Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein. President George W.
Bush did not even send the usual congratulations when the
election results were clear.
Relations did not get better because, according to a
journalist, the German Justice Minister Herta Däubler-Gmelin
said that Bush's war aims to divert attention from domestic
political problems, a method "already used by Hitler". She
later claimed that she was misquoted, but Schröder did not
take her with him in a government transformation after the
The economy continued to be weak and Germany received a
formal warning from the EU as the budget deficit was
projected to reach 3.8% of GDP during the year. It violated
the EU's stability agreement, which set a limit of 3%.
The first trial in Germany related to last year's
terrorist act in the United States began in August. Moroccan
citizen Mounir Motassadeq was charged with conspiring with a
group of Islamists in Hamburg in which several of the
suicide bombers had been involved.
In April, a 19-year-old shot dead 16 people and injured a
number in a high school in Erfurt, before taking his own
life. The perpetrator had recently been suspended from
school and most of the victims were teachers. The insanity
was the worst that hit Germany during the postwar period.