1972 West German federal election

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All 496 seats in the Bundestag[a]
249 seats needed for a majority
Registered41,446,302 Increase 7.2%
Turnout37,761,589 (91.1%) Increase 4.4pp
  First party Second party Third party
 
Willy Brandt01.jpg
KAS-Barzel, Rainer-Bild-875-2 (cropped).jpg
Walter Scheel 1971 (cropped).jpg
Candidate Willy Brandt Rainer Barzel Walter Scheel
Party SPD CDU/CSU FDP
Last election 42.7%, 224 seats 46.1%, 242 seats 5.8%, 30 seats
Seats won 230[c] 225[d] 41[b]
Seat change Increase 6 Decrease 17 Increase 11
Popular vote 17,175,169 16,806,020 3,129,982
Percentage 45.8% 44.9% 8.4%
Swing Increase 3.1pp Decrease 1.2pp Increase 2.6pp

Bundestagswahl 1972 - Ergebnisse Wahlkreise.png
Results by constituency for the first votes. Grey denotes seats won by the CDU/CSU; red denotes seats won by the SPD.

Government before election

First Brandt cabinet
SPDFDP

Government after election

Second Brandt cabinet
SPDFDP

Federal elections were held in West Germany on 19 November 1972 to elect the members of the 7th Bundestag. In the first snap elections since the resumption of democratic elections in 1949, the Social Democratic Party became the largest party in parliament for the first time since 1930, winning 230 of the 496 seats. The coalition with the Free Democratic Party was resumed.

Campaign

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The Social-liberal coalition of SPD and FDP had lost its majority after several Bundestag MPs (like former FDP ministers Erich Mende and Heinz Starke or SPD partisan Herbert Hupka) had left their party and become members of the CDU/CSU opposition to protest against Chancellor Willy Brandt's Neue Ostpolitik, especially against the de facto recognition of the Oder-Neisse line by the 1970 Treaty of Warsaw.[citation needed]

Barzel in victory pose at a CDU election rally in Cologne
Barzel in victory pose at a CDU election rally in Cologne

On 27 April 1972 the opposition had tried to have CDU leader Rainer Barzel elected new chancellor in a motion of no confidence, but Barzel surprisingly missed the majority in the Bundestag by two votes. Rumours that at least one member of CDU/CSU faction had been paid by the East German Stasi intelligence service were confirmed by Markus Wolf, former head of the Hauptverwaltung Aufklärung, in 1997.[citation needed] Nevertheless, the following budget debates revealed that the government's majority was lost and only the upcoming organisation of the 1972 Summer Olympics in Munich delayed the arrangement of new elections. On 22 September 1972 Chancellor Brandt deliberately lost a vote of confidence, allowing President Gustav Heinemann to dissolve the Bundestag the next day.[citation needed]

In the tense campaign, the CDU/CSU attacked Brandt as being too lenient towards Eastern Europe and having the wrong ideas on the economy. SPD and FDP benefited from the enormous personal popularity of the chancellor, laureate of the 1971 Nobel Peace Prize. He gained the support by numerous celebrities of the West German culture and media scene (e.g. Günter Grass), expressed by the slogan Willy wählen! ("Vote for Willy!").[citation needed]

Results

Voter turnout was 91.1%, the highest ever since 1949. In 1970 the voting age had been lowered from 21 to 18.

Bundestag 1972.svg
Party Constituency Party list Total
seatsa
+/–
Votes % Seats Votes % Seats
Social Democratic Party (SPD) 18,228,239 48.9 152 17,175,169 45.8 78 230 +6
Christian Democratic Union (CDU) 13,304,813 35.7 65 13,190,837 35.2 112 177 −16
Christian Social Union (CSU) 3,620,625 9.7 31 3,615,183 9.7 17 48 −1
Free Democratic Party (FDP) 1,790,513 4.8 0 3,129,982 8.4 41 41 +11
National Democratic Party (NPD) 194,389 0.5 0 207,465 0.6 0 0 0
German Communist Party (DKP) 146,258 0.4 0 113,891 0.3 0 0 New
European Federalist Party (EFP) 7,581 0.0 0 24,057 0.1 0 0 0
Free Social Union (FSU) 1,864 0.0 0 3,166 0.0 0 0 0
Independents and voter groups 9,497 0.0 0 0 0
Valid votes 37,303,779 98.8 37,459,750 99.2
Invalid/blank votes 457,810 1.2 301,839 0.8
Total votes 37,761,589 100.0 248 37,761,589 100.0 248 496 0
Registered voters/turnout 41,446,302 91.1 41,446,302 91.1
Source: Bundeswahlleiter
^a – excludes the non-voting delegates for West Berlin (12 SPD, 9 CDU, 1 FDP).
230 41 225
SPD FDP CDU/CSU
Popular vote
SPD
45.85%
CDU/CSU
44.86%
FDP
8.36%
Other
0.93%
Bundestag seats
SPD
46.37%
CDU/CSU
45.36%
FDP
8.27%

The SPD celebrated their best result ever, representing the largest faction in the German parliament for the first time since the 1930 Reichstag elections. It enabled the party to nominate Annemarie Renger for President of the Bundestag; she was the first Social Democrat and also the first woman to hold this office.

Results by state

Constituency seats

State Total
seats
Seats won
SPD CDU CSU
Baden-Württemberg 36 12 24
Bavaria 44 13 31
Bremen 3 3
Hamburg 8 8
Hesse 22 20 2
Lower Saxony 30 23 7
North Rhine-Westphalia 73 52 21
Rhineland-Palatinate 16 9 7
Saarland 5 3 2
Schleswig-Holstein 11 9 2
Total 248 152 65 31

List seats

State Total
seats
Seats won
CDU SPD FDP CSU
Baden-Württemberg 36 12 16 8
Bavaria 42 20 5 17
Bremen 1 1
Hamburg 8 5 1 2
Hesse 25 17 3 5
Lower Saxony 32 20 7 5
North Rhine-Westphalia 75 40 23 12
Rhineland-Palatinate 15 8 5 2
Saarland 3 2 1
Schleswig-Holstein 11 7 2 2
Total 248 112 78 41 17

Post-election

Election night: Brandt and Scheel declare victory at 10:20pm
Election night: Brandt and Scheel declare victory at 10:20pm

On 14 December 1972 the Bundestag MPs of the social-liberal coalition re-elected Willy Brandt chancellor. His Cabinet Brandt II returned to government the next day, again with FDP chairman Walter Scheel as vice-chancellor and foreign minister. Defeated Rainer Barzel resigned as CDU chairman on 9 May 1973; he was succeeded by Helmut Kohl.

On 7 May 1974, Brandt would resign in the course of the Guillaume Affair, after one of his personal aides had been unmasked as a Stasi agent. The coalition continued under his party fellow Helmut Schmidt, while Brandt remained SPD chairman until 1987.

Further reading

Notes

  1. ^ As well as the 22 non-voting delegates for West Berlin, elected by the West Berlin Legislature.
  2. ^ As well as 1 non-voting delegate for West Berlin.
  3. ^ As well as 12 non-voting delegates for West Berlin.
  4. ^ As well as 9 non-voting delegates for West Berlin.

References