The Identity Crisis of the German Left: A Report from Berlin

The Identity Crisis of the German Left: A Report from Berlin

The year 1999 will be second in significance only to 1989 in the history of postwar German politics. The transition from Bonn to Berlin as the country’s capital was completed this year, and the Euro was inaugurated during a German presidency of the European Union. The year marks the tenth anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall and the fiftieth anniversary of the Federal Republic. It also marks NATO’s fiftieth birthday, which took place during its first shooting war—a war that has included the first German military action since the fall of Nazism. All this has happened on the watch of the first national “Red-Green” (Social Democratic-Green Party) governing coalition.

Unlike previous governments in the Federal Republic of Germany, this coalition came to power through a significant shift in the voters’ political preferences. Until the 1998 elections, change took place through postelection jockeying by the three main parties, in particular the small, whimsical Free Democrats, who switched their support from the conservative Christian Democrats to the progressive Social Democrats and back again. This time, however, after sixteen years of Chancellor Helmut Kohl, voters clearly wanted something new.

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