14.08.1949: The First Bundestag Elections
64 years ago today, voters in the Federal Republic of Germany elected the German Bundestag (lower house of parliament) for the first time. The elections were run as laid down in Article 38 of the German constitution: they were universal, direct, free, equal and secret. After the years of National Socialism, during which there were no elections, this was something special. The most prominent parties in the election campaign were the CDU with Konrad Adenauer and Ludwig Erhard, and the SPD with its leading candidate, Kurt Schuhmacher.
And then August 14 arrived. Voter turnout was very high at 78.5 percent (that would be a virtual miracle today!). And the big parties were neck-and-neck. The CDU received 31.0 percent of the vote, the SPD 29.2. As there was not yet a “five-percent clause” (this clause stipulates that a party can only be represented in the Bundestag if it wins five percent of the “second votes”), smaller parties also entered the Bundestag. Altogether, eight parliamentary parties were represented in the parliament, along with three independent candidates who were directly elected in their constituencies.
The CDU, FDP and the German Party (Deutsche Partei or DP) formed the governing coalition. In the first sitting on September 15, Konrad Adenauer was voted in as the first Chancellor of the Federal Republic of Germany with a one-vote majority.
Tanja Hebenstreit / Christiane Toyka-Seid