Continuity or Politikwechsel? The First Federal Red-Green Coalition

in German Politics and Society
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In October 1998 the Social Democratic Party (SPD) and the Greens1

formed a coalition government, the first ever between these parties at

the federal level. In more ways than one, this new coalition marked a

watershed in Germany’s post-1945 development. Since 1945, Germany

had been a democracy in which political parties hold an especially

privileged position. This “party-state” has operated almost

exclusively through the three major “Bonn” parties, which for nearly

a half-century had governed through shifting coalitions. The Greens

arose as a social movement challenging this hegemony; yet, only fifteen

years after they first entered the Bundestag, they forged a federal

coalition with one of the established parties they had once attacked.

For the first time since 1957, a coalition had been formed that

involved not only a party other than the three “Bonn” parties but also

one not linked to the Federal Republic’s creation. It was, furthermore,

the first coalition ever to have resulted unambiguously from

the wishes of voters.