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.