Andreas M. Wüst, Dieter Roth
Schröder's Last Campaign: An Analysis of the 2005 Bundestag Election in Context

German Politics, 2006: 15, issue 4, pp. 439-459
ISSN: 0964-4008

In late May of 2005, it seemed the Bundestag election would lead to a complete change of power in Germany. The red-green government’s reforms came late and had been ineffective in the short-run, and several set backs during the first months of 2005 caused Schröder to call for an early election. Yet, elections are won or lost on election day, and not in opinion polls which reflect the political mood, but only to some degree the actual vote. By an intensive campaign, the SPD and especially Schröder were able to mobilize and to activate their social and political base better than expected, but they lost parts of their left wing to the Linkspartei formed by PDS and the SPD-splitter WASG. The CDU/CSU and Angela Merkel ran a mediocre campaign, probably because some thought the election would be won anyway. In addiation to that, the Christian Democrats made the mistake to make taxes a campaign issue and to nominate a law professor for the post of finance minister. This unwise move enabled the SPD to campaign negatively on the person and on an anything but clear-cut tax concept. In the end, the SPD lost, but not as badly as previously expected, and surprisingly the CDU/CSU lost votes as well. The winners are the small parties, especially the FDP and the Linkspartei. The losers are the Volksparteien which were more or less forced to form a Grand Coalition. This coalition will make it more difficult for both CDU/CSU and SPD to regenerate and to sharpen their political profiles, but the opportunity of being in power and to act politically should not be underestimated. So ringing the knell for the Volksparteien would be pre-mature at this point.