Today in History
27.4.1972: Motion of no confidence against Willy Brandt
This was in 1972, when politics seemed much more lively. There was great rejoicing on the part of the victors, and bitter disappointment for those who had taken too great a risk. It had been a close contest: the opposition CDU/CSU was just two votes short of toppling the ruling Social Democratic Chancellor Willy Brandt.

"The failure of the constructive vote of no confidence shows that there is not a majority in this house in favor of a different federal government,” Brandt summarized.

But the problems faced by the Social Liberal Coalition remained. Already when he took office three years earlier, Brandt had won by a margin of only twelve votes. With his new policies towards the East, for which he later received the Nobel Peace Prize, Brandt made nothing but enemies on the domestic front – even within his own ranks.

The treaty with Moscow, the acknowledgement of Poland's post-war boundaries, and finally the treaty with the GDR, in which the second German state was officially recognized, met with strong resistance from some of the National Liberal and Conservative representatives in the government. Many switched to the opposition parties. And in April 1972, the opposition sensed that its chance had come. It lodged a motion of no confidence.

"We have decided to make use of our option of lodging a motion of no confidence, not as a clever way to usurp power, but as a way of unseating a government that, in our opinion, has damaged the interests of the people,” the former chancellor, Kurt Georg Kiesinger, explained that day.

The Foreign Affairs Minister, Walter Scheel, was the first representative to defend the government against Kiesinger’s accusations. For Scheel, who up until then had made more of an impact with his high spirits rather than with high-minded speeches, this was his golden opportunity. He was especially keen on settling accounts with the turncoats:

"You want to take charge of the government without ever having won an election. You’re placing your hopes in members of this house whose nerves and strength of character do not even suffice to stand by their party in hard times or to step down from their mandate. The game being played here is a shabby one. Our people deserve better than a government that has turned its back on loyalty and faith,” Scheel said.

Chancellor Brandt especially defended his policies with regard to the two Germanys:

"People with relatives in the GDR will be able to travel there from the West, not just once a year, but several times a year. We are working our way forward, step-by-step, in the interests of the people, of peace and of the nation. I can only say: where were we just a few years ago? And I ask you in all seriousness: do you want, do we want to endanger all that we have achieved so far? I can’t imagine such a thing,” Brandt said.

Everything was at stake. One seriously ill representative even had himself rolled in sitting in a wheelchair so he could cast his vote. The opposition was still two votes short of a majority. Following the vote of no confidence, however, the reigning government no longer had a majority either, as was demonstrated by a vote on the budget the very next day. Without a majority in parliament, governing the country became difficult, if not impossible.

Therefore, the parties ultimately came to an agreement to hold new elections, which would serve as a plebiscite either for or against Brandt’s “Ostpolitik.” The elections resulted in a clear victory for the Social Democrats. For the first time, the SPD formed the strongest party in parliament. The citizens had cast their vote for the path taken by Brandt and Scheel.
Zitat des Tages
Zitat des Tages
Mary Wollstonecraft, an 18th century advocate of women's rights was the mother of which famous writer?
  Mary Shelley
  Emily Bronte
  Virginia Wolf