A New Start and "Renewal" for Germany? Policies and Politics of the Red-Green Government, 1998-2002

By Reutter, Werner | German Politics and Society, Spring 2003 | Go to article overview

A New Start and "Renewal" for Germany? Policies and Politics of the Red-Green Government, 1998-2002


Reutter, Werner, German Politics and Society


According to Jurgen Habermas, the federal election in 1998 finally "sealed" the democratic foundation of Germany and confirmed that this country belonged to the "west." (1) Until then, the day of judgment had left the "judges" in Germany--that is, the voters--with only limited influence in coalition building and the formation of each government. (2) Between 1949 and 1998 no federal government has totally been unsettled by elections. Changes in government were due to changes in coalitions, thus based on decisions by the parties rather than on the electorate. Insofar as the landslide victory of the Social Democratic Party and the Alliance '90/Greens in the 1998 election not only reflected important changes in the party system, but it also could mean that the German electorate is going to play a more influential role in the future.

Even though Habermas showed some skepticism as far as the program of the red-green coalition was concerned, (3) there were several indications that fueled expectations and hopes for change and "A New Start and Renewal" to quote the title of the coalition agreement. (4) More important than this sort of political lyricism was that this was the first federal government in which the Greens and the SPD jointly participated. In the election campaign the two parties had claimed that they would "modernize" the society and the economy albeit it remained unclear what this "modernization" indeed meant. In addition, Gerhard Schroder was the first chancellor who received all votes of the members of the coalition parties in the Bundestag as well as seven votes from the opposition. (5) When taking office the red-green coalition also had a majority in the Bundesrat. In October of 1998 the SPD and the Greens formed nine state governments and had thirty-eight seats in the Bundesrat, three more than necessary for a majority in the second chamber. (6) On the whole, it looked as if the new coalition had received a clear mandate to overcome the notorious Reformstau of the Kohl era, (7) and in addition the political and institutional preconditions allowed overdue structural reforms and policy changes.

However, at the end of the term many claimed that the red-green government had not lived up to the expectations that were prevalent in the fall of 1998. (8) The overall impression before and after the 2002 election was that the coalition had effected only moderate policy changes given that in some areas (such as economic policy, social welfare, and health care) continuity was stronger than in others (foreign policy and immigration). But the Schroder government has neither been able to embark on structural reforms nor to initiate changes brought about in other European governments in the 1980s and nineties. (9) Insofar as the red-green government seems to confirm the predominant view that the German political system allows at best incremental change and that the Reformstau was due to the institutional structure of the German polity rather than to the program of the last government.

It goes without saying that the institutional structure of the German polity was and is an important reason for the lack of reforms everybody seems to complain about in Germany for quite some time. The high number of veto-players (10) whose consent is necessary in order to embark on structural reforms makes it very risky and difficult to venture "bold policy change. (11) However, to explain the shortcomings of the red-green government by exclusively pointing to the institutional structure has two flaws: it neglects the fact that the first Schroder cabinet initiated some far-reaching changes between 1998 and 2002 and it plays down the relevance of political programs. Hence, I will argue in this paper that the red-green government can at best partly blame the institutional features of the German polity for its policy failures. Rather, it was the logic of coalition government, party competition as well as the lack of a clear agenda in a number of most important policy areas that defined the performance of the first red-green government.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

A New Start and "Renewal" for Germany? Policies and Politics of the Red-Green Government, 1998-2002
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.