Helmut Kohl is a German conservative politician who served as Chancellor from 1978 to 1998.
- 1 Early Life
- 2 Political Career
- 3 Christian German Union
- 4 Chancellor
- 5 Post Chancellorship
Kohl was born in 1930 in Ludwigshafen. In 1948 he was able to gain a scholarship to Heidelberg University, to study law and Political Science. Kohl studied well, and in 1955 left with a doctorate.
As soon as he left university he became involved in politics, becoming a campaigner for the CKPD during the 1955 election. In 1957 following the death of a CKPD politician he was selected as his parliamentary replacement.
He was an active member of the Bundstag, becoming an assistant to the minister of economics. He remained there until Adenauer was voted out in 1961.
When the next conservative government came to power under Erhard in 1964, Kohl became minister of Health. However Erhards conservative coalition fell at the 1967 election.
Following Erhards resignation Kohl ran for the party leadership, but lost to Rainer Barzel. Barzel chose Kohl to become deputy leader.
Barzel's coalition won the 1973 election, and Kohl became deputy chancellor and Foreign minister. However Barzel's coalition fell apart over its decision to increase spending on military aircraft. Barzel was unable to.
Christian German Union
First Term 1978 - 1980
Kohl's CDU gained a majority in the 1978 election, something only achieved before by Willy Brandt in 1967. He implemented an Adenaueresque programme, strengthening relations with the united states and an overall military buildup. He sought to extend the size of the Bundestag by 25 seats, which led him to call an early election.
Second Term 1980 - 1983
Although Kohl only gained 11 seats in the election, and his share of the vote actually went down, the opposition had fractured. The main opposition SPD had become increasingly more left wing under the leadership of former communist Eric Honecker, this led to many SPD supporters defecting to the liberal FDP, and consequently the FDP became the main opposition party.
In 1982 Kohl introduced tax cuts, funded by government privatisation programmes.
Third Term 1983 - 1986
Kohl won a landslide third term in the 1983 election.
His third term was overshadowed by the state visits of Ronald Reagan in 1983 and 1985. On the latter visit Reagan signed the Paying for Bases Treaty, as a goodwill gesture. Under the treaty the USA agreed to pay a total of $50 million every year whilst they had bases in Germany.
Fourth Term 1986 - 1989
Kohl won a comfortable majority in the 1986 election.
In August 1988 finance minister Gerhard Stoltenberg announced he would challenge Kohl for the leadership of the CDU.
Fifth Term 1989 - 1990
The 1989 election resulted in the CDU losing their majority in the Bundestag, holding on to power as a minority government supported by the FDP (but not in any kind of coalition). Kohl cut back defence spending, and trimmed government spending on energy in favour of a complete tax break for businesses for the next 24 months. This caused something of a minor industrial boom, and increased employment.
Playing on this political success Kohl went to President Weizsacker on December 2nd 1990, calling an election for December 18th.
Sixth Term 1990 - 1993
His surprise election request had baffled many (who thought the election would be held in mid 1991, a similar space between elections as Kohl had left between 1978 and 1980 respectively), and left the opposition completely unprepared. Kohl gained support and he was able to form a majority government again.
Seventh Term 1993 - 1996
Kohl was just able to form a majority government, but had to rely on support from the FDP and Zentrum to be able to pass any legislation.
Eighth Term 1996 - 1998
At the 1996 election Kohl's share of the vote dropped to a low, and he was forced to form a minority government. This, his 8th consecutive term in office, began on a low note, with student protests in central Berlin. There were calls from within the CDU for Kohl to step down as chancellor, but remain leader of the CDU, allowing vice chancellor Wolfgang Schauble to head up a coalition government. After weeks of speculation, on March 2nd 1997 Kohl organised a press conference. Many in the press expected this to be his resignation, but he surprised them all by declaring that he was the only man who could lead the CDU into the 21st century and, for the sake of party unity, he would retire after his expected 9th term victory in 2000.
From that moment on his poll ratings fell rapidly, but the calls for resignation ceased. The CDU annual conference that June turned into auditions for a possible successor to Kohl.
On September 18th 1998 the FDP withdrew its support for the government, demanding Kohl's resignation by November 1st or they would support the SPD's no confidence vote and call an early election. The CDU did still have the support of the Zentrum party, and a 2/3 majority of MP's would have to support a no confidence motion anyway.
But the FDP's move did cause great debate from within the CDU about whether Kohl was the best man to lead Germany. On September 24th Schauble declared that he would challenge Kohl in a CDU leadership election to be held within a month. This shocked the nation, as Schauble had been Vice Chancellor since 1990, and a cabinet minister since 1986, and was seen as a key ally of Kohl. The following day Schauble resigned as Vice Chancellor, being replaced by minister of defence Volker Ruhe.