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New Left Review I/231, September-October 1998

Jürgen Habermas

There Are Alternatives

For the first time in the history of the Federal Republic, a Chancellor has been voted out of office in a national election. Can we conclude that German democracy has gained in self-confidence?

Yes, I think we can. Hitherto political parties manoeuvred to change coalition partners during a legislature. This was the way both Ludwig Erhard and Helmut Schmidt were forced out. Now citizens have taken it upon themselves to reject a Chancellor. In a democracy voters must believe that their decisions can at certain turning-points influence a self-enclosed and bureaucratized political world. In West Germany it required several generations for this democratic attitude really to take hold. I have the impression that this change is now effectively sealed. [1] Interview with Gunter Hofmann and Thomas Assheuer, published in Die Zeit, 8 October 1998.

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