West German federal election, 1961

West German federal election, 1961

17 September 1961 (1961-09-17)[1]

All 521 seats in the Bundestag
261 seats needed for a majority
Turnout 87.7% (voting eligible)[2]

  First party Second party Third party
 
Leader Konrad Adenauer Willy Brandt Erich Mende
Party CDU/CSU SPD FDP
Seats before 277 181 44
Seats won 251 203 67
Seat change 26 22 23
Popular vote 14,298,372 11,427,355 4,028,766
Percentage 45.4% 36.2% 12.8%
Swing 4.8% 4.4% 5.1%

Party list election results by state: the lighter blue denotes states where CDU had the plurality of votes; darker blue denotes states where CSU had the absolute majority of the votes; and pink denotes states where the SPD had the plurality of votes

Chancellor before election

Konrad Adenauer
CDU/CSU

Elected Chancellor

Konrad Adenauer
CDU/CSU

This article is part of a series on the
politics and government of
Germany
Foreign relations

Federal elections were held in West Germany on 17 September 1961 to elect the members of the fourth Bundestag. CDU/CSU remained the largest faction, while the Social Democratic Party narrowly became the largest individual party in the Bundestag, winning 203 of the 521 seats.

Campaign

For the first time, the SPD announced a "chancellor-candidate", who was not chairman of the party: Willy Brandt, the Governing Mayor of West Berlin. After the building of the Berlin Wall, he gained more and more sympathy, while chancellor Konrad Adenauer was criticised for not showing enough support for the people of West Berlin. Adenauer had to save the absolute majority of CDU and CSU, but, considering his age and his long term as chancellor, there were big doubts if he should lead the country in a fourth term.

Results

 Summary of the 17 September 1961 German Bundestag election results
Parties Constituency Party list Total seats
Votes % +/− Seats +/− Votes % +/− Seats +/− Seats +/− %
Social Democratic Party (SPD) 11,672,057 36.5 +4.5 91 +45 11,427,355 36.2 +4.4 99 −24 203 +22 39.0
Christian Democratic Union (CDU) 11,622,995 36.3 −3.4 114 −33 11,283,901 35.8 −3.9 78 +10 201 −21 38.6
Free Democratic Party (FDP) 3,866,269 12.1 +4.6 0 −1 4,028,766 12.8 +5.1 67 +27 67 +23 12.9
Christian Social Union (CSU) 3,104,742 9.7 −0.9 42 −5 3,014,471 9.6 −0.9 8 ±0 50 −5 9.6
All-German Party (GDP) 859,290 2.7 −5.2 0 −6 870,756 2.8 −5.2 0 −11 0 −17 0
German Peace Union (DFU) 587,488 1.8 +1.8 0 ±0 609,918 1.9 +1.9 0 ±0 0 ±0 0
German Reich Party (DRP) 242,649 0.8 −0.2 0 ±0 262,977 0.8 −0.2 0 ±0 0 ±0 0
South Schleswig Voter Federation (SSW) 24,951 0.1 ±0 0 ±0 25,449 0.1 ±0 0 ±0 0 ±0 0
German Community (DG) 21,083 0.1 ±0 0 ±0 27,308 0.1 ±0 0 ±0 0 ±0 0
Electoral Group for a Neutral Germany (WGnD) 778 0.0 +0.0 0 ±0 0 ±0 0
Electoral groups and independents 2,164 0.0 ±0 0 ±0 0 ±0 0
Invalid/blank votes 845,158 1,298,723
Totals 32,849,624 100 ±0.0 247 ±0 32,849,624 100 ±0.0 252 +2 521 +2 ±0
Registered voters/turnout 37,440,715 87.7 37,440,715 87.7
Source: Federal Returning Officer
^† — includes the non-voting delegates for West Berlin (13 SPD, 9 CDU).
^‡ — merger of the German Party and the All-German Bloc/League of Expellees and Deprived of Rights.
251 67 203
CDU/CSU FDP SPD
Popular Vote
CDU/CSU
45.32%
SPD
36.22%
FDP
12.77%
GDP
2.76%
DFU
1.93%
Other
1.00%
Bundestag seats
CDU/CSU
48.50%
SPD
38.08%
FDP
13.43%

Aftermath

The absolute majority was lost by the conservative union due to the gains of the liberal FDP under Erich Mende.

Konrad Adenauer remained Chancellor, building a coalition between the CDU/CSU-FDP. In 1962 he had to announce a fifth cabinet: The FDP had temporarily left the coalition after the secretary of defense, Franz Josef Strauß (CSU), had ordered the arrest of five journalists for publishing a memo detailing alleged weaknesses in the German armed forces (known as the Spiegel scandal). In 1963 Adenauer finally resigned; Ludwig Erhard took over his position as head of the coalition and government.

Further reading

References

  1. "Wahl zum 4. Deutschen Bundestag am 17. September 1961" (in German). Bundeswahlleiter. Archived from the original on 6 May 2012. Retrieved 6 May 2012.
  2. "Voter turnout by election year". Website of the Federal Returning Officer's Office. The Federal Returning Officer. Archived from the original on 7 November 2014. Retrieved 7 November 2014.
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