From Black to Orange SPIEGEL ONLINE's Guide to German Political Parties

The Reichstag, Germany's parliament building in Berlin.

The Reichstag, Germany's parliament building in Berlin.

Part 3: Social Democratic Party (SPD)

The center-left Social Democratic Party is rooted in the 19th century labor movement and is Germany's oldest political party, founded in 1875. It traditionally represents the interests of the working class. Much of its support comes from the large cities of traditionally protestant northern Germany and the former coal-mining and steel producing Ruhr region. Willy Brandt, the SPD's first chancellor, spearheaded West German reconciliation with Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union in the early 1970s. The party has led governing coalitions for 20 of the 60 years of the Federal Republic and governed as junior partner to the conservatives in grand coalitions twice, between 1966 and 1969 and between 2005 and 2009. The SPD suffered a string of regional election defeats and a major decline in membership as a result of radical and deeply unpopular welfare cuts introduced by SPD Chancellor Gerhard Schröder in 2003 and 2004. It served as junior partner to Merkel's conservatives in a grand coalition from 2005 until 2009. Its current chancellor candidate, former Finance Minister Peer Steinbrück, has hurt his election chances with a number of verbal gaffes -- at one point saying chancellors should be paid more money -- which compounded controversy over his income from lucrative speaking engagements at banking and corporate events in recent years. The party is campaigning on a program of greater social justice and a crackdown on banks.

Color used to represent party: Red


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