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The 4th German federal election, 1961, was conducted on September 17, 1961, to elect members to the Bundestag (lower house) of West Germany.


Issues and 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.


Party Party List votes Vote percentage (change) Total Seats (change) Seat percentage
Christian Democratic Union (CDU) 11,283,901 35.8% -3.9% 192 -23 38.5%
Christian Social Union (CSU) 3,014,471 9.5% -1.0% 50 -5 10.0%
Free Democratic Party (FDP) 4,028,766 12.8% +5.1% 67 +26 13.4%
Social Democratic Party 11,427,355 36.2% +4.5% 190 +21 38.1%
All Others 1,796,408 5.7%   0 -17 0.0%
Totals 31,550,901 100.0%   499 +2 100.0%
Seat results -- SPD in red, FDP in yellow, CDU/CSU in black, others (moderate right) in gray


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). 1963, Adenauer finally resigned; Ludwig Erhard took over his position as head of the coalition and government.

Election posters




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