- Constituency results, 1912
- Constituency results, 1919 Weimar National Assembly
- Constituency results, 1928
- Constituency results, 1953
- Constituency results, 1972
- Constituency results, 1998
- Constituency results, 2017
|Leader|| Norbert Walter-Borjans |
|General Secretary||Lars Klingbeil|
|Founded||23 May 1863|
|Merger of||ADAV and SDAP|
|Headquarters||Willy-Brandt-Haus D-10911 Berlin, Germany|
|Women's wing||Association of Social Democratic Women|
|Membership (December 2019)|
|Ideology|| Social democracy |
|European affiliation||Party of European Socialists|
|International affiliation||Progressive Alliance|
|European Parliament group||Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats|
152 / 709
21 / 69
470 / 1,866
|European Parliament (German seats)|
16 / 96
|Ministers-president of states|
7 / 16
|Part of a series on|
The Social Democratic Party of Germany (German : Sozialdemokratische Partei Deutschlands, SPD; [zoˈtsi̯aːldemoˌkʁaːtɪʃə paʁˌtaɪ ˈdɔʏtʃlants] ) is a social-democratic political party in Germany.
Led by Saskia Esken and Norbert Walter-Borjans since 2019, the party is one of the two major contemporary political parties in Germany along with the Christian Democratic Union (CDU). The Social Democrats have governed at the federal level in Germany as part of a grand coalition with the CDU and the Christian Social Union (CSU) since December 2013 following the results of the 2013 and 2017 federal elections. The party participates in 11 of 16 state governments and 7 of them are governed by SPD Minister-Presidents. The SPD is a member of the Party of European Socialists and initiated the founding of the international Progressive Alliance of social-democratic parties on 22 May 2013after criticising the Socialist International for its acceptance of authoritarian parties.
Established in 1863, the SPD is by far the oldest existing political party represented in the German Parliament and was one of the first Marxist-influenced parties in the world. It was illegal under the Anti-Socialist Laws from 1878 to 1890. During the First World War, the party split into a pro-war mainstream and the pacifist Independent Social Democratic Party, a part of which went on to form the Communist Party of Germany. The social democrats came to power during the 1918–19 revolution. During the Weimar Republic, the SPD was the strongest party until 1932 and Friedrich Ebert served as the first President of Germany. During the Nazi era (1933–45), the SPD was banned, and social democrats offered resistance against Hitler's dictatorship.
After the Second World War, the party was re-established. In East Germany, it was forced to merge with the Communist Party to form the pro-Soviet Socialist Unity Party of Germany (SED). In West Germany, the SPD was one of two major parties on the federal level, alongside the centre-right CDU/CSU. In its 1959 Godesberg Program, the party dropped its commitment to Marxism, becoming a big-tent party of the centre-left. From 1969 to 1982 and from 1998 to 2005, the Chancellors of Germany have been Social Democrats. In other years the CDU headed the governments, with the SPD either in opposition or as a junior partner in "grand coalitions". The SPD's share of votes has declined significantly since the 2000s.
The General German Workers' Association (Allgemeiner Deutscher Arbeiterverein, ADAV) founded in 1863 and the Social Democratic Workers' Party (Sozialdemokratische Arbeiterpartei Deutschlands, SDAP) founded in 1869 later merged in 1875 under the name Socialist Workers' Party of Germany (Sozialistische Arbeiterpartei Deutschlands, SAPD). From 1878 to 1890 the Anti-Socialist Laws banned any grouping or meeting that aimed at spreading socialist principles, but the party still gained support in elections. In 1890, when the ban was lifted and it could again present electoral lists, the party adopted its current name. The SPD "was Europe's largest Marxist party and consistently won the largest popular vote in German election between 1890 and 1930".In the years leading up to World War I (1914–1918) the party remained ideologically radical in official principle, although many party officials tended to moderation in everyday politics. In the 1912 German federal election the SPD claimed not only the most votes but also the most Reichstag seats of any German party.
Despite the agreement of the Second International to oppose militarism,the Social Democrats supported war in 1914. In response to this and to the Bolshevik Revolution of November 1917 in Russia, members of the left-wing and of the far-left of the SPD formed alternative parties, first the Spartacus League (1914–1919), then the Independent Social Democratic Party of Germany (USPD, April 1917–1931) while the more conservative faction became known as the Majority Social Democratic Party of Germany (MSPD, 1917–1922). Social democrats came to power during the German Revolution of 1918–1919, dominating the Council of the People's Deputies interim government.
From 1918 the SPD played an important role in the political system of the Weimar Republic, Friedrich Ebert was its first president, serving from 1919 until his death in 1925. However, the SPD took part in coalition governments only for a few years (1918–1921, 1923 and 1928–1930), being the main opposition for the remainder. Adolf Hitler banned the SPD in 1933 under the Enabling Act and the National Socialist régime imprisoned, killed or forced into exile SPD party officials. In exile, the party used the name Sopade . The Social Democrats had been the only party to vote against the Enabling Act, while the Communist Party was blocked from voting.
In 1945 the Allied administrations in the Western zones allowed the re-establishment of the SPD. In East Germany, the Soviet occupying power forced the social democrats to merge with the communists in 1946. This resulted in the communist-dominated Socialist Unity Party of Germany (SED) that ruled East Germany in a quasi single-party system from 1949 to 1989. In West Germany, the SPD remained independent and one of two major parties, alongside the Christian Democratic Union. In its 1959 Godesberg Program, the party dropped its commitment to Marxism, becoming a big-tent party of the centre-left, also appealing to middle-class voters.
After being in opposition to centre-right governments for 17 years, it participated in a first grand coalition from 1966 to 1969. SPD chancellors Willy Brandt and Helmut Schmidt ruled in coalitions with the liberal FDP from 1969 to 1982. The party's popularity peaked in 1972, when the SPD won 45.8 percent of votes. Subsequently, the social democrats were in opposition for another 16 years. Shortly before the German reunification in 1990, the East German Social Democratic Party (founded during the 1989 Peaceful Revolution) merged with the West German SPD. The party returned to power under Gerhard Schröder in a red-green coalition from 1998 to 2005. Afterwards, the SPD was either the junior partner in coalitions with the centre-right CDU/CSU (2005–09 and since 2013) or in opposition (2009–13). The social democrats share of votes halved from 40.9 percent in 1998 to 20.5 percent in 2017.
The SPD was established as a Marxist party in 1875. However, the Social Democrats underwent a major shift in policies reflected in the differences between the Heidelberg Program of 1925 which "called for the transformation of the capitalist system of private ownership of the means of production to social ownership"and the Godesberg Program of 1959 which aimed to broaden its voter base and move its political position toward the centre. After World War II, under the leadership of Kurt Schumacher the SPD re-established itself as a socialist party representing the interests of the working class and the trade unions. However, with the Godesberg Program the party evolved from a socialist working-class party to a modern social-democratic party working within liberal capitalism.
The current party platform of the SPD espouses the goal of social democracy, which is seen as a vision of a societal arrangement in which freedom and social justice are paramount. According to the party platform, freedom, justice and social solidarity form the basis of social democracy. The coordinated social market economy should be strengthened and its output should be distributed fairly. The party sees that economic system as necessary in order to ensure the affluence of the entire population. The SPD also tries to protect the society's poor with a welfare state. Concurrently, it advocates a sustainable fiscal policy that does not place a burden on future generations while eradicating budget deficits. In social policy, the Social Democrats stand for civil and political rights in an open society. In foreign policy, the party aims at ensuring global peace by balancing global interests with democratic means, thus European integration is one of the main priorities of the party. The SPD supports economic regulations to limit potential losses for banks and people. They support a common European economic and financial policy and to prevent speculative bubbles as well as environmentally sustainable growth.
The SPD is mostly composed of members belonging to either of the two main wings, namely the Keynesian social democrats and Third Way moderate social democrats belonging to the Seeheimer Kreis. While the more moderate Seeheimer Kreis generally support the Agenda 2010 programs introduced by Chancellor Gerhard Schröder, the Keynesian social democrats continue to defend classical left-wing policies and the welfare state. The classical left-wing of the SPD claims that in recent years the welfare state has been curtailed through reform programs such as the Agenda 2010, Hartz IV and the more economic liberal stance of the SPD, which were endorsed by centrist social democrats.[ citation needed ] As a reaction to the Agenda 2010, there was in 2005 the ascension of an inner party dissident movement which led ultimately to the foundation of the new party Labour and Social Justice – The Electoral Alternative (Arbeit & soziale Gerechtigkeit – Die Wahlalternative, WASG). The WASG was later merged into The Left (Die Linke) in 2007.
Before World War II, as the main non-revolutionary left-wing party the Social Democrats fared best among non-Catholic workers as well as intellectuals favouring social progressive causes and increased economic equality. Led by Kurt Schumacher after World War II, the SPD initially opposed both the social market economy and Konrad Adenauer's drive towards Western integration fiercely, but after Schumacher's death it accepted the social market economy and Germany's position in the Western alliance in order to appeal to a broader range of voters. It still remains associated with the economic causes of unionised employees and working class voters. In the 1990s, the left and moderate wings of the party drifted apart, culminating in a secession of a significant number of party members which later joined the socialist party WASG, which later merged into The Left (Die Linke).
Geographically, much of the SPD's current-day support comes from large cities, especially of northern and western Germany and Berlin. As of 2019, 10 of the country's 15 biggest cities are ruled by SPD mayors. The metropolitan area of the Ruhr Area, where coal mining and steel production were once the biggest sources of revenues, have provided a significant base for the SPD in the 20th century. In the Free Hanseatic City of Bremen, the SPD has governed without interruption since 1949. In southern Germany, the SPD typically garners less support except in the largest cities. At the 2009 federal election, the party lost its only constituency in the entire state of Bavaria (in Munich).
Small town and rural support comes especially from the traditionally Protestant areas of northern Germany and Brandenburg (with notable exceptions such as Western Pomerania where CDU leader Angela Merkel has her constituency) and a number of university towns. A striking example of the general pattern is the traditionally Catholic Emsland, where the Social Democrats generally gain a low percentage of votes, whereas the Reformed Protestant region of East Frisia directly to the north, with its strong traditional streak of Anti-Catholicism, is one of their strongest constituencies. Further south, the SPD also enjoys solid support in northern Hesse, parts of Palatinate and the Saarland. The social democrats are weakest in the south-eastern states of Bavaria, Saxony and Thuringia, where the party's percentage of votes dropped to single-digit figures in the 2018 and 2019 elections.
The SPD, at times called SAPD, participated in general elections determining the members of parliament. For the elections until 1933, the parliament was called Reichstag, except of the one of 1919 which was called the National Assembly and since 1949 the parliament is called Bundestag. Note that changes in borders (1871, 1919, 1920, 1949, 1957 and 1990) varied the number of eligible voters whereas electoral laws also changed the ballot system (only constituencies until 1912, only party lists until 1949 and a mixed system thereafter), the suffrage (women vote since 1919; minimum active voting age was 25 till 1918, 20 till 1946, 21 till 1972 and 18 since), the number of seats (fixed or flexible) and the length of the legislative period (three or four years). The list begins after the SPD was formed in 1875, when labour parties unified to only form the SPD (then SAPD, current name since 1890).
|Election year||Constituency votes||Party list votes||% of|
overall votes (until 1912)
party list votes (as of 1919)
|Overall seats won||+/–||Government|
13 / 397
9 / 397
13 / 397
24 / 397
11 / 397
35 / 397
44 / 397
56 / 397
81 / 397
43 / 397
110 / 397
165 / 423
102 / 459
|providing parliamentary support|
|providing parliamentary support|
|May 1924||6,008,905||20.5 (1st)|
100 / 472
|December 1924||7,881,041||26.0 (1st)|
131 / 493
|providing parliamentary support|
153 / 491
143 / 577
|July 1932||7,959,712||21.6 (2nd)|
133 / 608
|November 1932||7,247,901||20.4 (2nd)|
121 / 584
|March 1933||7,181,629||18.3 (2nd)|
120 / 667
|November 1933||Banned. National Socialist German Workers Party sole legal party.|
|1936||Banned. National Socialist German Workers Party sole legal party.|
|1938||Banned. National Socialist German Workers Party sole legal party.|
131 / 402
162 / 509
181 / 519
203 / 521
217 / 518
237 / 518
242 / 518
224 / 518
228 / 519
202 / 520
193 / 519
239 / 662
252 / 672
298 / 669
251 / 603
222 / 614
146 / 622
193 / 630
153 / 709
|Election year||No. of|
overall seats won
33 / 81
32 / 81
30 / 81
40 / 99
33 / 99
23 / 99
23 / 99
27 / 96
16 / 96
|State Parliament||Election year||No. of|
|Baden-Württemberg||2016||679,872||12.7 (4th) |
19 / 143
|Bavaria||2018||1,317,942||9.7 (5th) |
22 / 205
|Berlin||2016||352,369||21.6 (1st) |
38 / 160
|Brandenburg||2019||331,238||26.2 (1st) |
25 / 88
|Bremen||2019||365,315||24.9 (2nd) |
23 / 84
|Hamburg||2015||1,611,274||45.6 (1st) |
58 / 121
|Hesse||2018||570,166||19.8 (3rd) |
29 / 137
|Lower Saxony||2017||1,413,990||36.9 (1st) |
55 / 137
|Mecklenburg-Vorpommern||2016||246,393||30.6 (1st) |
28 / 71
|North Rhine-Westphalia||2017||2,649,205||31.2 (2nd) |
69 / 199
|Rhineland-Palatinate||2016||771,848||36.2 (1st) |
39 / 101
|Saarland||2017||157,841||29.6 (2nd) |
17 / 51
|Saxony||2019||167,289||7.7 (5th) |
10 / 119
|Saxony-Anhalt||2016||119,377||10.6 (4th) |
11 / 87
|Schleswig-Holstein||2017||400,635||27.2 (2nd) |
21 / 73
|Thuringia||2019||90,984||8.2 (4th) |
8 / 90
The party is led by the Leader of the Social Democratic Party. They are supported by six Deputy Leaders and the party executive.
The current leaders are Saskia Esken and Norbert Walter-Borjans. The previous leader was Andrea Nahles. She announced her pending resignation on 2 June 2019.
As Germany is a federal republic, each of Germany's states have their own SPD party at the state level.
The current leaders of the SPD state parties are the following:
19 / 143
22 / 205
38 / 160
30 / 88
|Bremen||Sascha Karolin Aulepp|
30 / 83
58 / 121
37 / 110
|Lower Saxony||Stephan Weil|
55 / 137
26 / 71
|North Rhine-Westphalia||Sebastian Hartmann|
69 / 199
39 / 101
17 / 51
18 / 126
11 / 87
21 / 73
13 / 91
The Christian Social Union in Bavaria is a Christian-democratic and conservative political party in Germany. The CSU operates only in Bavaria while its larger counterpart, the Christian Democratic Union (CDU), operates in the other fifteen states of Germany. It differs from the CDU by being somewhat more conservative in social matters. The CSU is considered an effective successor of the Weimar-era Catholic Bavarian People's Party (BVP).
The Free Democratic Party is a liberal and classical liberal political party in Germany. The FDP is led by Christian Lindner.
Germany is a democratic, federal parliamentary republic, where federal legislative power is vested in the Bundestag and the Bundesrat.
The Party of Democratic Socialism was a democratic socialist political party in Germany active between 1989 and 2007. It was the legal successor to the Socialist Unity Party of Germany (SED), which ruled the German Democratic Republic as a one-party state until 1990. From 1990 through to 2005, the PDS had been seen as the left-wing "party of the East". While it achieved minimal support in western Germany, it regularly won 15% to 25% of the vote in the eastern new states of Germany, entering coalition governments in the federal states of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern and Berlin.
The Christian Democratic Union of Germany is a Christian-democratic, liberal-conservative political party in Germany. It is the major catch-all party of the centre-right in German politics. The CDU forms the CDU/CSU grouping, also known as the Union, in the Bundestag with its Bavarian counterpart the Christian Social Union in Bavaria (CSU). Founded in 1945 as an interdenominational Christian party, the CDU effectively replaced the pre-war Catholic Centre Party, but also included politicians of other backgrounds, liberal and conservative. The party therefore claims to represent "Christian-social, liberal and conservative" elements.
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Kurt Ernst Carl Schumacher was a German social democratic politician, who served as chairman of the Social Democratic Party of Germany from 1946 and was the first Leader of the Opposition in the West German Bundestag from 1949 until his death in 1952. An opponent of Chancellor Konrad Adenauer's government, but an even stronger opponent of the East German Socialist Unity Party and communism in general, he was one of the founding fathers of post-war German democracy. He was also a noted opponent of the far-right and the far-left, i.e. the Nazi Party and the Communist Party of Germany, during the Weimar Republic, and is famous for his description of the communists as "red-painted Nazis.".
Herbert Richard Wehner was a German politician. A former member of the Communist Party, he joined the Social Democrats (SPD) after World War II. He served as Federal Minister of Intra-German Relations from 1966 to 1969 and thereafter as chairman of the SPD parliamentary group in the Bundestag until 1983.
Federal elections were held in West Germany on 6 September 1953 to elect the second Bundestag. The Christian Democratic Union emerged as the largest party.
Federal elections were held in West Germany on 14 August 1949 to elect the first Bundestag, with a further eight seats elected in West Berlin between 1949 and January 1952 and another eleven between February 1952 and 1953. They were the first free elections in West Germany since 1933 and the first after the division of the country.
Labour and Social Justice – The Electoral Alternative was a left-wing German political party founded in 2005 by activists disenchanted with the ruling Red-Green coalition government. On 16 June 2007 WASG merged with The Left Party.PDS to form The Left. At the time of its merger with The Left Party.PDS, WASG party membership stood at about 11,600 members.
Federal elections were held in Germany on 18 September 2005 to elect the members of the 16th Bundestag. This became necessary after a motion of confidence in Chancellor Gerhard Schröder failed on 1 July. Following the defeat of Schröder's Social Democratic Party (SPD) in a state election, Schröder asked his supporters to abstain from the Bundestag motion, knowing the motion would fail and thus triggering an early federal election.
Federal elections took place on 27 September 2009 to elect the members of the 17th Bundestag (parliament) of Germany. Preliminary results showed that the Christian Democratic Union (CDU), its Bavarian sister party, the Christian Social Union (CSU), and the Free Democratic Party (FDP) won the election, and the three parties announced their intention to form a new centre-right government with Angela Merkel as Chancellor. Their main opponent, Frank-Walter Steinmeier's Social Democratic Party (SPD), conceded defeat. The Christian Democrats previously governed in coalition with the FDP in most of the 1949–1966 governments of Konrad Adenauer and Ludwig Erhard and the 1982–1998 governments of Helmut Kohl.
The Left, also commonly referred to as the Left Party, is a democratic socialist political party in Germany. It is considered to be left-wing populist by some researchers. The party was founded in 2007 as the result of the merger of the Party of Democratic Socialism (PDS) and the Electoral Alternative for Labour and Social Justice (WASG). Through the PDS, the party is the direct descendant of the ruling party of the former East Germany (GDR), the Marxist-Leninist Socialist Unity Party of Germany (SED).
The politics of Hesse takes place within a framework of a federal parliamentary representative democratic republic, where the Federal Government of Germany exercises sovereign rights with certain powers reserved to the states of Germany including Hesse. The state has a multi-party system where, as in most other states of former Western Germany and the federal level, the two main parties are the centre-right Christian Democratic Union (CDU) and the centre-left Social Democratic Party of Germany (SPD).
The foundation of the Social Democratic Party of Germany can be traced back to the 1860s, and for much of the 20th and 21st centuries it has represented the centre-left in German politics. The SPD has been the ruling party at several points, first under Friedrich Ebert in 1918. The party was outlawed in Nazi Germany but returned to government in 1969 with Willy Brandt. Meanwhile, the East German branch of the SPD was merged with the ruling KPD. In the modern Federal Republic of Germany, the SPD are the second largest party after the CDU and are currently in government as a junior coalition partner to Chancellor Angela Merkel's CDU. The SPD last held the chancellorship under Gerhard Schröder from 1998 to 2005.
In modern Germany with its parliamentary system of government on federal and on state level, grand coalition describes a governing coalition of the two biggest parties in one parliament. In most cases this means a coalition of the Union and the Social Democrats (SPD).
The 2011 Berlin state election was held on 18 September 2011 to elect the members of the 17th Abgeordnetenhaus of Berlin. The incumbent government consisting of the Social Democratic Party (SPD) and The Left lost its majority.
The Independent Social Democratic Party of Germany was a short-lived political party in Germany during the German Empire and the Weimar Republic. The organization was established in 1917 as the result of a split of left wing members of the Social Democratic Party of Germany (SPD). The organization attempted to chart a centrist course between electorally oriented revisionism on the one hand and Bolshevism on the other. The organization was terminated in 1931 through merger with the Socialist Workers' Party of Germany (SAPD).
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