Helmut Kohl, the interim chancellor of West Germany since the fall of Helmut Schmidt’s Social Democrat government in 1982, is elected German chancellor as his Christian Democratic Union (CDU) party is voted back into power.
Elected as Rhine-Palatinate state premier in 1969, Kohl served the post until 1976, when he became federal chairman of the CDU and led the opposition to Chancellor Schmidt’s government. In 1982, with Germany suffering under persistent economic difficulties, he organized a successful no-confidence vote in the West German Parliament against Schmidt and was subsequently named interim chancellor. In March 1983, the West German people confirmed him as chancellor, and in 1987 German economic recovery led to his reelection.
In the fall of 1989, the communist government of East Germany collapsed, and Kohl led the efforts to reunify the two Germanys. In March 1990, in the first all-German elections in six decades, Kohl was elected the first chancellor of a reunified Germany. During his third term as chancellor, Kohl oversaw the formidable task of absorbing East Germany’s crippled economy into the West and was an advocate of the movement for a united Europe. In 1994, Kohl was elected to a fourth term, but increasing unemployment in Germany and his cuts to the country’s welfare system led to his defeat by Gerhard Schroder and the Social Democrats in 1998.