After the war Germany was divided and occupied by the United States, United Kingdom, France and the Soviet Union. The Western allies (USA, UK and France) increasingly turned over their occupied zones to German officials. They arranged for the German Assembly to write a federal constitution approved in May 1949. In September of the same year the three western zones were combined to form the Federal Republic of Germany. In May 1955 the Republic was declared completely independent.
The new German Parliament elected 73 year old Konrad Adenauer as federal chancellor. Adenauer had many qualities. He had experience, having begun his career in pre-1914 imperial era. He had a strong-willed personality and an ambition to regain for Germany a position of dignity and international respect.
The constitution guarantees proportional representation, meaning that each party is apportioned seats equivalent to the share of the popular vote. However, to receive seats in the legislature a party has to win at least 5 percent of the national vote. The Christian Democratic Union and the Social Democratic party have dominated German politics. The Free Democrats, a small liberal centrist party, has played a lesser role through coalitions with one or the other of the major parties when necessary.
The Christian Democratic Union governed uninterruptedly for 20 years. To gain power the Social Democrats, heirs to the Social Democratic party founded in the 1870s was reorganized. It abandoned its Marxist ideology and broadened its appeal to the middle class and young voters. In 1965 it joined the Christian Democrats and Free Democrats to form a “grand coalition” (the kind of coalition I have been advocating for Uganda of all political parties in a transitional government), with Willy Brandt a Social Democrat becoming foreign minister. In 1969 the Social Democrats in coalition with Free Democrats won elections and Willy Brandt became Chancellor. The new coalition ended the 20 year rule of Christian Democrats (the Democratic Alliance recently founded in Uganda could end 30 years of NRM rule).
The politics of proportional representation, political coalitions and a social market economy combining government, business and labor sectors as well as capitalist and social elements created enabling political and economic conditions that “Within a decade after the disastrous military defeat that had left a shattered and occupied country, West Germany was a major economic and political power.… Inflammatory issues faded, material progress seemed triumphant over ideology, and democracy seemed assured”.
What lessons can Uganda learn from this German experience as the country sits at a crossroads looking for the right path?