Courtesy Reuters

Bonn Changes Course

The German scene has changed beyond recognition. After years of drift and indecision, a new sense of vigor and purpose permeates Bonn. By 1966, stagnation had bred discontent; growing vexation touched off a leadership crisis which eventually engulfed the unfortunate Dr. Erhard; out of this crisis emerged the government of the Grand Coalition. For the first time in the history of postwar Germany, Christian Democrats and Social Democrats joined forces in a federal administration. In forging this new link, Kurt- Georg Kiesinger and Willy Brandt installed in power the biggest majority bloc any freely elected German parliament has ever seen-marshalling 447 out of 496 Bundestag votes. On this overwhelming combination turn both the anxieties and the hopes of the German people.

While the hopes center around the attainment of specific short-range and medium-range policy goals, the anxieties focus on the long-range effects which this tremendous concentration of power in the ruling coalition, and the attendant diminution of the opposition's influence, might have on the political health of the nation. May not such a great disparity grievously harm West Germany's fledgling democracy? Is it not bound to sap the vitality of parliamentary life? And might not the amenities of shared power induce the shareholders to perpetuate the present arrangement? These questions have been asked in Germany as well as abroad, and as yet there are no definite answers. But at least it must be conceded that the Kiesinger-Brandt government is sensitive to the problem and determined to ward off the dangers inherent in a Grand Coalition. "In this coalition," Chancellor Kiesinger has promised, "there will be no sharing of power and sinecures between the partners, there will be no glossing over of mismanagement, and the forces of parliamentary life will not be paralyzed by arrangements behind the scenes. . . . The strongest safeguard against possible abuse of power is the firm resolve of the partners to maintain their coalition only for a limited time-that is, until the end of the present term." These were strong words, and

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