Gerhard Schröder: Political Rise in Lower Saxony
Gerhard Schröder in 1979 as chairman of the SPD’s youth organization (photo credit: J.H. Darchinger/Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung).

Gerhard Schröder joined the Göttingen branch of the German Social Democratic Party (SPD) in October 1963. He had been inspired by Helmut Schmidt, the then interior minister of Hamburg and later Bundeskanzler. He became active in the SPD’s  youth organization, and was appointed its national chairman in 1978. During the 1980 federal parliamentary elections, Gerhard Schröder ran in the Hanover district and won by direct vote. He retained his seat in the Bundestag until 1986, when the SPD made him frontrunner in the state parliamentary elections in Lower Saxony. Though the SPD gained considerable ground, it failed to achieve a governing majority, and Schröder assumed the opposition leadership. At the next round of state elections, in 1990, the SPD came out on top, making Schröder the new Minister President of Lower Saxony as head of an SPD-Greens coalition. Helmed by Schröder, the SPD became the sole party in power after winning absolute majorities in the 1994 and the 1998 state elections.