7 longest-serving German chancellors – how long will Merkel last?

Angela Merkel Looks To Side

If Merkel wins next week, she could lead Germany for another four years, taking her total to sixteen.

Germany has existed in many states over the years, but here are the longest-serving chancellors of the Federal Republic of Germany, which started in 1949.

Germany is known for its long-serving leaders, so it should come as a surprise that there have only been nine chancellors in the new Republic. The shortest-serving chancellor was the FDP’s Water Scheel, who served as acting chancellor for nine days when the ruling SDP picked a new chancellor in 1976. The next shortest-serving chancellor was Kurt Georg Kiesinger, who served as chancellor in the late sixties for just short of three whole years.

7th – Ludwig Erhard (CDU/CSU)

Erhard took over from the Republic’s first chancellor Konrad Adenauer, during the fourth Bundestag and led the CDU/CSU to its fifth election win in a row in 1965. After just three years and 46 days in power, Erhard resigned following splits in government that led to the collapse of the CDU/CSU-FDP coalition in 1966.

6th – Willy Brandt (SDP)

Brandt became the SDP’s first post-war chancellor, forming a coalition with the FDP after the 1969 election, despite winning less seats than the CDU/CSU. The election made the FDP king-makers, and in this case made Brandt king, however, his time at the top was short-lived. The SPD-FDP coalition continued after the 1972 election, but Brandt resigned in 1974 following the revelation that one of his close allies was an East German spy, in what has come to be known as the Guillaume affair.

The resignation meant that Brandt survived just four and half years as chancellor.

5th – Gerhard Schroder

The most recent SPD chancellor is the fifth longest-serving German chancellor since the war. He led his party to victory in the 1998 election and then again in the 2002 election, each time forming a coalition with the greens. His time in power was cut short thanks to an early election following a motion of no confidence in 2005, which led to the formation of a grand coalition, with the CDU/CSU’s Angela Merkel at its head.

Schroder was German chancellor for seven years and 26 days.

4th – Helmut Schmidt

Schmidt is one of two Helmut’s to make this list, and is also the longest-serving SPD chancellor. Following Willy Brandt’s resignation, and the FDP’s Walter Scheel’s brief term as acting chancellor, Schmidt became the country’s fifth post-war chancellor. During his first term, he continued to lead the SDP-FDP coalition.

Following the 1976 election, the CDU/CSU emerged the strongest force in the Bundestag, but the SDP-FDP coalition continued under Schmidt’s leadership. The same thing happened in the election of 1980, however, the FDP left the coalition in 1982, which led to the CDU/CSU’ Helmut Kohl becoming chancellor.

Schmidt lasted as chancellor for eight years and 138 days.

3rd – Angela Merkel

Angela Merkel has led Germany since 2005, first at the head of a grand coalition with the SPD, then as leader of CDU/CSU-FDP alliance, then another grand coalition. In order for her to become the country’s longest-serving chancellor since the war, she will need to win this year’s election and the one four years later. She has led Germany for just under twelve years.

Emmanuel Macron & Merkel European Council meeting

2nd – Konrad Adenauer

Adenauer was Germany’s first post-war chancellor, having first led the CDU/CSU to victory in 1949. Over his fourteen years in power, he won four elections and led four administrations, mostly in alliance with the FDP. He resigned in late 1963, allowing Ludwig Erhard to become the Federal Republic’s second ever chancellor.

Germany’s longest-serving post-war chancellor – Helmut Kohl

After the collapse of the SPD/FDP government in 1982, Kohl formed a coalition with the FDP and became the country’s sixth chancellor. Kohl served as chancellor during the final years of East Germany, and became the first all-Germany chancellor following reunification and the 1990 election. Throughout his sixteen years and 26 days in power, he ruled with the FDP.

However, his time in power came to an end when the SDP and the Greens formed a red-green coalition at the 1998 election.

Lengths of service included in this article are based of those included in this list of German chancellors.