Chancellor Willy Brandt's Socialist-Liberal Coalition in Bonn tightened its grip on Sunday on the reins of the Federal Government as a result of the election in Hesse State.
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Background: Chancellor Willy Brandt's Socialist-Liberal Coalition in Bonn tightened its grip on Sunday on the reins of the Federal Government as a result of the election in Hesse State.
The Liberal Free Democrats - junior members of the Brandt Coalition - confounded pre-election forecasts by winning eleven seats in the 110 - seat state Parliament.
The Hesse election was widely seen as a test of Coalition popularity at national level, and its result was totally unexpected for the Liberals. They have recently seemed on the verge of disintegration, and have been regarded as a dying political force.
Three Conservative Free Democrats defected to the Christian Democrat opposition last month, and there were fears that a bad result for them in Hesse might prompt other Free Democrats to follow suit, taking with them Chancellor Brandt's remaining Bundestag majority of six votes.
The issue that caused most dissent among Free Democrats was the Ostpolitik (the search for detente with Eastern Europe), a feature of the Brandt-Scheel foreign policy during the past year.
Although Herr Brandt's Socialists (SDP) took some losses in the Hesse poll, they can take consolation in the discovery that the Free Democrats have been shown by it to be very much alive.