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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Kohl Re-Elected by One-Vote Margin

BONN -- The German parliament re-elected Helmut Kohl as chancellor with only one vote to spare Tuesday, leaving him in power with a thin but working majority for the next four years.


The chancellor, whose center-right coalition won by a narrow margin at a general election last month, clenched his hands over his head like a champion boxer after winning 338 votes in the 672-seat chamber.


He needed at least 337 votes -- the absolute majority of all deputies in parliament -- to win in the first round of voting. His coalition, in power since 1982, has 341 seats.


Voting could have gone into three rounds if the chancellor fell short the first time around, but that would have been an embarrassing blow to a government already weakened by its losses in the Oct. 16 election.


Kohl's margin of victory was the slimmest in 18 years: Social Democrat Helmut Schmidt won by the same margin in 1976


"Madam Speaker, I accept the vote," Kohl said to a standing ovation from deputies of his coalition.


"I didn't expect all the votes from the coalition," the relieved chancellor later said in the lobby of the parliament building. "It was the result I expected more or less." Kohl said he wanted to spend his last four years in office promoting German and European unity.


Rudolf Scharping, leader of the opposition Social Democrats, told reporters he had also expected Kohl to win the long-awaited vote.


"It will be tight now (for Kohl)," he commented. "Making difficult political decisions with such a narrow majority will be like walking on a tightrope."


Concerned about every vote, Kohl put off naming his cabinet until Thursday to avoid angering any unsuccessful candidates for ministerial posts before they cast their ballots.


Coalition whips were also worried that more than four disgruntled backbenchers might go against him in the secret ballot, but in the end only three cast "no" votes.


With such a narrow majority, parliamentary leaders marshalled government deputies in a roll-call before the voting to make sure nobody was absent.


Two seriously ill Christian Democratic Union deputies were brought in especially for the vote. One hospitalized SPD deputy was absent.


CDU deputy Roland Richter was the last to arrive after oversleeping, a party official said. After being bundled into a ballot booth just before voting ended, he was given a stern lecture by CDU parliamentary leader Wolfgang Schaeuble.


Kohl received his credentials from President Roman Herzog soon after the vote and was to be sworn in late Tuesday.


The uncertainty surrounding the cliffhanger vote was a far cry from Kohl's easy re-election in January 1991, when he sailed through the first round despite 20 "no" votes from his own ranks that time.