Federal President of Germany
Mr. Rau first stood for election as Federal President in 1994, but lost to Roman Herzog, the CDU/CSU candidate. Exactly 5 years later, on May 23, 1999, Johannes Rau was elected Roman Herzog’s successor as President of the Federal Republic of Germany.
On taking office as Federal President, Johannes Rau could look back on a remarkable political career spanning 47 years in party, parliament and government.
In 1957, Mr. Rau joined the Social Democratic Party of Germany (SPD) and in 1958 was first elected a member of the North-Rhine/Westphalia Landtag (regional parliament). In 1970, he became Minister of Science and Education in the cabinet of Minister President Heinz Kühn.
Mr. Rau soon gained a reputation as a reformer and pace-setter, founding five universities at five different sites in North-Rhine/Westphalia and initiating Germany’s first Distance Learning University at Hagen.
On September 20, 1978, Johannes Rau was elected Minister President of North-Rhine/Westphalia. Under his leadership, the SPD emerged as the strongest party from the Landtag elections in 1980, 1985, 1990 and finally 1995. In 1998, after a total of 20 years at the helm, Johannes Rau decided to step down both as Minister President and as Chairman of the North-Rhine/Westphalia SPD.
In 1987, Mr. Rau was his party’s candidate to become Chancellor of Germany, but was deteated by the governing coalition under Federal Chancellor Kohl.