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The Origins of Party Discipline: Evidence from Eastern Germany

Louise K. Davidson-Schmich

Keywords: PARTY DISCIPLINE; PARTY COHESION; PARLIAMENTARY PARTY GROUPS; LANDTAG; BUNDESTAG; PARLIAMENTARY SYSTEM

In Germany, the Bundestag and the Landtage (state parliaments) in the old Länder (states) have such consistently high levels of party discipline that there is not enough variance to determine the cause of this behavior. The creation of five new democratic state legislatures after the fall of the German Democratic Republic, however, provides a unique opportunity to investigate the origins of party voting. I test which of three hypothesized institutional mechanisms for this practice—the need to keep an executive in office, efficiency incentives, or electoral concerns—was primarily responsible for the emergence of party discipline in the new Länder. The evidence indicates that the need to support the executive branch is the primary cause of party voting. This finding helps explain both the unexpected rise of western German-style party discipline in the eastern states following unification, well as the persistence of the seemingly outdated practice of party discipline in contemporary Germany as a whole.

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