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The SPD and the Debacle of the 2009 German Federal Election: An Opportunity for Renewal

William E. Paterson and James Sloam

Keywords: SOCIAL DEMOCRATIC PARTY (SPD); BUNDESTAG ELECTIONS; CATCH-ALL PARTIES; CHRISTIAN DEMOCRATIC UNION (CDU); GERHARD SCHRÖDER; FRANZ MÜNTEFERING; ANGELA MERKEL; OSKAR LAFONTAINE

The 2009 German federal election marked a devastating defeat for the German Social Democratic Party (SPD). The debacle led some commentators to speculate about the end of the SPD as a “catch-all party“ and—given the recent poor performance of center-left parties across Europe—“the end of social democracy.“ In this article, we contextualize the result of the 2009 Bundestag election within the settings of German party politics and European social democracy, and show how the electoral disaster for the SPD can be explained by broad, long-term political developments. We nevertheless argue that the German Social Democrat's defeat in 2009 provides an opportunity for renewal at a time when the governing Conservative-Liberal coalition—already in disarray—must take some tough decisions with regard to the resource crunch in German public finances.

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