In 2017, the small parties achieved unprecedented success in the Bundestag election. This article examines their success, assessing both long-term and short-term factors. It analyzes each of the four main small parties in turn, and considers their recent performances, their goals, campaign strategies, and election results. Finally, it asks why the small parties’ electoral gains have not led to greater executive power and concludes that it is because the expectations surrounding party system formation in Germany have not adequately adjusted to the fragmented and increasingly polarized system that has emerged.
David F. Patton is Joanne Toor Cummings ’50 Professor of Government and International Relations at Connecticut College in New London, Connecticut. He teaches classes on European politics and his research focuses on party politics and foreign policy in the Federal Republic of Germany. E-mail: email@example.com