A core lesson of Germany's federal election of September 2005 is the enduring legacy of the communist past in East Germany, a legacy that substantially shapes politics in unified Germany. Fifteen years after unification, the crucial difference in German politics still lies in the East. The 2005 election demonstrated the enduring east-west divide in German party politics. The result is that Germany today has two coherent party systems, one in the East and one in the West. Combined, however, they produce incoherent outcomes. Any party that hopes to win at the federal level must perform well in the very different circumstances in the East.
Jeffrey Kopstein and Daniel Ziblatt
Russell J. Dalton and Willy Jou
Few aspects of politics have been as variable as partisan politics in the two decades since German unification. In the East, citizens had to learn about democratic electoral politics and the party system from an almost completely fresh start. In the West, voters experienced a changing partisan landscape and the shifting policy positions of the established parties as they confronted the challenges of unification. This article raises the question of whether there is one party system or two in the Federal Republic. We first describe the voting results since 1990, and examine the evolving links between social milieu and the parties. Then we consider whether citizens are developing affective party ties that reflect the institutionalization of a party system and voter choice. Although there are broad similarities between electoral politics in West and East, the differences have not substantially narrowed in the past two decades.
Brian C. Rathbun
Germany's behavior during the lead-up to the United States' invasion of Iraq in 2003 seemed to confirm that the country is marked by a strategic culture of pacifism and multilateralism. However, a closer look at German actions and pattern of participation in military operations reveals that German pacifism is a myth. There was no cross party consensus on German foreign policy in the 1990s around a principled opposition to the use of force. Even in the early years after the Cold War, the Christian Democrats began very quickly, albeit deliberatively and often secretively, to break down legal and psychological barriers to the deployment of German forces abroad. Pacifism persisted on the left of the political spectrum but gave way following a genuine ideological transformation brought about by the experience of the Yugoslav wars. The nature of Germany's objection to the Iraq invasion, which unlike previous debates did not make ubiquitous references to German history, revealed how much it has changed since the end of the Cold War. Had the election in 2002 gone differently, Germany might even have supported the actions of the U.S. and there would be little talk today of a transatlantic crisis. It is now possible to treat Germany as a "normal" European power.
Steven Weldon and Andrea Nüsser
Although characterized by widespread public apathy and record low voter turnout, the 2009 Bundestag election solidified a stable, but fluid five-party system that will likely be a defining feature of German political life for the next generation. The three minor parties each achieved historical bests at the polls with steep losses for the two traditional Volksparteien. Drawing on data from the German Longitudinal Electoral Study (GLES), this article examines the nature of this new five-party system with a closer look at each party's voters in the 2009 election. The analysis shows the breadth and stability of the five-party system—each party draws significant support across all sixteen Länder; and, despite a growing number of swing voters, each party has a core group of committed voters that alone exceeds the 5 percent national electoral threshold. We also find evidence that the increased volatility and fluidity of the party system is structured along the left-right ideological spectrum with the parties divided into two major camps and vote-switching much more likely within the respective camps rather than between them.
A comparison of the 2005-2009 cabinet Merkel I (the “Grand“ Coalition) and the Christian Democrat-Liberal coalition cabinet Merkel II formed in 2009 presents an interesting puzzle. Political commentators and coalition theorists alike would have expected the CDU/CSU-SPD coalition to experience a relatively high, and the CDU/CSU-FDP coalition a relatively low level of overt inter-party conflict. In reality, however, relations in the CDU/CSU-FDP coalition were relatively conflictive, whereas the Grand Coalition seemed to manage conflict between reluctant partners successfully. This article seeks to explain these seemingly paradoxical differences between the two coalitions. It demonstrates that both the positioning of the coalition parties in the policy space and important institutions constraining coalition bargaining after the formation of the cabinet Merkel II (portfolio allocation, role of the CDU/CSU state minister presidents) disadvantaged the FDP in pursuing its key policy goals (especially tax reform). As a result, the Liberals resorted to “noisy“ tactics in the public sphere. The grand coalition, by contrast, was an alliance of co-equals, which facilitated a more consensual management of inter-party conflict.
As chair of the CDU in 2000, and of its joint Bundestag caucus with the CSU in 2002, Angela Merkel was the fist woman and fist easterner to head a major German party; she had risen as a protege of Helmut Kohl, but breaking with him over his financial improprieties vaulted her into power. These features of her biography made her leadership unconventional. So too did her style, characterized by interpersonal reserve and lack of charisma. Merkel's views on cultural issues and economic policy-in particular, reform of the welfare state-were more liberal than those of her Union's mainstream. Finally, her resources within the CDU/CSU were limited to a loose network of younger outsiders, who helped sustain her against rivals at the Land level. While Merkel survived a poor CDU/CSU election in 2005 to become chancellor, her time as opposition leader suggested that she would struggle in that role too, yet also served as a caution against underrating her.
The result of the 2005 Bundestag election provoked difficult questions concerning the political positioning of the SPD. Should the Social Democrats negate the Schröder government's Agenda 2010 reforms in order to regain voters from the Left and envisage a government coalition with the Left Party, even though this party has been portrayed as "unfit to govern"? Or should the SPD stick to the center, at the risk of losing even more voters to its leftist competitor? Based on a theoretical concept of different party goals (vote, office, policy, and democracy-seeking) and strategic party behavior, this article explains why the SPD did not succeed in establishing a promising strategy with regard to these questions. This failure is caused mainly by the party's internal divisions and its severe leadership problems. In addition, the structure of German party competition and the institutions of federalism make it even more difficult to handle these problems with success.
This article examines the impact of organizational structure on party behavior in the context of Franz Müntefering's resignation as SPD Chairman in late 2005. Conceptually, it argues that party organizations embed institutionalized rules that govern internal hierarchies and shape party decision making. Because party organizations are created under different circumstances, the rules governing their internal hierarchies and decision-making behavior may vary. This analysis suggests why such differences can persist for decades even when they produce such unintended-and undesirable-consequences as the embarrassing resignation of a popular chairman in the middle of a coalition negotiation.
Ofer Kenig, Michael Philippov, and Gideon Rahat
Party membership is in decline in Israel. This article analyzes the main characteristics of party members in three of the largest parties in Israel: Kadima, Likud, and Labor. Party members in Israel share similar features with party members in other countries: they are older, economically better off than the average voter, they are more highly educated than an average voter, and they are more likely to be male than female. This comparison between the members population and the voters population also demonstrates that Arabs are over-represented in Kadima and Labor while religious people are over-represented in Kadima and especially Likud. Most party members claim that ideological motivations led them to join a particular party, yet they suspect that the other members are motivated by more instrumental reasons. They expect the party to act cohesively but at the same time clearly support deeper intraparty democratization. They are also rather passive, hardly engaging in party activities.
Francesco Maria Scanni and Francesco Compolongo
weakening of the worker; and legislative assemblies’ loss of power to the executive branch. In addition, there was widespread cartelisation: the major political parties took control of the state, alternating in power and using electoral laws to prevent new