This article develops the thesis that the past quarter-century of electoral volatility in Germany reached a critical tipping point at the 2005 election. The two major parties of the Bonn Republic are now at their lowest combined share of the popular vote since the Federal Republic's founding in 1949. Electoral necessity and not, as in 1966, elite choice forced them into a grand coalition with little programmatic consensus. Their respective demographic cores-church-going Catholics for the CDU and unionized industrial workers for the SPD-have eroded as has the proportion of the electorate identifying with them. Institutional factors such as the electoral system have neither helped nor hindered these changes. The current grand coalition also faces a larger and more focused opposition than in 1966. The article concludes with some comparisons between the current German party system and its Italian counterpart of the late 1980s.
David P. Conradt
While the 2009 election resulted in a familiar governing coalition, the dealignment of the party systems continued. Support for the once-major parties dropped to historic lows as did turnout. This article delves into the factors underlying this dealignment process. In addition to familiar demandside variables—social structure, values, and interests—particular attention is given to the supply side of the dealignment equation: the role of the parties, their leaders, strategies, and policies. The consequences of these changes for the future of the party and political system are then discussed in a comparative context.
David P. Conradt
After ten years of research on Germany’s postunification political
culture, there is no scholarly consensus on the critical questions of
east-west differences, the impact of unification on western German
culture, and developmental trends in the two regions. These questions
have become more acute in the light of decreased eastern economic
growth, high unemployment, and growing evidence of a
radical right-wing subculture in the new states.