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Yet Another Grand Coalition

The Social Democrats at the Crossroads

Andreas M. Wüst

For the Social Democrats ( spd ), the result of the Bundestag election of 24 September 2017 was a disaster. With a vote share of just 20.5 percent, the party had to face its worst result in a national election since 1949. The outgoing Grand

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David Art

Abstract

The Alternative for Germany (AfD) made history by winning 12.6 percent of the vote and capturing ninety-four seats in the Bundestag in the federal elections of 2017. This article asks whether the AfD’s rise threatens to undermine the strategy of containment that contributed to the demise of previous incarnations of the radical right. It argues that the current strength of the AfD is a direct result of Angela Merkel’s decisions to rescue the Eurozone and to welcome over one million refugees since the fall of 2015. While the AfD is still likely to suffer a collapse similar to other radical right parties, its consolidation or strengthening would have major consequences for Germany and for Europe.

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The Race for Third

Small Parties in the 2017 Bundestag Election

David F. Patton

Small German parties achieved unprecedented success in the 2017 Bundestag election. 1 Leading the pack, the Alternative for Germany (AfD) took 12.6 percent of the vote to finish third, marking the first time since the Federal Republic’s founding

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Following our special issue on the 2002 Bundestag election, we now present an open issue of German Politics and Society.

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Pointing Fingers at the Media?

Coverage of the 2017 Bundestag Election

Alexander Beyer and Steven Weldon

The 2017 Bundestag election likely will long be remembered as a pivotal moment in German politics. 1 The far-right and openly anti-immigrant Alternative for Germany (Alternative für Deutschland, AfD) not only entered parliament for the first time

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Russell J. Dalton and Wilhelm Bürklin

The 2002 Bundestag elections demonstrate the emerging new style

of German electoral politics. Where once party competition was

built upon a stable base of Stammwähler, the catchword for 2002 was

the Wechselwähler—the changing voter. The traditional bonds to social

groups, such as class and religion, have steadily eroded across Bundestag

elections in the late twentieth century, and these bonds had a

diminished impact in 2002. Similarly, this chapter will demonstrate

that affective psychological ties that once connected citizens to their

preferred party have also weakened. Certainly some German voters

remain connected to a social milieu or a habitual party tie, but the

number of these voters is steadily decreasing.

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Melanie Kintz

The 2013 Bundestag election saw a very high turnover in MPs. The FDP, which previously held ninety-three seats in the Bundestag did not get re-elected, and about 100 members had announced their retirement prior to the election. This article looks at whether the 217 new members have a significantly different sociodemographic and career profile to the re-elected members. While providing an insight into the sociodemographic profiles and career tracks of German MPs, the article finds that not much has changed in sociodemographic profiles and career tracks to the Bundestag. Changes in the occupational structure, however, signal that for more and more MPs politics is becoming a long-term career.

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Angelika von Wahl

For decades conservative welfare states have reformed reluctantly. To understand recent family policy reforms in Germany we must add institutions and economics to any account of politics. This article focuses on the grand coalition of CDU/CSU and SPD formed after the 2005 Bundestag election. Two opposed assumptions pertain to grand coalitions: one holds that a coalition of parties with different ideologies will act according to the lowest common denominator resulting in policy inertia. The opposite holds that grand coalitions enable policy change because constraints are removed by the supermajority. This article develops five conditions for successful reform, arguing that traditional family policies directed at the protection of motherhood are shifting towards reconciliation policies that emphasize labor market activation and increased birth rates. The shift indicates 1) that even conservative states have the potential for bounded reform; and, 2) that agency—particularly partisan and coalitional interests—needs to be considered more seriously.

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Jan Techau

Foreign policy issues did not play a decisive role in the German general election campaign of 2009. While Chancellor Angela Merkel conducted a decidedly presidential campaign, her main rival, SPD Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier, found it difficult to break out of his role as Merkel's partner in the Grand Coalition the two had led for four years. This was especially true with respect to issues on foreign policy, where both candidates had cooperated rather smoothly. Neither the issue of Afghanistan (despite the hotly debated Kunduz airstrike), nor the unresolved issues of the future of the European Union's Lisbon Treaty could antagonize the main political protagonists in Germany. The overwhelming foreign policy consensus among the mainstream political forces remained intact. Nevertheless, the changing international landscape and increased German responsibilities abroad will turn foreign policy into a relevant campaign issue, probably as early as 2013, when, presumably, the next Bundestag elections will be held.

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Christoph Egle

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.