This article examines the candidates for the 2009 Bundestag election and asks three questions. First, did German political parties comply with their voluntarily-adopted gender quotas for their electoral lists—both in terms of the numbers of women nominated and their placement on the party list? Second, did parties without gender quotas place female candidates in promising list places? In other words, did quotas exert a “contagion effect“ and spur political groups without quotas to promote women's political careers? Third, what propensity did all parties have to nominate female candidates for direct mandate seats? Did the quotas used for the second vote have a spillover effect onto the first vote, improving women's odds of being nominated for constituency seats? I find that while the German parties generally complied with the gender quotas for their electoral lists, these quotas have had only limited contagion effects on other parties and on the plurality half of the ballot. Gender quotas in their current form have reached their limits in increasing women's representation to the Bundestag. To achieve gender parity, a change in candidate selection procedures, especially for direct mandates, would be required.
Louise K. Davidson-Schmich
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.
David F. Patton
In the 2009 German federal election, the small parties together captured 43.2 percent of the vote; three small parties boasted a result in the double digits. Four years later, none of the small parties finished above 8.6 percent and only two reentered the Bundestag. Notably, the FDP, one of the original West German parties, dropped out of the federal parliament for the first time. Yet, any talk of catch-all party revival and party system concentration needs qualification. As a group, the small parties received nearly a third of all votes cast—the second highest share in six decades. Those that did not make it into the Bundestag won 15.7 percent, a higher share than in any other federal election. This article examines the positioning of the leading small parties in the 2013 Bundestag election campaign and their respective electoral results; highlights party systemic as well as internal party factors to explain small party performance; reassesses the commonplace classification of small parties by whether there is an established legislative presence or not; and considers the positioning and performance of small parties in the years to come.
Hermann Schmitt and Andreas M. Wüst
When Chancellor Gerhard Schr?der went public and announced his plan for early elections on the evening of 22 May 2005, the SPD and the Green Party had just lost the state election in North-Rhine West-phalia. It was the last German state ruled by a Red-Green government, which left the federal government without any stable support in the Bundesrat. The chancellor's radical move resulted in early elections that neither the left (SPD and Greens) nor the conservative political camp (CDU/CSU and FDP) was able to win. While the citizens considered the CDU/CSU to be more competent to solve the country's most important problems, unemployment and the economy, the SPD once again presented the preferred chancellor. The new govrnment, build on a grand coalition of CDU/CSU and SPD, might be able to solve some of the structural problems of the country. While this will be beneficial for Germany as a whole, it will at the same time weaken the major German parties, which are running the risk of becoming politically indistinguishable.
Louise K. Davidson-Schmich
In Germany, the Bundestag and the Landtage (state parliaments) in the old Länder (states) have such consistently high levels of party discipline that there is not enough variance to determine the cause of this behavior. The creation of five new democratic state legislatures after the fall of the German Democratic Republic, however, provides a unique opportunity to investigate the origins of party voting. I test which of three hypothesized institutional mechanisms for this practice—the need to keep an executive in office, efficiency incentives, or electoral concerns—was primarily responsible for the emergence of party discipline in the new Länder. The evidence indicates that the need to support the executive branch is the primary cause of party voting. This finding helps explain both the unexpected rise of western German-style party discipline in the eastern states following unification, well as the persistence of the seemingly outdated practice of party discipline in contemporary Germany as a whole.
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.
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.
The eighteenth Bundestag elections of 22 September 2013 brought important changes to the Bundestag party system, some of which are contingent but others of which are more systemic and profound. The narrow failure of the FDP to scale the electoral threshold has had an impact on coalition negotiations and the improvement in the overall vote share for the CDU/CSU and the SPD, for the first time since the 1960s represents a significant, if probably only temporary, concentration of the German party system in the Bundestag. More systemically, the election saw a continuation of the ongoing redistribution of voting power in the Bundestag in favor of the catch-all parties as formateurs. The article also discusses how the increased importance of the potential formateuer parties has gone hand-in-hand with a greater focus on the individual leading candidates, and concludes that this is particularly good news for the CDU/CSU, given the political qualities of Angela Merkel and the failure of the SPD to find and support a leading candidate that can match her political acumen.
Louise K. Davidson-Schmich
Since the adoption of candidate gender quotas, women have always fared better in the “second” or PR tier of Bundestag elections than in the “first” or plurality tier, where quotas do not apply. This gap, however, has been closing. In the 2009 Bundestag election, 27 percent of the major parties' direct mandate candidates were women compared to almost 30 percent in 2013. All parties experienced an increase in the percentage of women among their nominees for direct mandates between 2009 and 2013. Why have the numbers of female candidates for the 299 directly elected Bundestag constituencies been increasing? This increase is puzzling because gender quotas have not been extended to this tier of the electoral system and candidate selection rules have not changed. This article explores five potential mechanisms that may be driving the observed rise in women nominated as constituency candidates. I argue that the main reasons for these increases lie in the advantages female incumbents incur, the openings presented when male incumbents retire, and the diffusion of female candidates across parties and neighboring Wahlkreise after one woman manages to win a direct mandate. I develop these conclusions by comparing candidate nominations and direct mandate winners in the 2009 and 2013 Bundestag elections.
James Ryan Anderson
In a little more than a decade, Germany’s role in international affairs—
particularly from a military perspective—has radically changed. Whereas
German participation during the Persian Gulf War of 1991 was
basically limited to providing financial support to the international
coalition led by the United States, by the end of 2001, German soldiers
were operating under combat conditions in the United Nations peacekeeping
mission to Afghanistan. During (and even before) this transition,
little attention has been devoted to the German Bundestag’s
constitutional role as overseer of executive foreign affairs activities.