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John Leslie

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.

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Jonathan Olsen and Dan Hough

This article analyses the development of Left Party/PDS-SPD coalitions in the eastern German Länder. It develops an explanatory framework based on attempts to understand how red-green coalitions came into being in the 1990s. The article concludes that red-red coalitions emerge when four basic criteria are fulfilled: the SPD has few other viable potential coalition options and believes it can gain in strategic terms; the ideological distance between the Left Party/PDS and SPD is small; and the personal relationships between Land-level leaders are good. The paper also argues that the heterogeneity of the Left Party/PDS is likely to ensure that Land-specific solutions to Land-specific coalition dilemmas are very likely to remain of significance in the future.

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Charles Lees

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.

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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.

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Gerard Braunthal

The German Social Democratic Party (SPD) celebrated its 140 years

of existence on 23 May 2003 with the appropriate fanfare in Berlin.

Not too many other political parties in the world can match this survival

record, especially given the hostility of Chancellor Bismarck,

who in 1878 outlawed the fledgling party as an organization for

twelve years, and of Adolf Hitler, who in 1933 drove the party into

exile for twelve years. During the post-World War II era, the SPD

reestablished itself as a major party and shared in governing the

country from 1966 to 1982 and again from 1998 to the present. It

has left an imprint on the country’s domestic and foreign policies.

But in the twenty-first century’s initial years, the SPD, despite being

in power, is facing serious problems of maintaining membership and

electoral support.

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William E. Paterson and James Sloam

The 2009 German federal election marked a devastating defeat for the German Social Democratic Party (SPD). The debacle led some commentators to speculate about the end of the SPD as a “catch-all party“ and—given the recent poor performance of center-left parties across Europe—“the end of social democracy.“ In this article, we contextualize the result of the 2009 Bundestag election within the settings of German party politics and European social democracy, and show how the electoral disaster for the SPD can be explained by broad, long-term political developments. We nevertheless argue that the German Social Democrat's defeat in 2009 provides an opportunity for renewal at a time when the governing Conservative-Liberal coalition—already in disarray—must take some tough decisions with regard to the resource crunch in German public finances.

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Jonathan Olsen

In the 2009 federal election, the Social Democratic Party of Germany (SPD) achieved the worst electoral result in its history. Immediately afterwards, the party worked to improve its public image and fine-tune its policies and electoral message, hoping that state elections in the ensuring period might provide some momentum going into the next national election. Yet, in 2013, the Social Democrats improved their result only modestly, with Angela Merkel and the Christian Democratic/Christian Social Union (CDU/CSU) again gaining a decisive victory. This article explores the reasons behind the SPD's failure to radically improve its electoral showing, arguing that this can best be explained by a combination of the impact of the past—namely, the legacy of its economic reforms during the Schröder era and the SPD's disadvantages coming out of the previous Grand Coalition—as well as the weakness of its 2013 chancellor candidate, Peer Steinbrück, and the popularity of Angela Merkel. The article therefore suggests that the immediate future does not look particularly bright for the SPD: any chances of gaining the chancellorship are largely out of its hand, dependent on both stumbles by its rival, the CDU/CSU, as well as the taming of a possible coalition partner, the Left Party.

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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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Introduction

Merkeldämmerung

Eric Langenbacher

, although it was perhaps not quite as boring as recent electoral cycles. There were two big developments in the nine months before election day in September 2017. First was the saga of Martin Schulz and his Social Democratic Party ( spd ). A prominent social

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Gerard Braunthal

How prophetic! Could it be that the famous German pacifist and chief editor of Die Weltbühne was commenting seventy years ago not just on the Weimar SPD but also on the Bonn SPD of 1998? Gerhard Schröder, the party’s chancellor designate in April 1998, insisted that the SPD had to occupy the “New Middle” in the political spectrum if it ever was going to topple Helmut Kohl and his well-entrenched CDU/CSU-FDP government.