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The Left Party and the Long-Term Developments of the German Party System

Kimmo Elo

In mainstream analyses of the German political system, the emergence of the Left Party (Die Linke) is presented as an unexpected consequence of German unification and as an indication of the existence of an East-West divide. This view is for the most part based on the idea that German unification is a process of political integration of the East into the West. Such an understanding, however, downplays the long-term developments in the German party system. This article examines the emergence of the Left Party in light of both the long-term developmental tendencies of the German party system and findings from comparative studies among other West European countries. The article concludes that the main reason for the current political stalemate is the incapability of the postwar Volksparteien to respond to changes in political space and action. Based on evidence from comparative studies, the article also suggests a pragmatic rethinking especially in the SPD is necessary in dealings with the Left Party.

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From the Eternal Grand Coalition to the Traffic Light Alliance

The German Party System before and after the 2021 Federal Election

Frank Decker and Philipp Adorf

interplay of three factors: the candidates, the issues, and coalition dynamics. Concerning the last, the party system is now defined by a great deal of flexibility, as both the spd and the Greens have become open to entering alliances with the Left Party

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Postcommunist Germany

Comparing Eastern Germany and Central and Eastern Europe's Political Development

Hadas Aron

. Party systems in CEE are fragmented and volatile, facilitating the entry of or takeover by radical parties; elites in some CEE countries are deeply polarized on social and cultural issues and the meaning of national identity; and discontent with the

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Political Labels and Post-Politics

A Comparative Analysis of the Party Spectrum in Israel, Hungary, and Poland

Artur Skorek

these political labels in explaining the structure of party systems in the three countries. Comparative analysis allows us to identify their common traits and enhances our understanding of the Israeli case as part of a broader tendency. The article is

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Is There a Single German Party System?

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.

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Bundestag Election 2009: Solidifying the Five Party System

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.

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Party System Development in Times of Globalization

A Spatial Perspective

Christian Martin

Party systems in advanced democracies have undergone profound changes over the last four decades. Newly emerged parties both on the “new left” and the “new right” have shifted political competition from a left–right economic axis to a “new

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Coalition Dynamics and the Changing German Party System

Charles Lees

The article draws upon the formal coalition literature to demonstrate that party system change over the last thirty years means that the Volksparteien enjoy more coalition options and greater ideological leverage within coalitions that form than was the case in the past. The Free Democrats have lost their kingmaker status and the distribution of party weights over recent elections allows no other small party to act in this manner. By contrast, the numerical and ideological resources possessed by the two Volksparteien means that they remain the only parties within the German party system that can act as formateur in the coalition game and are less vulnerable to threats of a decisive defection by small parties to alternative coalitions than they were in the past.

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Coalitions and Camps in the German Party System after the 2009 Bundestag Election

Frank Decker and Jared Sonnicksen

The recent Bundestag election in Germany warrants consideration for a number of reasons, not the least of which is that the results are indicative of several trends developing since unification and that will continue to play an important, if not ever increasing role in German politics. These developments include the intensifying fragmentation of the German party system and German voters' growing electoral volatility, both of which are hampering the parties' ability to form government coalitions. In the following article, we distill five fundamental aspects of the election. Building upon this analysis, we explore their meaning as well as potential impact on the German party system and partisan competition, as well as coalition patterns. At the same time, we address the overarching question of whether—and if so, to what extent—German politics is experiencing a trend toward bipolarity between a center-right and left camp and whether such an antagonistic model will be a passing phase or is indicative of a more established five-party system in Germany.

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The Shrinking Elephants: The 2009 Election and the Changing Party System

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.