The study of German electoral politics has been neglected of late, despite being one of the most pervasive elements of the German political process. This book argues that concentration on electoral politics facilitates deeper understanding and appreciation of the German political system. It provides explanations and analysis of the federal electoral system, its evolution and the challenges that have been made to its format; discusses the role of electoral politics in relation to political parties and to the public; and the influence of second-order elections in the German political system. The book goes on to evaluate the effectiveness of the German electoral system in relation to its functions, and challenges the premise that electoral politics makes a difference in Germany. Ultimately, it aims to reconcile the apparently limited role that elections have in determining the composition of governments with the notion that there is a ‘permanent election campaign’ in existence in German politics.
Elections, parties and the political system
There are many ways of analysing Germanpolitics. Recent studies have,
for example, focused on policymaking, on institutions (Helms 2000), and
on the interface between Germanpolitics and the politics of the European
Union (Bulmer, Jeﬀery and Paterson 2000; Sturm and Pehle 2001). All
these approaches are valid, but none captures all the intricate interconnections and multiple dimensions of the political process in Germany.
The once-popular focus on electoral politics has been neglected of late,
yet it can be
elections, it has been claimed that – as is the case in other countries –
Germanpolitics is one continuous election campaign. Certainly there is
evidence of this. A recent example is the manoeuvring of Angela Merkel,
the chair of the CDU, immediately following the failure of the Christian
Democrats to win the 2002 election, to position herself as the next chancellor-candidate for the CDU–CSU by claiming the leadership of the
parliamentary party group in the Bundestag. This has resulted in pressure two years ahead of the next election for the Christian Democrats to
Note: 1949–87: West Germany; 1990–2010: Germany including the former German
Source: Infratest Dimap
since the Great Recession) to a fundamental contradiction in Germanpolitics.
Even though the welfare state is highly popular, its actual provisions are subordinated to world market success. Austerity is thus, however grudgingly, accepted
as necessary in order
and political union in institutional as well as in substantive terms, i.e. economic policy co-ordination
at the EC level and a coherent and effective CFSP; the continuation of
Franco-German co-operation; and a strengthening of the military capacities of the Union through the integration of the WEU into the EU ambit.12
The basic perception of European integration remains unchanged, particularly with regard to the role of the EC institutions. The Germanpolitical
elite continues to aim at the phased creation of a legally independent,
state-like political entity with
the government and internal contradictions in the consensus ‘policy of responsibility’, which incorporated some of
the core notions of both ‘never again alone’ and ‘never again war’, prompted a
beginning of a rethink on the centre right of Germanpolitics.
Cross-pressures on the government: Conservative and Liberal reactions
The situation in the Gulf placed the ruling CDU/FDP coalition in an unpleasant dilemma. On the one hand, international partners pressed for a German
show of solidarity. On the other hand, the notion of a military solution ran
counter to the
Peace movements in East and West Germany in the 1980s
-violence as a core element in Germanpolitical culture, finding its first expression in the united Germany in the
demonstrations against the US military intervention in Iraq in 1991–92.
This approach therefore does not regard ‘1989’ as a magic caesura. Rather,
it is interested in emphasising continuities in discussions about peace and
war in East and West Germany that go beyond a mere analysis of events
The political conditions in both parts of the country differed
fundamentally. While protesters in the Federal Republic were, in general,
able to enjoy the
, National Elections and the Autonomy of American State Party
Systems (Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press, 1996).
2 For a general overview of the German party system, see, for example, Gerard
Braunthal, Parties and Politics in Modern Germany (Boulder: Westview Press,
1996) and Christopher S. Allen (ed.), The Transformation of the GermanPolitical Party System (New York: Berghahn, 1999). See also Thomas Poguntke,
“Das Parteiensystem der Bundesrepublik Deutschland: Von Krise zu Krise?,”
in 50 Jahre Bundesrepublik Deutschland, edited by Thomas Ellwein and Everhard
-plus-four treaty that formed the legal basis
of the German unification of 1990, a violation of international law. In its
Deutschlandpolitik (Germanypolitics) the party ‘appeals to the directive of
the constitution and to the ruling of the Federal Constitutional Court, which
hold that everything should be done and nothing should be refrained from,
that leads to the unity of Germany’ (REP 1990: 4).
Though the party at times uses nationalist arguments for German unification it is not consistent in its demand for external exclusiveness. According
to the ethnic nationalist tenet
the imposition of the Treaty of Versailles. All the left groups were aware of the
threat of a rightist coup under these conditions, and feared that conservative and
traditionalist forces, not least in the reactionary stronghold of Bavaria, were
conspiring with newly emerging groups influenced in part by Mussolini and
As Nazism followed its winding course from the margins of Germanpolitical life, in Britain it was the far left which subjected it to the closest scrutiny.
Though British Marxism became increasingly associated with the CPGB in the