The German electoralsystem
Do electoralsystems matter?
Evidence suggests that electoralsystems do matter, and that politicians
and the public think that they make a diﬀerence. There have been many
examples of electoralsystems which have been changed: some in order
to obtain partisan advantage, such as Mitterrand’s self-serving experiment with proportional representation for the French National Assembly
elections in March 1986. In other cases, reform has been undertaken in
order to improve the representation function of the electoralsystem: the
Independents and the electoralsystem
One factor frequently cited to explain the rare and unusual presence
of independents in Ireland is the use of a rare and unusual electoralsystem, PR-STV. Strom (1990, 103) says that ‘to a large extent the survival of these independents is a function of the Irish PR-STV electoralsystem’; Carty that ‘the single transferable vote can lead to the proliferation of independent candidates’ (1981, 23); Coakley that ‘the most
distinctive consequence of Ireland’s version of proportional representation is the presence
The principles of the German electoralsystem
The German electoralsystem is a key feature of the political process. Some understanding of its detailed aspects is necessary for an appreciation of how the party system and the processes of government work. Even some of the less familiar provisions of the electoralsystem, such as ‘surplus seats’ (see Box 4.1 ), have at times in the past affected significantly the composition of the Bundestag, and hence have influenced the range of possible coalition governments which can be formed.
Box 4.1 The German
Creating an electoralsystem:
The years after the French and American revolutions witnessed growing demands for electoral reform in what was soon to become the
United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland. The main demand
was for the franchise to be widened from a very small proportion of
the male population, almost all of them property owners; a working-
class mass demonstration in Manchester demanding the right to vote
resulted in the Peterloo ‘massacre’ of 1819, when a crowd of some
70,000 protesters was charged by cavalry, with several hundreds
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.
This book offers an overview of the principal features of the German political
system. It emphasises four important characteristics of the system: the way in
which twentieth-century history shaped the post-Second World War political
system; the stability and adaptability of that system; the unusual importance
within the political system of legal rules; and the significance of
Germany's association with European integration. The book surveys the
Basic Law, designed in 1948-1949 as a direct response to the failure of
Germany's first experiment with democracy: the regime of the Weimar
Republic. The book describes the events of the fateful years 1989 and 1990,
which led to reunification, in three phases: the downfall of the old regime in
the German Democratic Republic; the period of adjustment and transition to a
democratic regime in Germany; and the process and consequences of reunification
itself. The book also examines the principal influences which have shaped the
present-day political system, the electoral system and electoral behaviour of
the Federal Republic, and the features of the 'party state'.
It reviews the structure, operation and political effects of Germany's
particular version of federalism and analyses the core institutions of
government. The structure and powers of the legislative chambers, the
legislative process, and the role of the elected representative are also
discussed. Finally, the book charts the path taken by West Germany to develop
links to 'Europe', and explores the ways in which membership
of what has become the European Union impinges upon the domestic politics of the
Independent politicians are the metaphorical equivalent of sheep who stray from the flock, who would rather discover fresh pastures than graze on their own. This book includes a study, a detailed analysis of these independents, primarily of the factors that explain their presence and survival in the midst of one of the longest enduring party democracies in the world. Independents have been a constant feature of the Irish electoral landscape, since the 1922 elections in the Irish Free State. The structure of the book is built around five central premises that explain the permissiveness of independents. The book discusses the openness of the party system, indicating the Downsian nature of independents as they represent groups not catered for by the parties. It presents an overview of independents' electoral fate in other parliamentary democracies, with a focus on Australia and Japan, before examining their fate in Irish elections. In the Irish case, the level of heterogeneity between independents has varied. Providing an insight into the make-up of the independent voter, the book examines the contributions of seven independent politicians, who between them have sat in local government, the Dail, the Seanad and the European Parliament. A party-centred culture is a suppressing agent against independents. In contrast, a permissive candidate-centred culture in Ireland contributes to their significance. Such a political culture is facilitated by a permissive electoral system. The presence of non-party parliamentarians in a mature and stable party democracy is the puzzle that the book has sought to solve.
Political systems are shaped by the societies in which they function. For this reason, it is helpful to know something about the historical, geographical, social and economic settings against which they operate. It is also helpful to understand something of the values and ideas which have mattered and continue to matter to those who inhabit any individual country. This book examines the background factors that help to shape the way in which political life and processes operate in Britain and America. In particular, it examines the similarities and differences in the political culture of the countries. Constitutions describe the fundamental rules according to which states are governed, be they embodied in the law, customs or conventions. Liberties and rights are of especial concern in liberal democracies, which claim to provide a broad range of them. The book examines the protection of liberties in both countries, in particular the right of freedom of expression. In advanced Western democracies, the media perform a major role. The book deals with the impact on political life of the two major mass media: the press and television. Elections are the main mechanism for expressing the public's collective desires about who should be in government and what the government should do. The book examines a number of issues about the functioning of elections in two democracies, looking at the electoral system, and the way in which voters behave and the influence upon their voting.
Representational democracy is at the heart of the UK’s political constitution, and the electoral system is central to achieving it. But is the first-past-the-post system used to elect the UK parliament truly representative? To answer that question requires an understanding of several factors: debates over the nature of representation; the evolution of the current electoral system; how first-past-the-post distorts electoral politics; and how else elections might be conducted. Running through all these debates are issues over the representation not only of people but also of places. The book examines all of these issues and focuses on the effect of geography on the operation of the electoral system.
asserted that electoral politics is one of the most pervasive
elements of the German political process, indeed the bedrock upon which
the political system is supported. It is also still an important approach –
if not always in the ways in which it is important in other European
democracies such as the United Kingdom or France. In this book, the case
is made for retaining some degree of concentration on electoral politics
in order to understand and appreciate the German political system and
The starting-point has to be the electoralsystem. The