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Geoffrey K. Roberts

2 The German electoral system Do electoral systems matter? Evidence suggests that electoral systems do matter, and that politicians and the public think that they make a difference. There have been many examples of electoral systems 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 electoral system: the change to

in German electoral politics
Liam Weeks

6 Independents and the electoral system Introduction One factor frequently cited to explain the rare and unusual presence of independents in Ireland is the use of a rare and unusual electoral system, PR-STV. Strom (1990, 103) says that ‘to a large extent the survival of these independents is a function of the Irish PR-STV electoral system’; 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

in Independents in Irish party democracy
Geoffrey K. Roberts

The principles of the German electoral system The German electoral system 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 electoral system, 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

in German politics today (third edition)
Ron Johnston
Charles Pattie
, and
David Rossiter

3 Creating an electoral system: 1832–1918 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

in Representative democracy?
A comparative guide
Series: Understandings

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.

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.

Series: Politics Today

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 Federal Republic.


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.

Elisabeth Carter

the impact electoral systems have on parties of the extreme right. It begins by concentrating on the two main dimensions of electoral systems – the district magnitude and the electoral formula – and it investigates the ways in which these features may influence how well right-wing extremist parties perform at the polls. Then, by examining their disproportionality profiles, it considers the overall effect that electoral systems have on the West European parties of the extreme right. Since electoral systems form only a part of the electoral laws of a country, in a

in The extreme right in Western Europe
Geoffrey K. Roberts

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 political process. The starting-point has to be the electoral system. The

in German electoral politics