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Between Left and Right

Between Left and Right: The 2009 Bundestag Elections and the Transformation of the German Party System

edited by Eric Langenbacher
Copyright Date: 2010
Edition: 1
Published by: Berghahn Books
Pages: 210
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  • Book Info
    Between Left and Right
    Book Description:

    Germany remains a leader in Europe, as demonstrated by its influential role in the on-going policy challenges in response to the post 2008 financial and economic crises. Rarely does the composition of a national government matter as much as Germany's did following the 2009 Bundestag election. This volume, which brings together established and up-and coming academics from both sides of the Atlantic, delves into the dynamics and consequences surrounding this fateful election: How successful was Chancellor Angela Merkel's leadership of the Grand Coalition and what does her new partnership with the Free Democrats auger? In the face economic crisis, why did German voters empower a center-right market-liberal coalition? Why did the SPD, one of the oldest and most distinguished parties in the world self-destruct and what are the chances that it will recover? The chapters go beyond the contemporary situation and provide deeper analyses of the long-term decline of the catchall parties, structural changes in the party system, electoral behavior, the evolution of perceptions of gender in campaigns, and the use of new social media in German politics.

    eISBN: 978-0-85745-548-2
    Subjects: History, Political Science

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Introduction
    (pp. 1-23)
    Eric Langenbacher

    This volume analyzes the issues at play in and the consequences of the 2009 elections for the German lower house of parliament, the Bundestag. The results of this electoral contest are especially important because in the sixty years of the Federal Republic of Germany, there have never been such dire economic circumstances and thus an urgent need for robust public policy responses.¹ Nevertheless, the 27 September 2009 elections were surprisingly undramatic with the campaign widely considered to be “vapid,” “uninspiring,” “dull,” and boring.²New York Timescolumnist Roger Cohen even opined that it was like watching a city council race...

  4. Chapter 1 Lose-Lose Proposition: Policy Change and Party Politics in the Grand Coalition
    (pp. 24-47)
    Clay Clemens

    Grand coalitions between a parliament’s two largest parties enjoy the capacity to enact major change, whether such power sharing arrangements are common, as in Austria, or mere episodic experiments, as in countries ranging from Iceland to Israel—and Germany. For where more narrowly based governments run afoul of the Federal Republic’s “institutional pluralism,” an alliance of Christian Democratic Union/Christian Social Union (cdu/csu) and Social Democratic Party (spd) can “avoid or overcome structural gridlock” due to a huge Bundestag majority and enough Bundesrat seats to pass any bill.¹ Less clear is whether two traditional co-equal rivals willagreeon policy change....

  5. Chapter 2 The Shrinking Elephants: The 2009 Election and the Changing Party System
    (pp. 48-68)
    David P. Conradt

    On one level, there was nothing surprising about the results of the 2009 election, the seventeenth in the Federal Republic of Germany’s history. Contrary to the widespread speculations about “Germany’s Gathering Crisis,”² a renewal of the Grand Coalition or even an unprecedented three-party coalition, a familiar pair of parties emerged with enough votes and seats to govern for the next four years. The Christian Democrats (cdu/csu) and their long-time “junior” partner, the Free Democrats (fdp), were supported by 48.4 percent of the voters, which, thanks to the vagaries of the electoral system, yielded a comfortable majority of forty-two seats (53.4...

  6. Chapter 3 Bundestag Election 2009: Solidifying the Five Party System
    (pp. 69-85)
    Steven Weldon and Andrea Nüsser

    Even before the final polls closed and initial results were reported, it was evident there was something different about the 2009 German Bundestag election. Whereas recent election campaigns had been highly partisan and full of excitement and uncertainty, this one failed to capture the public’s imagination.Der Spiegellamented that the campaign was “the dullest in living memory,” while theEconomistcalled it “soporific.”¹ This apathy was reflected in the record low voter turnout of 70.8 percent, a near seven point drop from the previous low set in 2005.² Indeed, there seemed to be little at stake in this election...

  7. Chapter 4 The SPD and the Debacle of the 2009 German Federal Election: An Opportunity for Renewal
    (pp. 86-101)
    William E. Paterson and James Sloam

    The 2009 federal election was a disaster for the German Social Democratic Party (spd). Germany’s oldest party slumped to its worst result in the history of the Federal Republic, polling only 23 percent of the vote (down from 34 percent in 2005).¹ Furthermore, the historically low turnout (70.8 percent) disguised the true calamity of the spd’s performance: the party lost over six million voters—almost 40 percent of the sixteen million Germans who had voted for the party only four years earlier—who either stayed at home or switched party.² Given the traditional stability of German party politics, this marked...

  8. Chapter 5 Coalition Governance under Chancellor Merkel’s Grand Coalition: A Comparison of the Cabinets Merkel I and Merkel II
    (pp. 102-121)
    Thomas Saalfeld

    Chancellor Angela Merkel has headed federal governments in two different political settings. From 22 November 2005 to 27 October 2009, she was federal chancellor of a so-called “grand” coalition of Christian Democrats (cdu/csu) and Social Democrats (spd). After the voters had strengthened the liberal fdp in the election of 27 September 2009, Merkel was able to form her second cabinet with the cdu/csu’s preferred partner, the fdp. A comparison of the two Merkel cabinets presents an interesting puzzle. In 2005, the main center-right and center-left competitors for government leadership, cdu/csu, and spd, entered the grand coalition reluctantly, because no other...

  9. Chapter 6 Coalitions and Camps in the German Party System after the 2009 Bundestag Election
    (pp. 122-136)
    Frank Decker and Jared Sonnicksen

    When the interior designers of the Reichstag building were planning the conference rooms of the parliamentary groups back in the mid 1990s, they could not have yet anticipated the transformation of the party landscape that was to occur about a decade later. By now, the difference in size between the smallest major party, the Social Democrats (spd), and the largest small party, the Free Democrats (fdp), has become so narrow that there is a gaping void in the last few rows of the spd parliamentary conference room. At the same time, the fdp now needs a larger space because its...

  10. Chapter 7 Coalition Dynamics and the Changing German Party System
    (pp. 137-150)
    Charles Lees

    The outcome of the 2009 federal election is already familiar to students of German politics. In nominal terms, the distribution of party weights in the seventeenth Bundestag saw a shift in legislative power towards the smaller parties: with the fdp winning ninety-three seats (up from sixty-one in 2005), the Left Party seventy-six seats (up from fifty-four in 2005) and the Greens sixty-eight (up from fifty-one in 2005). As a result, the small parties now control 237 seats (or just over 38 percent) of the 622 seat Bundestag. By contrast, the combined seat share of just under 62 percent for the...

  11. Chapter 8 Gender Quota Compliance and Contagion in the 2009 Bundestag Election
    (pp. 151-172)
    Louise K. Davidson-Schmich

    The 2009 Bundestag election marks the seventh federal election in Germany since the Greens ushered in gender quotas for their electoral lists in the mid 1980s. The Greens’ decision to institute party statutes promoting women on the ballot was followed by the Social Democrats (spd) adopting a gender quota in 1988, and the Christian Democratic Union’s (cdu) introduction of a “quorum” in 1996. Today’s Left Party follows its PDS predecessor’s quota adopted in 1990.² After the Greens began using quotas, the percentage of Members of the Bundestag (mdb) who were female broke the 10 percent barrier for the first time...

  12. Chapter 9 The Internet, Political Participation and Election Turnout: A Case Study of Germany’s
    (pp. 173-191)
    Hartwig Pautz

    Germany’s representative democracy, based on strong political parties with an active membership, and legitimized through regular elections with high turnouts in the past, is said to be in crisis.² BothVolksparteien(people’s or catch-all parties)—the Social Democratic Party (spd) and the Christian Democratic Party (cdu/csu)—have lost members.³ The spd’s membership declined from 755,000 in 1999 to 530,000 in 2008, when the cdu for the first time exceeded the spd’s membership count, albeit only because of a less dramatic decrease in its own rank-and-file.⁴ Moreover, even after twenty years, neither these bigger parties nor the smaller parties have managed...

  13. Chapter 10 The Role of Foreign Policy in the 2009 Campaign and the Black-Yellow Future
    (pp. 192-204)
    Jan Techau

    The 2009 general election campaign in Germany widely was perceived as having been one of the dullest and least controversial political contests in the history of the Federal Republic of Germany. Throughout the entire campaign, very little polarization was observed between the six major contending political parties or the two frontrunners for the office of chancellor, Angela Merkel (Christian Democratic Union, cdu) and Frank Walter Steinmeier (Social Democratic Party, spd). Correspondingly, voter turnout was a mere 72.2 percent—an all-time low for national elections in Germany—reflecting the low mobilization power of this race. Before looking at the specific reasons...

  14. Contributors
    (pp. 205-207)
  15. Index
    (pp. 208-212)