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Christopher S. Allen, "'Empty Nets': Social Democracy and the 'Catch-All Party Thesis' in Germany and Sweden," Party Politics, 15 (September 2009), 635-653.

First paragraph:
Throughout the 1990s in Western Europe, the parties of the democratic left embraced a movement known as the 'third way'. Led by Tony Blair andGerhard Schröder (Blair and Schröder, 2000), these democratic left political leaders turned their parties further towards the centre. In taking this ideological step, these parties once again embraced - more than a generation later - the catch-all party thesis of Otto Kirchheimer (1966) that had proved electorally and programmatically successful for such parties in the 1960s and 1970s. Since the mid-1990s, however, these Social Democratic parties embraced centrist tactical and strategic changes that, while initially successful, contributed to their losing power by the early to mid-2000s.

Figures and Tables:
Table 1. Swedish election results and governments - 1994-2006
Table 2. German election results and governments - 1998-2005

Last Paragraph:
Is it possible for the SPD to consider the Left Party as a 'catch-all' possibility to its left? The article is not suggesting at all that the Left Party is salonfähig at the national level now. That may come in time, but only if the parliamentary institutional structure can 'domesticate' the party and - equally important - if the major parties come to see the Left Party not as an enemy of the state. Rather, if it becomes a party that respects electoral outcomes and represents a significant constituency that believes in the party's positions and bargains in good faith; then this is an outcome that Kirchheimer might find salutary.

Last updated October 2009