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Charles Lees, "The paradoxical effects of decline Assessing party system change and the role of the catch-all parties in Germany following the 2009 federal election," Party Politics 18 (July, 2012), 545-562 [Available at http://ppq.sagepub.com/content/vol18/issue4/ ]

First paragraph:
This article examines the impact of party system change in Germany on the role, status and power of the two catch-all parties (CDU/CSU and SPD) in the light of the 2009 federal election. It argues that party system change has had a paradoxical impact. On the one hand, the decline in the overall catch-all vote undermines the two parties' integrative function. On the other, the presence of three small parties (FDP, Greens, Left Party) means that, with the possible exception of the Greens, no single small party has the potential to be 'kingmaker' and, because of their relative positions in ideological space, neither can they act in concert to extract concessions from the two catch-all parties. Thus, despite the impressive performance of the FDP in the 2009 federal election and the electoral meltdown suffered by the SPD, in office-seeking terms the catch-all parties are currently less vulnerable to small party threats of defection to alternative coalitions.

Figures and Tables:
Table 1. Federal election results and percentage change by political party, 2009 and 2005
Figure 1. Percentage share of total vote (Zweitstimme) for the Volksparteien in German Federal elections, 1949-2009
Figure 2. Herfindal-Hirschman Index of Federal German Party System Cohesion/Fragmentation, 1949-2009
Figure 3. Number of minimal winning coalitions and coalitions with swing following German Federal elections, 1949-2009
Figure 4. Standardized Banzhaf scores for CDU/CSU, SPD and FDP following German Federal elections 1949-2009
Table 2. Mparties, MpartiesK and coalition outcomes following German Federal elections, 1983-2009
Figure 5. The strategic environment in the Federal German party system

Last Paragraph:
(first paragraph of conclusions) This article has described how, after a period of consolidation, the last three decades has seen the German party system undergo four types of change. First, there has been an overall decline in the overall vote and seat-share for the two Volksparteien. Second, there has been an increased level of fragmentation in the party system. Third, the emergence of the Greens and then the PDS led to a skew to the left in the party system that has shifted the position of the median legislator. As a result, the FDP is no longer decisive in the coalition game. Fourth, we have seen the emergence of a new territorial cleavage associated with German Unification, although this seems to be less salient than it was in the years immediately after unification. All of these changes have to some extent had an impact on party competition and in particular the role, status and relative power of the two German catch-all parties.

Last updated August 2012