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Thomas Poguntke, "Towards a new party system: The vanishing hold of the catch-all parties in Germany," Party Politics, 20 (November, 2014), 950-963. [Available at http://ppq.sagepub.com/content/vol20/issue6/ ]

First paragraph:
The German party system, a model of efficient government formation and predictable coalition options, reached an important watershed with the Baden-Württemberg Land elections of March 2011. For the first time in many decades, the premiership went to a party other than CDU/CSU or SPD: On 12 May 2011, the Land parliament of Baden-Württemberg elected the first ever green Prime Minister. Equally significant, the SPD had to concede, also for the first time, that she may have to take the passenger's seat in a coalition with the Greens. Clearly, this is a long way from the days of the first federal red-green government led by Chancellor Schröder, who famously reminded the Greens not to forget who was to be 'the chef and who the waiter' in such a collaboration.

Figure 1. Effective number of parties Bund-Länder (electorate).
Figure 2. Bundestag election results.
Figure 3. Party system symmetry.
Figure 4. Bundestag elections: Other parties.
Figure 5. Turnout in German elections 1949-2012.
Figure 6. Annual mean volatility in land elections.
Figure 7. Membership ratio (M/E) of German parties 1960-2010.
Figure 8. Recruitment success of German parties I.
Figure 9. Recruitment success of German parties II.

Last Paragraph:
Clearly, this represents a challenge for the functioning of party government in a political culture that is generally characterized by profound distrust vis-à-vis politicians. Yet, this may simply be another sign of a wider normalization of German party politics. After all, the smooth functioning of the German party system in the 1960s and 1970s was, from a comparative perspective, always the exception rather than the rule. Parliamentary democracies were overwhelmingly governed by coalition governments which emerged after complex post-election negotiations. Furthermore, multiparty systems were the rule, and we have seen a substantial erosion of previously stable party system formats elsewhere, for example in The Netherlands or the Scandinavian countries. Hence, looking back on 60 years of party politics, this period of stability is also increasingly less looking like the norm in Germany, as phases of flux and instability take up a larger portion of post-war history. As the taboo zones identified by Gordon Smith have become weaker on the right and have all but disappeared on the left, Germany increasingly functions like a normal party democracy.

Last updated November 2014