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To What Extent Has The German Electoral

To What Extent Has The German Electoral System Shaped Its Party System And The Development Of The Ma Essay Research Paper In order to answer this question it is my intention to examine four different areas First of all the electoral system use.

System Shaped Its Party System And The Development Of The Ma Essay, Research Paper

??????????? In order to answer this question, it

is my intention to examine four different areas.? First of all, the electoral system used in the Federal Republic

of Germany (FRG); secondly, the party system and the major parties that have

emerged in the FRG; thirdly, the interaction that has taken place between the

electoral system and the party system; and fourthly, other factors beside the

electoral system which have helped to shape the party system.? By breaking down the question in this way,

it is my intention to show that, although the electoral system did have, and continues

to have, a role in the shaping of the party system in the FRG, it is far from

being the most important factor. ??????????? National elections in the Federal

Republic must be held at least every four years according to Article 39 of the

Basic Law, and can be held more often if the government loses it majority.? In this case, the Federal President

dissolves the Bundestag, and fresh elections are called, as occurred in 1972

when Brandt and the SPD lost their majority.?

There are 656 seats in the Bundestag, with half of the members being

elected by a direct majority vote system.?

The other half are elected from lists within the L?nder which are drawn

up by the parties.? These seats are

distributed proportionately.? This means

that at a national election, two votes are cast.? The first is for a direct representative, and the second is for a

party.? However, the vote for the party

is more important, because it is the number of party votes cast which

determines what percentage of the seats in the Bundestag a party may

control.? The seats gained by direct election

are subtracted from the number of seats won proportionately, and then the

remainder of seats are allocated from the Land lists. ??????????? There are two important exceptions

to this simple model which must be noted.?

The first is that a party which wins more seats by the majority voting

system than it would normally be allowed its proportion of the vote is allowed

to keep these seats.? In this case the

Bundestag is simply expanded, as occurred in 1994, with 16 seats being added to

make the size of the Bundestag 672 seats.?

This clause was not particularly important until 1990, not seeing use in

many elections, but since then has been a regular feature.? The second exception is the five percent

clause, which prevents any party which has not polled at least five percent

nationally from gaining any representation in the Bundestag.? However, this clause is swayed for parties

which have managed to directly elect three or more candidates. ??????????? This, then is the electoral system

that is used in the FRG.? The party

system which has emerged cannot be described so briefly.? Essentially, there are four main parties in

German politics, the Christian Democratic Union (CDU), the Christian Social

Union (CSU), the Social Democratic Party (SPD) and the Free Democratic Party

(FDP).? Since the CDU and CSU form one

block in the Bundestag, they can often, although not always, be considered one

party, with the CDU putting up no candidates for election in Bavaria, and the

CSU putting up no candidates for election outside Bavaria.? So, one is left with three groupings,

CDU/CSU, SDP and FDP.? However, it must

be noted that these are not equal groupings by any means.? Their inequality can be seen from election

results.? In the first election in 1949,

the CDU/CSU gained 141 seats, the SPD 136 seats and the FDP only 53 seats.? So the FDP has always been by far the

smaller of the three main groupings. ??????????? It is interesting to note that this

system gives a great deal of power to the FDP, because it is essentially they

who decide which of the other parties will be able to form a government.? In the early days of the FRG, this had the

effect of ensuring that that CDU/CSU would be in government, because the FDP

could not contemplate entering into coalition with the SPD whilst the latter

still formally espoused Marxism and a move towards a more socialist state.? However, by 1969 the FDP felt able to enter

into coalition with the SPD, after the latter had renounced at Bad Godesburg in

1959 its commitment to changing the economic base.? The role of the FDP clearly shows the importance of the centre in

German politics.? This will be discussed

in more detail later in the essay. ??????????? An examination of the history of the

FDP, and indeed the election statistics of the FRG in general, will show that

the electorate has, in fact, a remarkably small role in choosing the

government.? Both the CDU/CSU and the

SPD have consistently failed to gain an overall majority in the Bundestag, with

the exception only of the CDU/CSU majority in 1957.? Thus the government is formed, to a certain extent, according to

whoever can enter into coalition with whom.?

At first glance, this appears to show a severe democratic deficit, and

to some extent it does, but this is mitigated by the constitutional role

assigned to political parties by the Basic Law of the FRG. ??????????? Article 21 of the Basic Law states

that parties ?participate in the forming of the political will of the

people?.? Whereas in Britain political

parties are regarded as having a largely representative function, with the

people influencing the parties but not vice versa, in Germany the idea of a

two-way relationship between parties and the people is enshrined in the Basic

Law.? Thus, the parties are responsible

not just for listening to the people but also for influencing the political opinions

of the people.? This aspect of the party

system makes the German system quite different from, for example, the British

system, and to some extent makes up for the fact that the electorate have

relatively little influence on the formation of a government. ??????????? Another aspect of the party system

which is worthy of mention is the infrequent changes in government which

characterise the FRG.? This can perhaps

be best shown in a table: Election Year Party/parties

in government 1949 CDU/CSU and FDP 1953 CDU/CSU and FDP 1957 CDU/CSU 1961 CDU/CSU and FDP 1965 Until 1966:CDU/CSU and

FDP After 1966:CDU/CSU and

SDP 1969 SDP and FDP 1972 SPD and FDP 1976 SPD and FDP 1980 Until 1982:SPD and FDP After 1982:CDU/CSU and

FDP 1983 CDU/CSU and FDP 1987 CDU/CSU and FDP 1990 CDU/CSU and FDP 1994 CDU/CSU and FDP 1998 SPD and Greens These results show

that in its entire history the FRG has had essentially only three changes in

government (1965, 1980 and 1998) and two of these (1965 and 1980) did not even

occur in election years.? While this

emphasises the apparent lack of voter input into the forming of governments, it

also shows the stability of the German system.?

It is worth noting the emergence of the Greens in 1998, not only as a

viable political force but as a party of government.? This will be examined in more detail later in the essay. ??????????? Moving on to the third section of

the essay, the electoral system has had a role to play in moulding this party

system.? Firstly, the five percent

clause has contributed to the fact that until 1994 there were only three viable

political parties in the FRG (counting the CDU/CSU as one party).? Small parties have been largely prevented

from entering the Bundestag, since it is very difficult for smaller parties to

win seats for directly elected candidates, and so cannot take advantage of the

three district waiver to the five percent clause.? For example, the far right NPD achieved 4.3% of the vote in 1969,

and so failed to achieve any representation in the Bundestag. ??????????? Secondly, the system of proportional

representation has led to the need for coalition governments.? As is often the case in a proportional

system, it very hard in the FRG for any one party to achieve an overall

majority.? Indeed this has only been

achieved once, by the CDU/CSU in 1957.?

The net result of this is that the FDP is far more important and influential,

as the third party, than its share of the vote would indicate.? For example, between 1969 and 1982, SPD

voters were often encouraged to split their votes, assigning the first vote to

the SPD and the second to the FDP.? This

was because the SPD could not govern on its own, and so needed to keep the FDP

in the Bundestag.? The only way to do

this was to make sure that the FDP achieved at least 5% of the vote.? The electoral system, then, ensures the

survival of the FDP and thrusts it into a position of prominence despite its

small size. ??????????? There are, however, numerous other

factors which have a significant effect on the party system that have nothing

to do with the electoral system.? In

answer to the claim that the electoral system prevents the emergence of

numerous splinter groups and small parties, it could be argued that such

parties would be unlikely to gain a following in Germany anyway.? This is partly due to the role of the

Federal Constitutional Court, which is empowered under article 21 of the Basic

Law to ban outright any party which is deemed to be anti-democratic.? This power has been used twice, to ban the

Socialist Reich Party and the Communist Party in the 1950?s, and there is

currently debate over whether the NPD should also be banned.? Thus parties on the extremes of left and

right would find it very difficult to enter politics. ??????????? Furthermore, the centrist tendencies

of German voters have led to the main parties claiming the centre ground of

German politics.? It is the case that

voting patterns are still based for many on social class.? For example, in 1990 the SPD gained the

votes of 60% of manual workers, while 60% of the self employed and professional

class voted for the CDU/CSU.? However,

both of these parties are broadly centrist and aim to be catch-all parties.? By this it is meant that the both the

CDU/CSU and SPD attempt to appeal to all sections of the population.? This has not always been the case, however,

since until 1959 the SPD was still officially a socialist workers party. ??????????? Historically, it is interesting to

note that the early years of the FRG were dominated by the CDU/CSU under

Adenauer.? This is important, because

the early elections (1953, 1957) were really nothing more than a referendum as

to whether the people felt that Adenauer and his party were doing a good

job.? Clearly, the German people were

impressed with the CDU/CSU record, and it is no surprise that this is the case,

since it was under this government that the German ?economic miracle? took

place which restored West Germany to a position of relative prosperity far

quicker than anyone would have imagined.?

This long period of CDU/CSU dominance in the formative years of the FRG

made it impossible for any party which was not broadly committed to some form

of social capitalism to gain votes, which led to the SPD at Bad Godesburg being

forced to move towards the centre.? Thus

this early economic recovery played a vital role in determining the shape of

the party system. ??????????? It is also worth mentioning the

massive changes which have taken place in ideology across Europe, and arguably

much of the world, in the 1970?s, 80?s and 90?s.? Increasingly the old materialist concerns are giving way to new,

post-materialist concerns, and this is reflected in the current shape of the

German party system.? The Green Party is

an example of a party which has no connection with the previous materialist

concerns, but is based on environmental issues, a very modern phenomenon.? However, since their entry into government

it appears the Greens have abandoned many of their values, and it will be

interesting to see whether they can survive as a viable political force. ??????????? In conclusion, then, the party

system in Germany has been affected by many factors, including the role

assigned to parties in the Basic Law, the role of the Federal Constitutional

Court, sociology, and history, as well as the electoral system.? It is difficult to see how any of these

factors could be said to be pre-eminent, since they are intertwined to such a

great extent, and it is also difficult to predict how the system will change in

the future.? The PDS, the remains of the

old communist party in the GDR, is now in the Bundestag, and it is impossible

to say how long they will stay there.?

Likewise the Greens.? However, on

the whole the history of the FRG is one of stable government, and this can be

attributed to all of the factors noted above. ??????????? In order to answer this question, it

is my intention to examine four different areas.? First of all, the electoral system used in the Federal Republic

of Germany (FRG); secondly, the party system and the major parties that have

emerged in the FRG; thirdly, the interaction that has taken place between the

electoral system and the party system; and fourthly, other factors beside the

electoral system which have helped to shape the party system.? By breaking down the question in this way,

it is my intention to show that, although the electoral system did have, and continues

to have, a role in the shaping of the party system in the FRG, it is far from

being the most important factor. ??????????? National elections in the Federal

Republic must be held at least every four years according to Article 39 of the

Basic Law, and can be held more often if the government loses it majority.? In this case, the Federal President

dissolves the Bundestag, and fresh elections are called, as occurred in 1972

when Brandt and the SPD lost their majority.?

There are 656 seats in the Bundestag, with half of the members being

elected by a direct majority vote system.?

The other half are elected from lists within the L?nder which are drawn

up by the parties.? These seats are

distributed proportionately.? This means

that at a national election, two votes are cast.? The first is for a direct representative, and the second is for a

party.? However, the vote for the party

is more important, because it is the number of party votes cast which

determines what percentage of the seats in the Bundestag a party may

control.? The seats gained by direct election

are subtracted from the number of seats won proportionately, and then the

remainder of seats are allocated from the Land lists. ??????????? There are two important exceptions

to this simple model which must be noted.?

The first is that a party which wins more seats by the majority voting

system than it would normally be allowed its proportion of the vote is allowed

to keep these seats.? In this case the

Bundestag is simply expanded, as occurred in 1994, with 16 seats being added to

make the size of the Bundestag 672 seats.?

This clause was not particularly important until 1990, not seeing use in

many elections, but since then has been a regular feature.? The second exception is the five percent

clause, which prevents any party which has not polled at least five percent

nationally from gaining any representation in the Bundestag.? However, this clause is swayed for parties

which have managed to directly elect three or more candidates. ??????????? This, then is the electoral system

that is used in the FRG.? The party

system which has emerged cannot be described so briefly.? Essentially, there are four main parties in

German politics, the Christian Democratic Union (CDU), the Christian Social

Union (CSU), the Social Democratic Party (SPD) and the Free Democratic Party

(FDP).? Since the CDU and CSU form one

block in the Bundestag, they can often, although not always, be considered one

party, with the CDU putting up no candidates for election in Bavaria, and the

CSU putting up no candidates for election outside Bavaria.? So, one is left with three groupings,

CDU/CSU, SDP and FDP.? However, it must

be noted that these are not equal groupings by any means.? Their inequality can be seen from election

results.? In the first election in 1949,

the CDU/CSU gained 141 seats, the SPD 136 seats and the FDP only 53 seats.? So the FDP has always been by far the

smaller of the three main groupings. ??????????? It is interesting to note that this

system gives a great deal of power to the FDP, because it is essentially they

who decide which of the other parties will be able to form a government.? In the early days of the FRG, this had the

effect of ensuring that that CDU/CSU would be in government, because the FDP

could not contemplate entering into coalition with the SPD whilst the latter

still formally espoused Marxism and a move towards a more socialist state.? However, by 1969 the FDP felt able to enter

into coalition with the SPD, after the latter had renounced at Bad Godesburg in

1959 its commitment to changing the economic base.? The role of the FDP clearly shows the importance of the centre in

German politics.? This will be discussed

in more detail later in the essay. ??????????? An examination of the history of the

FDP, and indeed the election statistics of the FRG in general, will show that

the electorate has, in fact, a remarkably small role in choosing the

government.? Both the CDU/CSU and the

SPD have consistently failed to gain an overall majority in the Bundestag, with

the exception only of the CDU/CSU majority in 1957.? Thus the government is formed, to a certain extent, according to

whoever can enter into coalition with whom.?

At first glance, this appears to show a severe democratic deficit, and

to some extent it does, but this is mitigated by the constitutional role

assigned to political parties by the Basic Law of the FRG. ??????????? Article 21 of the Basic Law states

that parties ?participate in the forming of the political will of the

people?.? Whereas in Britain political

parties are regarded as having a largely representative function, with the

people influencing the parties but not vice versa, in Germany the idea of a

two-way relationship between parties and the people is enshrined in the Basic

Law.? Thus, the parties are responsible

not just for listening to the people but also for influencing the political opinions

of the people.? This aspect of the party

system makes the German system quite different from, for example, the British

system, and to some extent makes up for the fact that the electorate have

relatively little influence on the formation of a government. ??????????? Another aspect of the party system

which is worthy of mention is the infrequent changes in government which

characterise the FRG.? This can perhaps

be best shown in a table: Election Year Party/parties

in government 1949 CDU/CSU and FDP 1953 CDU/CSU and FDP 1957 CDU/CSU 1961 CDU/CSU and FDP 1965 Until 1966:CDU/CSU and

FDP After 1966:CDU/CSU and

SDP 1969 SDP and FDP 1972 SPD and FDP 1976 SPD and FDP 1980 Until 1982:SPD and FDP After 1982:CDU/CSU and

FDP 1983 CDU/CSU and FDP 1987 CDU/CSU and FDP 1990 CDU/CSU and FDP 1994 CDU/CSU and FDP 1998 SPD and Greens These results show

that in its entire history the FRG has had essentially only three changes in

government (1965, 1980 and 1998) and two of these (1965 and 1980) did not even

occur in election years.? While this

emphasises the apparent lack of voter input into the forming of governments, it

also shows the stability of the German system.?

It is worth noting the emergence of the Greens in 1998, not only as a

viable political force but as a party of government.? This will be examined in more detail later in the essay. ??????????? Moving on to the third section of

the essay, the electoral system has had a role to play in moulding this party

system.? Firstly, the five percent

clause has contributed to the fact that until 1994 there were only three viable

political parties in the FRG (counting the CDU/CSU as one party).? Small parties have been largely prevented

from entering the Bundestag, since it is very difficult for smaller parties to

win seats for directly elected candidates, and so cannot take advantage of the

three district waiver to the five percent clause.? For example, the far right NPD achieved 4.3% of the vote in 1969,

and so failed to achieve any representation in the Bundestag. ??????????? Secondly, the system of proportional

representation has led to the need for coalition governments.? As is often the case in a proportional

system, it very hard in the FRG for any one party to achieve an overall

majority.? Indeed this has only been

achieved once, by the CDU/CSU in 1957.?

The net result of this is that the FDP is far more important and influential,

as the third party, than its share of the vote would indicate.? For example, between 1969 and 1982, SPD

voters were often encouraged to split their votes, assigning the first vote to

the SPD and the second to the FDP.? This

was because the SPD could not govern on its own, and so needed to keep the FDP

in the Bundestag.? The only way to do

this was to make sure that the FDP achieved at least 5% of the vote.? The electoral system, then, ensures the

survival of the FDP and thrusts it into a position of prominence despite its

small size. ??????????? There are, however, numerous other

factors which have a significant effect on the party system that have nothing

to do with the electoral system.? In

answer to the claim that the electoral system prevents the emergence of

numerous splinter groups and small parties, it could be argued that such

parties would be unlikely to gain a following in Germany anyway.? This is partly due to the role of the

Federal Constitutional Court, which is empowered under article 21 of the Basic

Law to ban outright any party which is deemed to be anti-democratic.? This power has been used twice, to ban the

Socialist Reich Party and the Communist Party in the 1950?s, and there is

currently debate over whether the NPD should also be banned.? Thus parties on the extremes of left and

right would find it very difficult to enter politics. ??????????? Furthermore, the centrist tendencies

of German voters have led to the main parties claiming the centre ground of

German politics.? It is the case that

voting patterns are still based for many on social class.? For example, in 1990 the SPD gained the

votes of 60% of manual workers, while 60% of the self employed and professional

class voted for the CDU/CSU.? However,

both of these parties are broadly centrist and aim to be catch-all parties.? By this it is meant that the both the

CDU/CSU and SPD attempt to appeal to all sections of the population.? This has not always been the case, however,

since until 1959 the SPD was still officially a socialist workers party. ??????????? Historically, it is interesting to

note that the early years of the FRG were dominated by the CDU/CSU under

Adenauer.? This is important, because

the early elections (1953, 1957) were really nothing more than a referendum as

to whether the people felt that Adenauer and his party were doing a good

job.? Clearly, the German people were

impressed with the CDU/CSU record, and it is no surprise that this is the case,

since it was under this government that the German ?economic miracle? took

place which restored West Germany to a position of relative prosperity far

quicker than anyone would have imagined.?

This long period of CDU/CSU dominance in the formative years of the FRG

made it impossible for any party which was not broadly committed to some form

of social capitalism to gain votes, which led to the SPD at Bad Godesburg being

forced to move towards the centre.? Thus

this early economic recovery played a vital role in determining the shape of

the party system. ??????????? It is also worth mentioning the

massive changes which have taken place in ideology across Europe, and arguably

much of the world, in the 1970?s, 80?s and 90?s.? Increasingly the old materialist concerns are giving way to new,

post-materialist concerns, and this is reflected in the current shape of the

German party system.? The Green Party is

an example of a party which has no connection with the previous materialist

concerns, but is based on environmental issues, a very modern phenomenon.? However, since their entry into government

it appears the Greens have abandoned many of their values, and it will be

interesting to see whether they can survive as a viable political force. ??????????? In conclusion, then, the party

system in Germany has been affected by many factors, including the role

assigned to parties in the Basic Law, the role of the Federal Constitutional

Court, sociology, and history, as well as the electoral system.? It is difficult to see how any of these

factors could be said to be pre-eminent, since they are intertwined to such a

great extent, and it is also difficult to predict how the system will change in

the future.? The PDS, the remains of the

old communist party in the GDR, is now in the Bundestag, and it is impossible

to say how long they will stay there.?

Likewise the Greens.? However, on

the whole the history of the FRG is one of stable government, and this can be

attributed to all of the factors noted above.

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