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How party systems Form: The Institutional, Historical and Strategic Foundations of the Post-War ... - page 13 / 42





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Moreover, the fact that parties change their qualitative attributes as they form makes them difficult to incorporate in quantitative research designs which assume party variables to be fixed across time and place in terms of their organizational characteristics and vary only according to their most readily measured attribute, namely vote share. (Abbott 1988, 171; Hall 2003, 383; Munck 2004, 112)

Third, Germany’s institutions provided weak incentives for strategic voting. Under the personalized PR system, Germans cast one vote for single member districts and a second vote for multi-member districts ranging in magnitude from 5 to 109 (average of 44.7 for 1949). As only their second vote affects the distribution of seats, they face weak incentives for strategic voting. In SMD, German voters defect in marginal numbers from smaller parties; such parties received only 2.8% fewer first than second votes between 1953-83. (Esser 1985, 280-81) Such limited strategic voting illustrates that the first vote serves to personalize representation rather than reduce the number of parties.4 The most significant incentive for strategic voting comes from the 5% electoral threshold. According to Taagepera and Shugart estimation, such a threshold corresponds to a district magnitude of 10  (1989, 117, 266-69) which according to Cox provides at best negligible incentives for strategic voting. (1997, 100, 141) The Bonn constitution also re-affirmed Germany’s longstanding federal structure in which Länder governments and elections create important opportunities for regional parties to build a local power base. It further removed Weimar’s directly elected presidency and thus removed a single, national and non-divisible political price around which voters and politicians could coordinate their expectations. (Chhibber and Kollman 2004. 263-92; Cox 1997, 186-90; Mainwaring 1999; Stoll 2005)


Long-term and short-term historical factors potentially impact how many effective electoral contestants participate in the founding election, their available resources, and their perceived winning prospects. Herbert Kitschelt put it nicely when he observed that “the breakdown of political and economic regimes always offers new political actors opportunities to deal creatively with a highly contingent and open range of possibilities

4 The details of how precisely the two votes are translated into seats is discussed further below.

Party Switching3/12/2007p.

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