in order to craft new institutions and power relations. Nevertheless, the creativity of actors is also constrained by the experience of the past and the patterns of economic and politically resource distribution under the old regimes.” (Kitschelt et al. 1999, 19)
Historical Legacies: Longstanding socio-economic, religious or regional cleavages reduce the ENEC going into the founding election because they convey indirect information about a party’s potential voting base and, hence, winning prospects. (Cox 1997, 203-21; Ordeshook and Shvetsova 1994) Cleavages are more likely to matter in re-democratizers, like postwar Germany, than first time democratizers whose political fault lines are not yet fully defined. Prior to 1949, Germany experienced 70 years of electoral politics during which a party system with clear regional, religious and above all class lines had evolved. (Lepsius 1973) These cleavages had a most direct impact on the left where the leaders of the SPD and KPD returned from exile, re-established their organizations and mobilized voters around the same class issues that dominated Weimar politics. Their impact, however, was much weaker for center and center-right parties. These parties had to form new party organizations, formulate programs capable of bridging old regional, religious and class divides, integrate twelve million German refugees and pre-empt the resurgence of Nazi-successor parties. (Cary 1996) Little of the center-right’s pre-war party infrastructure, which already was weak to begin with, survived the Great Depression, twelve years of Nazi rules and six years of war. “Organizations that once had linked the parties to specific cultures had vanished … The result was a breakdown of the rigid system of regional, denominational, ideological and class cleavages that had characterized German society and the old party system.” (Cary 1996, 148) Historical legacies, thus, did relatively little to reduce the ENEC going into the founding elections; they provided few useful cues for center and center right voters about what would the principle new bourgeois parties. Gerhard Loewenberg was mostly right when he observed that “nothing in the previous [pre-1945] development of the German party system suggested that such a [post-1945] transformation would occur.” (1971, 3)
What then about more short-term historical factors that defined the starting conditions of the post-war party system ? Two require attention: sequencing of early elections, institutional choices and party licensing.