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How party systems Form: The Institutional, Historical and Strategic Foundations of the Post-War ... - page 20 / 42





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carry over rate of 23.6% was noticeably lower than for other elections; this deviation is attributable to the increase of Bundestag’s size by 85 deputies. Besides these anomalies, the overall pattern clearly shows that fully licensed parties were far more successful in retaining a higher percentage of candidates and for a longer period of time than the partly licensed or post 1949 parties. From the literature on legislative recruitment, we know that such continuity and seniority translate into greater professionalization and ultimately also higher levels of party institutionalization. (Borchert and Golsch 2003; Shabad and Slomczynski 2002; Wessel 1997)


Historical factors set post-war Germany’s party system on a favorable path. They explain the rapid re-establishment of the SPD and, especially through party licensing, gave licensed parties an early mover advantage which compounded over time. However, these legacies and the increasing returns they produced certainly constrained actors without however leaving them without choices. The very lifting of party licensing a few months before the 1949 election meant that in that election the ENEP rose to 4.8 from 3.4 in the previous 1946-48 state elections. As we will see, this increase was the result of new party entries many of which had strong regional support. (i.e. DP, SSW, BP and WAV) After 1949, the German party system was two tiered; it was vertically fragmented along national fault lines defined by the four fully licensed parties and horizontally divided across the regional identities represented either partially licensed parties or new entrants. There were few indications that this second, regional tier would disappear as quickly as it did. The regional parties had strong historical roots and their strength was sufficiently concentrated that in three states they came within a few percentage points of matching the CDU/CSU’s vote share. The institutional incentives for strategic voting also were weak given Germany’s permissive electoral system and federal system.

In understanding, why historical factors contributed to the rapid formation of party system it is insufficient to invoke functional arguments about increasing returns, as path dependency arguments are prone to do, without also clearly specifying actors and their strategies the employed to capitalize on their early mover advantages. We therefore need to primarily analyze the four major parties and the coordination strategies they

Party Switching3/12/2007p.

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