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How party systems Form: The Institutional, Historical and Strategic Foundations of the Post-War ... - page 22 / 42





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were so small to be electorally unviable in the first place. (Padgett and Burkett 1986, 29) The SRP gained considerable public attention by winning 11% of the votes in 1951 Niedersachsen state election and 7% in the 1951 Bremen state election. Despite these two regional successes, the party had limited support in other states. It won only 1.7% of all votes cast in the 1949-52 state elections, before it was banned from running in a federal election. (Kaack 1971, 207-08) Similarly, the KPD won only 2.2% of votes in the 1953 federal election and 2.8% of the votes during the 1953-56 Länder elections, thus failing to cross either electoral threshold. Clearly, voters, rather than party bans, contributed to the two parties’ decline.


Frequent chances of electoral procedures are a common characteristic of transitional party systems. With each election, politicians acquire more information about their own and their competitors’ electoral strength and, response to such information, they will coordinate efforts to maximize their seat share by modifying electoral procedures. Figure 2 provides a chronology of these institutional changes that took place following the 1949 election. Of the four institutional changes, the raising in 1953 of the 5% electoral threshold from the state to the national level affected the affected strategic most directly, while the other three strategies were of relatively minor significance.

(Sources: Kaack 1972, 20-21; NetLexikon)

Electoral Threshold: Table 5 assesses the impact of the new, federal 5% threshold by looking at the ENEP at both the state and federal level. Since state-level and federal

Party Switching3/12/2007p.

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