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How party systems Form: The Institutional, Historical and Strategic Foundations of the Post-War ... - page 28 / 42





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Switching and Strategic Voting: Table 6 underscores three broad switching patterns. First, the switching strategies which dilute seats were almost exclusively confined to the first parliamentary term; they also account for much of the initially high switching level. The 66 switches recorded between 1949-53 fall in roughly two categories. Some switchers changed their party affiliation because they preferred the new party’s platform. Such policy motivated switching was common right after the 1949 election. Prior to the election, many deputies joined parties that had not yet settled on a party program. As parties clarified their program during the election, various initial joiners reassessed their ideological fit and switch to ideologically more compatible parties. Other switchers belonged to refugee organizations that did not receive party licenses in time for the 1949 election. These candidates cleverly got around this obstacle by running either as independents or as guest candidates on other parties’ lists. Not wanting to overstay their welcome, these guest candidates switched out of their host party, the WAV, and formed their own parliamentary faction, the GB/BHE. Such formation was possible because no more licenses were needed after the 1949 election. (Kaack 1972, 19) After 1953, switches in the “Other” category dropped noticeably; 30 of the 38 switches in 1953-57 were the result of the FDP’s 1956 schism.

Second, fusion related switches declined rapidly during the first two electoral cycles. They essentially served as stop-gap measures helping smaller parties to counter strategic voting by pooling their voters and resources. This was the primary motivation for the BP and Zentrum to form the FU in 1951, the WAV’s fusion with the DP in the same year, and the FVP’s merger with the DP in 1957. All these mergers were marriages of convenience and their principle goal was to convince voters that the fused parties had enough electoral support to cross the 5% electoral threshold. These mergers did not succeed in stemming strategic defections and thus halting the parties’ electoral decline.

Third, the CDU/CSU, and to a lesser extent the FPD, attracted a steady number of switchers throughout the 1950s while suffering only a few defections themselves. The deputies switching to the CDU/CSU did so as small groups rather than as individuals. Their re-affiliations profoundly impacted the party system but their impact owed more

Party Switching3/12/2007p.

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