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How party systems Form: The Institutional, Historical and Strategic Foundations of the Post-War ... - page 30 / 42





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unwilling to give up committee assignments, cabinet posts or, in the case of mergers, safe positions on the electoral lists that such breaks with the CDU/CSU or mergers with other parties would have entailed. After losing such fights and being accused of careerism, the members of the minority factions switched to the CDU/CSU. (Cary 1996, 246-47; Dittberner 1984, 1324-26; Mintzel 1984, 668-70; Schmidt 1984, 1040-42, 1082-83) Their decision was made all the easier by the CDU/CSU’s promise to grant switchers the same seniority and offices they had in their old party. This ready welcome was part of Adenauer’s divide and conquer strategy which sought to weaken minor parties by strategically poaching some of their leaders. (Cary 1996, 237, 266-67) He thought that such strategy required fewer concessions and political costs than would have been required by an outright fusions with minor parties.


The formation of electoral coalitions offers politicians an important instrument for making votes count more effectively by temporarily “reallocating votes to produce a more efficient translation of votes into seats.” (Cox 1997, 67) Electoral coalitions can take three forms; apparantements (e.g. separate lists joined solely for seat allocation after voting); electoral alliances (e.g. merging of separate lists prior to voting) or coordination of candidate withdrawals across districts.  (Cox 1997, 40-45, 61-62; Lijphart 1994, 134-38, 190) The vote pooling effect of such coalitions certainly reduces defection of strategic voters but the resulting voter coordination doesn’t necessarily reduce the number of parties in a lasting fashion. Electoral coalitions usually are temporary arrangements, involving small parties that try to rescue each other from losing their seats by pooling their votes. (Cox 1997, 68) Of the three coalition arrangements, German politicians used only electoral alliances and candidate withdrawals. And of those two only the latter had any effect on party system formation.

Electoral Alliances: Electoral alliances were inconsequential because they involved tinny parties and were limited to the 1949 election. These alliances were piggy back arrangements through which unlicensed parties entered parliament. The unlicensed party would actively campaign for its allied party in return for a few safe list positions. Three such piggy back alliances materialized in 1949. The FDP in Hessen offered the NDP

Party Switching3/12/2007p.

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