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How party systems Form: The Institutional, Historical and Strategic Foundations of the Post-War ... - page 32 / 42





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Table 7 looks at the number of strategic withdrawals and differentiates among those involving withdrawals between the CDU/CSU and small parties and withdrawals among small parties. Every party withdrawing a single candidate was counted as one withdrawal.

Table 7: Strategic Withdrawals




Involving CDU/CSU

13 (61.9%)

55 (71.4%)

16 (80%)

Not involving CDU/CSU

18 (38.1%)

22 (28.6%)

4 (20%)

Source: (Kitzinger 1960, 40-42; Schindler 1984, 107-110)

Three things are immediately striking about these strategic withdrawals. First, strategic withdrawals among minor parties were never successful in helping parties to circumvent the primary, 5% threshold by crossing the secondary threshold. Second, most withdrawals were CDU/CSU-led rescue missions; they involved right of center parties that were too small to cross the 5% threshold but large enough to attractive as potential coalition partner for the CDU/CSU. It was exactly with this rescue objective in mind that the CDU/CSU fought for the inclusion of a secondary threshold in 1949. (Jesse 1985, 250-70) The CDU/CSU used strategic withdrawals very selectively, offering it only to parties it wanted to include in its post-electoral coalition. For example, after the 1953 election, the CDU/CSU rebuffed the BP, the Center and FVP. (Kitzinger 1960, 43-50)

Third, strategic withdrawals constituted a temporary phenomenon which spiked in 1953 and disappeared altogether after 1957. Their heavy use in 1953 was directly related to the CDU/CSU’s desire to rescue potential coalition partners whose seats were by the new 5% national threshold. This strategy proved highly effective. In 1957, it permitted the Zentrum and the DP to win three, respectively 15 seats even though they both failed to cross the 5% threshold. In 1957, it helped the DP once again to win 17. In 1953, these rescued seats added a 4% seat share to the CDU/CSU’s (for a total of 45.1% ) and, in 1957, a 3.3% seat share (50.7%). The disappearance of strategic withdrawals after 1957, in turn, is explained by the CDU/CSU disinterest in rescuing parties whose electoral strength all but evaporated. The strategic withdrawals in 1949 were less consequential. The CDU/CSU, together with other parties, successfully supported in Northern Germany an independent candidate against the Danish minority party, the SWW. It also

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