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How party systems Form: The Institutional, Historical and Strategic Foundations of the Post-War ... - page 33 / 42





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coordinated candidate withdrawals with the FDP which, however, were inconsequential because the FDP easily crossed the 5% threshold. (Schindler 1984, 106-110)

Effects of Strategic Withdrawals: How then did these strategic withdrawals and electoral alliances affect the voters’ assessment of parties’ winning chance ? The literature generally views electoral coalitions as in impediment to strategic voting because they reduce “the disadvantage of being a small party [and] removes an important incentive for small parties to merge, and hence, all other factors being equal, it should increase the effective numbers of parties.” (Lijphart 1994, 135) In the case of Germany, the fragmenting effect of electoral coalitions was minimal. If we simulate the ENPP without parties rescued by the CDU/CSU, then in 1953 fragmentation would have been 0.2 parties lower and 0.06 parties lower in 1957. Electoral coalitions thus had no significant impact on strategic voting.

Electoral coalitions, however, influenced the formation of the German party system in three other ways. First, they helped the CDU/CSU form stable parliamentary majorities in 1953 and to a lesser degree in 1957. Second, strategic withdrawals moderated electoral competition. They prevented the DP, Zentrum and other parties hoping to be rescued by the CDU/CSU from outflanking it on the right by mobilizing nationalist, regionalists or otherwise extremist constituencies. (Kaack 1971, 220) Third, CDU/CSU’s rescue of smaller parties was a preliminary step to coopting their most prominent leaders and subverting their long-term organizational viability. “Acting from the position of senior governing party, the CDU/CSU tactically exploited electoral alliances with the aim of rendering acceptable to some of the smaller parties electoral reforms that would weaken the latter’s position, until they were completely dependent on the support of the CDU/CSU itself to obtain seats. This two-track strategy of electoral reforms and electoral alliances allowed the CDU/CSU to absorb both the electorates and (part of) the elites of the smaller moderate groups.”  (Capoccia 2002, 194)


Party licensing, electoral engineering and, to a lesser extent, party switching and electoral coalitions improved the efficiency with which some parties’ vote were translated into seats, reduced voters’ initial informational deficit about parties’ winning

Party Switching3/12/2007p.

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