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How party systems Form: The Institutional, Historical and Strategic Foundations of the Post-War ... - page 34 / 42





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prospects and permitted them to cast strategic votes. Taken together, these coordination strategies were crucial for structuring the German party system; they functioned in many ways as interim measures which created an equilibrium conditions under which both voters and politicians had fewer and fewer incentives to change their behavior. Very rapidly, German voters lost their incentives to change their voting choices based on a party’s winning chances. They no longer chose from all available alternatives but began to restrict their choices to those parties with a good and proven winning record. This narrow of voters’ choice set explain why after 1953 over 90% of Germans voted either for the CDU/CSU, SPD or FDP. This is not to say that they did not switch among these three parties based on their policy positions, but it meant voters discounted the winning chances of all other parties to the point where they no longer were competitive.

Similarly, German politicians reached a situation where they had fewer and fewer incentives to change their strategies. They saw fewer and fewer opportunities to maximize their seat share by adopting any of the coordination strategies. Consequently, they employed fewer and fewer coordination strategies which led their rapid decline during the 1950s and eventual disappearance in the 1960s. The pay-offs of pooling votes through electoral coalitions or increasing electoral thresholds diminished once parties’ electoral reputation created so much ex ante knowledge about their viability that there was little room left to manipulate it between elections. Finally, even prospective politicians, contemplating entering national electoral politics for the first time, had fewer and fewer incentives to do so. The probability of their success diminished as the winning chances of minor parties declined and the growing incumbency tenure of established parties reduced the number of attractive entry opportunities. With the demand for new candidates declining, their numbers running for the Bundestag dropped from 2226 in 1957 to 1633 in 1967.

So by the early 1960s, politicians and voters faced fewer and fewer incentives to change their status quo choices, thus making the postwar German party system less indeterminate and moving it to a point where their mutual expectations had reached a stable equilibrium. It resembled what Gary Cox described as “Market clearing expectations, attained in the hypothetical equilibria of political models, equate demand

Party Switching3/12/2007p.

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