Niedermayer, Oskar: The Election of the European Parliament of June 13, 2004 in Germany: An Electoral Disaster for the SPD.
As in previous elections to the European Parliament, European problems were of secondary importance during the 2004 election campaign. In Germany, the incumbent Social Democrats (SPD) built on her positive image in respect to her position in regards to the Iraq conflict which had helped win the federal election of 2002 and presented herself as a “peace force”. The opposition parties, in particular CDU/CSU and PDS, tried to convert the European election into a plebiscite about the economic and social policies of the red-green federal government. Only the Greens and the FDP gave more importance to the European level. While the Greens conducted a more or less European-wide campaign together with their European sister parties, the FDP canvassed for a referendum on the treaty of the European Constitution and focussed on their leading candidate. The decision of the voters, however, was primarily shaped by the unpopular social reforms. Therefore, the Social Democrats had to accept their worst result ever in an election on the federal level. The CDU lost votes, too, because the majority of the voters did not believe they would do a better job. The small parties, especially the Greens and the FDP, were winners. Europe-wide, the German result was no exception: Many national government parties had to cope with election defeats. [ZParl, vol. 36, no. 1, pp. 3 – 19]
Winkler, Jürgen R.: The Election of the Saarland State Parliament of September 5, 2004: From a Two Party System to a Four Party System with a dominating CDU.
The Saarland election took place in an atmosphere generally favouring the CDU which had been in power since 1999 in this Land. The social structure of the region, the negative perception of the red-green government in Berlin, an election campaign strategy of the SPD gone amiss and the confrontation between the former Leader of the SPD Oskar Lafontaine and chancellor Gerhard Schröder were no challenge for the CDU. Although the economic situation of the Saarland citizens had not improved since 1999, they were very satisfied with the work of the popular Prime Minister,Peter Müller. As a result, the CDU received strong support from the electorate, capturing 47.5 per cent of the popular vote. The SPD could not mobilize parts of their former electorate. Above all, workers, unemployed persons and trade unionists moved away from them. Although they could neither present outstanding candidates nor brilliant ideas, the Greens and the Free Democrats were, next to the CDU, the winners of the election. Both small parties profited from the low turnout and re-entered the state parliament after several years of absence. As a consequence of this election, the symmetrical two-party system transformed into an asymmetrical four-party system with the CDU as dominating political force in the Saarland. [ZParl, vol. 36, no. 1, pp. 19 – 35]
Rütters, Peter: Members of Governments in the Saarland: Social Profile, Recruitment and Careers of Politicians on the Regional Level (1947 – 2004).
Supposedly, the governments of the German Länder have strongly profited from cooperative federalism in Germany; nevertheless the social profile, recruitment patterns or career courses of prime ministers and other members of Land governments have provoked little academic attention or systematic research so far. Taking the governments of the Saarland between 1947 and 2004 as an example, a structural analysis of the prime ministers and the ministers of this Land is presented here. The following factors are examined in particular: social profile (education, gender); qualifications (former professions and activities, qualification and training for the respective public office, experience as a member of parliament); performance in office (age structure, term of office, reasons for resignation or completion). Furthermore, the prime ministers’ party functions and later courses of career are investigated. The analysis reveals that there has been a strong structural continuity concerning education and training of prime ministers and ministers. The ties between members of the executive and the parliament have weakened over time though. Moreover, the members of the Saarland governments failed to participate effectively in a federal circulation of elites between their Land and the federal government or other Länder. [ZParl, vol. 36, no. 1, pp. 35 – 63]
Niedermayer, Oskar: The Election of the Brandenburg State Parliament of September 19, 2004: The Voters’ Reaction to Hartz IV.
The election campaign in Brandenburg was dominated by a federal law, called ‘Hartz IV’, a reform of the labour market passed in July 2004. It provoked mass demonstrations and became the central issue of party competition. The PDS fought against this law in an aggressive and populist way and tried to distinguish itself as the party of social conscience. While the CDU had difficulties to react adequately, the SPD decided to counteract the PDS campaign by using an offensive and highly personalized strategy: Brandenburg’s Prime Minister Matthias Platzeck faced up to the protest of the citizens and presented himself as an advocate of the special interests of East Germans. In the end, this strategy was rewarded by the voters: The SPD suffered heavy losses but remained the strongest party coming in ahead of the PDS, while the CDU had to be content with taking third place. Again, the Greens and the FDP failed to take the five-percent-hurdle. In contrast, the right-wing extremist DVU succeeded in remaining in the Landtag. Before the election campaign, the SPD had been open for a coalition both with the CDU and the PDS. However, during the campaign rising conflicts with the PDS made them lean more and more toward the CDU. Hence, the continuation of the SPD-CDU-coalition was settled soon after the election. [ZParl, vol. 36, no. 1, pp. 64 – 80]
Jesse, Eckhard: The Election of the Saxony State Parliament of September 19, 2004: Disaster for both CDU and SPD.
The fourth election in Saxony since Germany’s reunification produced a surprising outcome: The CDU, dominating party in this Land since 1990, lost nearly 16 percentage points; the PDS gained votes; the SPD only reached a single-digit result; the right-wing extremist NPD gained more than 9 per cent; the Liberals and the Greens won seats in the Saxonian Landtag for the first time after ten years. Both CDU and SPD had underestimated the protests against the reform of the labour market (‘Hartz IV’-law) in the run-up to the election. That might be the main cause why PDS and NPD could gain votes. The CDU failed in particular to integrate voters from the far right. In the end, there was no arithmetical or political alternative to the so-called ‘coalition of losers’ of CDU and SPD. Several factors contributed to the result: a low turnout, the success of radical parties, and gains of small parties. These factors might be interpreted as a sign of enormous discontent with the current party system (‘Parteienverdrossenheit’). In general, the ‘opposition against the system’ rather than the ‘opposition within the system’ profited from the losses of the governing party. [ZParl, vol. 36, no. 1, pp. 80 – 100]
Schoen, Harald and Thorsten Faas: List Order Effects at the Election of the Bavarian State Parliament in 2003: The First shall be the First.
The electoral system used in Bavarian state elections is quite unique: Voters cast two candidate votes. The intention is to strengthen the link between all MPs and their voters. However, it seems questionable whether voters actually use this power manifesting itself in the chance to alter the order of candidates on the ballot. From a theoretical point of view, it is likely that candidates seated on the top positions on party lists (and especially the leader of a party list) receive a large bonus of votes. This expectation can be confirmed empirically: Controlling for a variety of other factors, the top position on a party list renders a considerable bonus of about 40 percentage points. Candidates on other top positions also benefit. In other words, voters do not tend to cast personal votes although the electoral system provides this option. Instead, many seem to reinterpret the candidate-focussed system as if it were a party-focussed system by simply voting for the top-seated candidates. [ZParl, vol. 36, no. 1, pp. 100 – 116]
Putz, Sebastian: Influence of Small Parties in Coalition Conflicts: The example of the FDP during the Resignation of the Prime Minister of Saxony-Anhalt in 1993.
In November 1993, Werner Münch (CDU) resigned as Prime Minister of the East German Land Saxony-Anhalt which had been led by a CDU-FDP-coalition. Taking this incident as a starting point, one can investigate what kind of influence small parties in government coalitions can exercise. A closer look at the case of 1993 reveals that some members of the smaller coalition partner FDP had worked for ousting the prime minister, or rather for breaking the government coalition. These members took also into account how their decision could effect the then coalition government on the federal level (formed by CDU/CSU and FDP). However, other FDP politicians held on to the existing coalition government. They finally succeeded in continuing the existing coalition by choosing Christoph Bergneras Münch’s successor. From this case, hypotheses about small government parties and their different options in internal coalition conflicts over persons (not policy issues) can be drawn. [ZParl, vol. 36, no. 1, pp. 120 – 141]
Wüst, Andreas M.: Attitudes of Parliamentary Candidates towards Immigrant Minorities in Germany and the Netherlands.
Recent analyses of electoral behaviour have shown that political preferences of immigrants follow distinctive patterns and keep stable over time. With the notable exception of German resettlers from Eastern Europe (Aussiedler), the political left is significantly preferred by voters with a migratory background. This might be caused by the attractiveness of those parties’ programmes and their candidates. Taking this as a hypothesis, party candidates’ attitudes towards immigration, representation and cultural assimilation are analysed by using data gathered from national elections in Germany and the Netherlands in 2002. It can be shown that Socialists, Greens and Social Democrats in the German case and left Greens, Social Democrats and left-wing liberals (Democraten 66) in the Dutch case are more attractive for immigrants. The candidates of these parties display rather pro-immigration, pro-representation and anti-assimilation attitudes. Furthermore, the cross-country analysis reveals that Dutch party candidates are more reluctant towards further immigration and multiculturalism than their German colleagues. [ZParl, vol. 36, no. 1, pp. 142 – 152]
Röper, Erich: Popular Initiative Referenda Strengthened by Higher Administrative Court of Bremen.
Many constitutions of the German states include plebiscites. They are hardly ever used because their effects are much less substantial than they will be on the EU level in the future. Furthermore, they are often not highly regarded by the state parliaments. However, a recent decision of the Higher Administrative Court of Bremen strengthens the legal position of those who launch such popular initiatives. As soon as this decision will be put into legislation, it will help to accelerate parliamentary procedures concerning such initiatives. [ZParl, vol. 36, no. 1, pp. 152 – 160]
Jung, Otmar: Governing with Mandatory Constitutional Referenda: Effect, Counter Strategy, Use and Dealings with them.
The mandatory constitutional referendum is generally considered as a stabilizing mechanism which can unfold ambivalent consequences: On the one hand, such ‘stabilized’ constitutions tend to develop into a civil religion; on the other hand, they are threatened by becoming obsolete. In the German federal states there seems to be clear indication that the stabilizing effect has taken hold – despite the fact that this statement can not be substantiated empirically. Looking at three Länder whose constitutions know constitutional referenda (Bavaria, Hesse and Bremen) characteristic courses of government action can be detected: Governments try to evade control mechanisms which are related to constitutional referenda. They use for example the strategy to bundle several different issues into „one-vote-packages“. So far, this violation of the „subject unity“-paradigm has remained unchallenged by constitutional courts. Governments also attempt to instrumentalize constitutional referenda for plebiscitary purposes or to ‘high-jack’ popular initiatives and funnel them into referenda. Furthermore, political representatives seem to have only little interest in debates about coming referenda; catchwords appear to suffice for them. [ZParl, vol. 36, no. 1, pp. 161 – 187]
Bauer, Michael W.: The German Länder and the European Convention on the Future of the EU: Between Divergence of Sub-national Interests and Pressure of Supranational Socialisation.
The emerging treaty establishing a constitution for the European Union offers new possibilities for testing hypotheses. Concerning the role of the German Länder within the European Union, five hypotheses can be deduced from literature. Their explanatory power is measured against empirical data. Growing sub-national interest divergence and effects deriving from the socialisation of sub-national negotiators in the supranational context can be identified as crucial variables. Moreover, distinguishing sub-national interest aggregation and the projecting of those interests into the European arena helps considerably to assess the explanatory value of the various approaches. A new theory of sub-national entities within the EU can not be delivered. However, the evidence presented here suggests that in order to develop more appropriate theoretical explanations, the clash of socio-economic factors, political interests and the growing knowledge (‘learning effect’) of the sub-national actors have to receive much more attention than has hitherto been the case. [ZParl, vol. 36, no. 1, pp. 188 – 207]