The Domestic Politics of German Unification

By Christopher Anderson; Karl Kaltenthaler et al. | Go to book overview

interesting differences are the younger age of eastern deputies (especially among CDU women), and their higher level of education (particularly among the SPD and FDP deputies). Radical differences with regard to the strategic positions of the parties are also difficult to detect. Finally, although the CDU/CSU was particularly successful in the East, it is not clear whether these successes are sustainable in the future (Koelble 1991).

Even though extreme dissimilarities do not exist, we do find support for the thesis that the East is different from the West, albeit to a lesser degree than anticipated. To equate this finding and the other relative differences described in this chapter with support for the party-transfer thesis may be premature for several reasons: First, there may have been a party transfer in voters' minds that was supplemented by continuity in party organization and infrastructure for some parties (CDU, FDP, PDS). Those parties that could rely on an established party apparatus and organizational structures in the eastern half of Germany (CDU, FDP, and PDS) gained the most support in the East and show the least variation with regard to their composition, and in particular with regard to their strategic position. This could help explain some of the differences in votes won by the CDU and the FDP on the one hand and the SPD and the Greens/Bündnis90 on the other hand. Second, the success of the CDU in the East may not run as deep as it appears at first glance. The antipathy toward socialist (or social-democratic) ideas after forty years of Communist rule, coupled with fact that many of the districts split ideologically and cannot be considered safe for the CDU, may indicate a more tenuous support for the CDU than meets the eye. To some extent the electoral situation in the former GDR can be compared to that of the Federal Republic after 1949. The system is in flux. It is unlikely that any party has developed a permanently superior or inferior position in the East that would already have institutionalized gains or made it impossible to reduce losses. It may thus be true that the West German party system was indeed exported to the East and made functional through the existing infrastructure that facilitated the recruitment of appropriate candidates. Whether the export of the West German party system has already established the future electoral pattern will to a considerable degree depend on the performance of incumbent politicians and organizational efforts in the East.


Notes

I would like to thank John Sprague, Karl Kaltenthaler, and Arend Lijphart for helpful suggestions and comments on various ideas and earlier drafts of this chapter.

1.
This characterization is not exactly correct because the 1932 election was also held in parts of Germany that were later made parts of Poland and Belgium.
2.
The German system, once unique, is now being imitated in Central and Eastern Europe. The first free elections to the Hungarian and Bulgarian parliaments

-92-

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