The Political Consequences of Electoral Laws: The German System at Fifty (Ohne Sprachangabe)

In: West European Politics   ;  25 ,  3  ;  171-202  ;  2002

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The electoral system has often been considered an important determinant of the political stability that the Federal Republic of Germany has enjoyed in the half-century of its existence, so that it has been often indicated as a 'model' for electoral reforms in other democracies. The analysis of the political impact of the German electoral system after 1949 shows that such impact was different in the different phases of evolution of the party system. In the 1950s, the German party system was characterised by a higher level of fractionalisation, which the electoral system contributed progressively to reduce. That phase was followed by 30 years of concentration and defractionalisation of the vote. In the last decade, the post-reunification party system presents again higher electoral fractionalisation, which the electoral system has partially reduced in the vote-seats translation. In the current political contingency it is doubtful, however, that the electoral system by itself can contain fragmentation on a durable basis.

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