The Crisis of German Social Democracy Revisited

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Dostal, Jörg Michael

Issue Date
The Political Quarterly Publishing
The Political Quarterly, Vol. 88 No. 2, pp. 230-240
German party systemGerman politicsHartz reformsLeft PartySPD
This article analyses the dramatic electoral decline of German social democracy since 2003. It argues that the SPDs decision, under the leadership of former Chancellor Gerhard Schroder, € to engage in welfare state retrenchment and labour market deregulation during the Hartz reforms (2003–05) demoralised the SPD electorate. The SPD subsequently lost half of its former electoral coalition, namely blue-collar voters and socially disadvantaged groups, while efforts to gain access to centrist and middle-class voters have failed to produce any compensating gains. While the SPDs decline from a large to a mid-sized party is part of a larger transformation of the German party system, no political recovery is possible for social democracy without a fundamental change of strategy, namely efforts to regain former voters by offering credible social welfare and redistributive policies. The SPD will not be able to delegate such policies in a convoy model to other parties, such as the Left Party; nor will a modest correction of the earlier course, such as has been attempted since 2009 under the leadership of current party chairman Sigmar Gabriel, be sufficient to recover lost electoral ground.
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Graduate School of Public Administration (행정대학원)Dept. of Public Administration (행정학과)Journal Papers (저널논문_행정학과)
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