‘It's the East Stupid!’ Eastern Germany and the outcome of the 2002 Bundestagswahl

Hough, Dan (2003) ‘It's the East Stupid!’ Eastern Germany and the outcome of the 2002 Bundestagswahl. Representation, 39 (2). pp. 137-145. ISSN 0034-4893

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Elections to the German Bundestag are, according to the popular adage, won and lost in eastern Germany. Despite its relatively small size, citizens of the six eastern states are seen as being crucial pendulum voters - in other words, the way that they swing will decisively tip the national balance. Eastern Germany is, in many respects, Germany's key battleground: a must win constituency for the Christian and Social Democrats if they are to successfully lead the national government.
Eastern voters have attained this pivotal position for a number of reasons. Their voting behaviour remains much more responsive to short-term influences than does that of western Germans. Easterners are subsequently less entrenched in the traditional cleavage structures that criss-cross the electoral landscape of the western world (Weins, 1999: 49). The largely non-aligned eastern German electorate is consequently much more sensitive to the prevailing state of the economy, to salient policy concerns and to the standing of the principal politicians involved in the election campaign. In many ways, they remain classic post-modernist political animals.
Evidence of this in the post-1989 period is plentiful. The first all-German national election, in December 1990, saw Easterners embrace the idea of unification and support the party and the candidate whom they most strongly identified with this project - Helmut Kohl and the CDU. Much of the eastern German working class supported the CDU-led conservative coalition, marking a firm rebuttal of cleavage theory and indicating a considerable divergence from the conventional voting patterns of the western German working class. While eastern Germany's working classes were less keen to support the CDU in 1994, they still did so in sufficient enough numbers to enable Kohl to retain power (Niedermayer, 1995: 75-91). In 1998, however, the picture changed considerably, with a strong swing (across more or less all social groups) away from the CDU (-11.2%) towards both Gerhard Schroder's SPD (+3.6%) and, interestingly, the fringe parties of the far-right as well as sundry 'others' (+6.2%).

Item Type: Article
Schools and Departments: School of Law, Politics and Sociology > Politics
Depositing User: Daniel Hough
Date Deposited: 06 Feb 2012 18:31
Last Modified: 24 Jun 2015 10:11
URI: http://sro.sussex.ac.uk/id/eprint/16879
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