Feb 272015
 

Update: 542 in favour, 32 voting against, 13 abstentions. Nays & abstentions all from CDU, CSU, Left, apparently. See you in June.

In about an hour, Germany’s parliament will have a debate on the extension of the bailout program for Greece that is scheduled to take all of a cool 90 minutes. It will be followed by a roll call vote. Although about 30 CDU/CSU dissidents including the deputy of the Christian Democrats’ parliamentary  will vote against the government’s proposal or abstain, some North Korean-sized super majority is virtually guaranteed: The SPD and the Greens are almost unanimously in favour, and even the Left, who normally votes against the “neoliberal” EU stuff will support their comrades in Athens this time ’round.

Then, it’s back to normal. Expect a similar procedure four months down the line, just in time for the next instalment of the Great Greek/European Drama Series (TM). In the meantime, don’t forget that V is for Varoufakis.

 

 

Feb 242015
 

Almost a decade ago, I published an article with a cutesy title on the decline of party identification in Germany, of which I am inordinately proud. The main message of this piece was that party identification in Germany has not collapsed, but is rather declining at the glacial rate of 0.7 percentage points per year, give or take. Here is the relevant graph:

Party Identification in West Germany, 1977-2002

For a more recent project, I have extended the time-series to cover the whole 1977-2012 period, right up to the begin of the 2013 federal election campaign. As it turns out, de-alignment in the West has come to a virtual halt during the last decade – see here:

Partisan Dealignment in West Germany

Decline of party identification in West Germany, 1977-2012

If you think that this is still too noisy, have a look at this trajectory, which is derived from a binary logistic model that regresses identifications on time, age, education, and campaign effects. More on this soon – stay tuned.

Estimated overall levels of partisanship in West Germany, 1977-2012 (adjusted predictions at representative values (APR)

Estimated overall levels of partisanship in West Germany, 1977-2012 (adjusted predictions at representative values (APR)

Feb 072015
 

The good people at Taylor & Francis have kindly ungated my AfD article in West European Politics, after a fashion. If you don’t have an institutional subscription for WEP, you may click here to gain access to the full text anyway. However, this link is limited to 50 clicks, so if your institution has subscribed to WEP, be a good egg and rather use this ordinary DOI-based link through the paywall. And failing all that, the ungated author’s version is here.

afd photoPhoto by blu-news.org

Feb 012015
 

The AfD’s national party conference has approved a change to the party’s constitution will give the party a simplified leadership structure, which will more closely resemble those of the dreaded ‘Altparteien’ (‘old’ or established parties) CDU, CSU, FDP, and SPD. After a period of transition, the AfD will have a single ‘Vorsitzender’ (party chair), supported by a ‘Generalsekretär’ (a subordinate managerial role). Currently, the party has three ‘speakers’ (chairs), all with equal powers and responsibilities, and so is closer to the model chosen by the Left and the Greens who each employ two party chairs to give equal representation to both sexes (as well as to various factions).

Bernd Lucke, one of the current speakers who has very much been the party’s public face since the 2013 campaign, has tried to push through this change for at least a year. At the conference, he rather undiplomatically complained that the other two were creating confusion and delay, and that he was often left with the task to clean up after them. He also hinted that he wants this job – but so does Frauke Petry (who has recently become very cosy with Pegida). This is not just a clash of personalities – rather Lucke and Petry seem to represent different trajectories for the future development of the party.

lucke petry photoPhoto by blu-news.org

Jan 282015
 

For the first time, the number of people attending the original Pegida marches in Dresden has fallen, while in most German towns and cities anti-Pegida demonstrators outstrip Pegida supporters by a considerable margin. This evening, four more members of Pegida’s executive have resigned, including Kathrin Oertl, who had become Pegida’s official face after Lutz Bachman’s Hitler picture gaffe.

Meanwhile, in Duckburg the Social Democrats, who seem a bit slow on the uptake, are still conflicted over whether they should engage in some sort of dialog with Pegida, and if so, with whom. What can I say?pegida photoPhoto by Sozialfotografie [►] StR

Jan 202015
 

Authorities in the Saxonian city of Dresden have issued a blanket ban on marches, demonstrations and outdoor assemblies following alleged islamist death threats against the founder of the “Pegida” (“Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamisation of the Occident”) movement, who has masterminded the mass demonstrations in Dresden for the last three months. This is a highly unusual development by German standards, and political reactions from the very left to the very right have been predictably negative (for very different reasons). More specifically, the issue will help to further strengthen the ties between Pegida and the (eastern sections) of the AfD.

Dresden photo

Dresden: This is not a mosque

Meanwhile, social scientists are slowly trying to get a grip on Pegida. One of Germany’s leading scholars on social movement and protest mobilisation even dares to make a prediction: Dieter Rucht thinks that Pegida is past the zenith of thPhoto by Polybert49 e attention cycle, highlighting interesting parallels to the Occupy movement. Another interesting point (not discussed in the linked article) is that even after three months of mass mobilisation, Pegida has not managed to become a national movement. By and large, it is still very much focused on Dresden, which has been a hotspot of right-wing mobilisation for the last 25 years. And by the way, the beautiful building in the picture is a former cigarette factory built in the oriental style that was popular in Dresden a hundred years ago or so. Go figure.

Nov 162014
 

Much merriment in the Eastern state of Thuringia: 25 years after the fall of the wall, the Greens and the SPD in the state parliament are poised to form a coalition with the Left (die Linke), which would give the Left its first minister president ever.

What’s the Matter with the Left?

Predictably, this is creating all sorts of backlash. On the surface, it is all about Thuringia, and about the Left’s uneasy relationship with the past. But on another level, it’s about the prospects of triple left (or red/red/green) coalitions in Western states and ultimately on the federal level.

ddr photoPhoto by pdxjmorris The Left is one of the strangest creatures in German politics. It was formed in 2007 by a merger of the WASG – a group of SPD dissidents who rejected the welfare reforms/cuts (delete as appropriate) introduced by the Schröder government from 2002 on – and the PDS. The PDS in turn came about by renaming (twice) East Germany’s Socialist Unity Party (SED), the local equivalent of the Soviet Union’s communist party. Consequentially, the continuing role of the PDS after 1990 has been controversial. Right now, the Greens, the SPD and everybody’s hipster grandmother demand that the Left apologises for four decades of state socialist authoritarianism.

What is Left of the SED in the Left? (sorry, could not resist this one)

The other day, I heard Dietmar Bartsch on the radio, who played an instrumental role as one of the organisers of the WASG/PDS merger. Asked about the Left’s relationship with its state socialist past, Bartsch argued that the media and the Left’s political enemies had overplayed the issue: After all, only one per cent of the SED’s previous members were still enrolled in today’s Left. That sounds like a tiny fraction, right? Right, and this is because the figure (if it is correct) is misleading, to say the least. After all, the relevant question is not what became of the SED members, but rather how important the old guard still is today. So lets do the math.

In 1989, the SED had 2.3 million members, roughly 14 per cent of the GDR’s total population. After the wall came down and unification became a real prospect, they began to leave the sinking ship in their droves. Around the time of unification, less than 10 per cent of the original number remained, and over the ensuing couple of decades, many more left or simply passed away, as it were chiefly the elderly who had been loyal to the party.

DDR photoPhoto by pdxjmorris

Against this backdrop, Bartsch’s one per cent figure looks plausible, so let us assume that that many of the old SED stock still remain in the Left. That works out at 23,000. Is that a lot, or not? Over at the FU in Berlin, Oskar Niedermeyer has been compiling party membership figures since the dawn of time. In 2012 (the latest data available), the Left had about 68,000 members. So roughly one third of the current members of the Left were already members of the SED before the Iron Curtain lifted.

Obviously, this is indicative of a strong post-socialist streak within the party. That may or may not be a bad thing, but in my book, the politically relevant fact is that Bartsch built a smokescreen around this simple fact, and that the interviewer – a thoughtful and knowledgeable person – let him get away with it. The bottom line is of course that we need to promote basic statistical literacy: The probability of being a member of the Left, conditional on having been a member of the SED (p(Left|SED)) can be very different from the probability of having been a member of the SED, conditional on being a member of the Left (p(SED)|Left), unless both parties are of equal size. That is Bayes’ Rule for you, Dr Bartsch. Next.