Political parties of Germany
| It doesn't stop|
at the water's edge
As usual with most multi-party democracies, the big parties are the dull, sensible ones and the fun/odd/repellent ones are the smallest.
- 1 The Big Ones
- 2 Currently or historically represented in the Bundestag and still major enough to be listed separately in polls
- 3 More minor parties, with some relevance nontheless
- 4 The laughing stock, the others and just weird ones
- 5 They didn't make it
- 6 Notes
- 7 References
The Big Ones
Despite its name ('Die Union' in German) these are legally two parties and have nothing to do with worker unions - they aren't federalists either… It should be noted that their name derives from the constituent parties both sharing the "U" and that the term "Union" has nothing to do with worker's rights in Germany. The people fighting for them are usually member of a Gewerkschaft.
They are both center-right parties with Catholic roots, but they also have Protestants, atheists, Muslims and Jews in their ranks - although non-Christians aren't usually the ones high up in the ranks. As part of a deal between the two parties, the CSU only has candidates in Bavaria and the CDU keeps its fingers out of Bavaria - also they act as one party on a federal level. And yes, that is as chaotic as it sounds.
Christian Democratic Union of Germany
- Color: Black (unofficial), Orange (official)
- Short: CDU
- Name in German: Christlich-Demokratische Union Deutschlands
- History: Founded after World War II they've won many elections since. They had and have several important politicians in their ranks, such as Konrad Adenauer, Helmut Kohl and today's chancellor Angela Merkel. Apart from brief periods during the Willy Brandt and Gerhard Schröder years, CDU/CSU usually have the biggest number of representatives in the federal parliament. And thus - in accordance with tradition - almost all speakers have been member of their party.
Christian Social Union in Bavaria
- Color: Black (unofficial), Blue (official)
- Short: CSU
- Name in German: Christlich-Soziale Union in Bayern
- Specialty: Even though they are a bit more socially conservative than their CDU colleagues: If one judges by their level of populism and bumpkin-ness, one might call them the German tea party-equivalent. However, they are (believe it or not!) far less successful at concealing their idiocy than teabaggers are, yet now and then dreadfully more successful at getting Bavarians to like their provincialist bullshit. (“Not 48, 49 or 50 Percent—no, remember this: 76!”, His Majesty King Horst Seehofer of Bavaria commenting a 2014 survey on whether people consider him a good governor.) In many respects, Bavaria is the Texas of Germany[note 1] and so the CSU has been similarly dominant in Bavaria as have been socially conservative politicians in Texas. Outside of Bavaria both the CSU and Bavaria are often laughed about or loathed - even by CDU voters. That being said the federalist nature of Germany makes it possible that a loudmouth in Munich (and all successful CSU leaders have been loudmouths) can get his way just by screaming loud enough. This most recently happened with a disastrous road toll law that most likely violates European law and nobody outside the CSU ever wanted - yet it still passed.
Social Democratic Party of Germany
- Political leaning: centre-left, tending towards center, social democracy, Third Way.
- Color: Red
- Short: SPD
- Name in German: Sozialdemokratische Partei Deutschlands
- History: 150 years of it. The SPD is slightly older than Germany itself (as a legal entity), it voted for WWI, splits occurred after 1918 - mostly due to said vote on World War I - that later formed the KPD. In the early post-WWI days the SPD fought against its own left wing - and allied itself with staunch monarchists and reactionaries - to keep Germany from becoming "socialist" a "betrayal" many leftists still blame today's SPD for. After WWII, the SPD in the West became one of the biggest parties, in the East they were forced into a merger with the KPD to form the SED. After the Fall of the Berlin Wall some switched back, others formed the PDS which later became another party... but yeah they are big. They currently have two factions, more centre-left Keynesians and Third Way advocates. The Third Way came out on top under Gerhard Schröder, though it's been argued by the party's left-wing that Schröder's policies hurt the party in the 2005 elections, as he was viewed as undermining the welfare state in Germany. One way or another, they have yet to regain their electoral strength from the Schröder years and currently poll around a dismal <20%.
Currently or historically represented in the Bundestag and still major enough to be listed separately in polls
Alliance '90/The Greens
- Political leaning: environmentalism, social liberalism, feminism, grassroots politics (no that's not a joke)
- Color: Green
- Short: GRÜNE and various regional variations
- Name in German: Bündnis 90/Die Grünen
- History: Began as a bunch of hippies that wanted to save the earth in the seventies, later joined with various human rights parties from East Germany that before merged to 'Alliance 90'. First represented in federal parliament after the (snap) 1983 election, they have been represented with at least one MdB[note 2] in every Bundestag since, however, their representation after the 1990 elections only amounted to eight east German representatives, as they failed to make the 5.0% threshold in the west. In 1998 they formed a coalition with the SPD and became one of the governing parties. After Stuttgart 21 and the Fukushima nuclear disaster their votes went up as high as 30% (from about 10% before). Due to the aforementioned factors the Prime Minister (think governor) of Southwestern Baden Württemberg is now a member of their party. Which is funny given that Baden Württemberg is largely a catholic and conservative state (though not as conservative and catholic as neighboring Bavaria). Although once regarded as a further left alternative to the SPD, it seems more willing than the SPD to coalition with the CDU/CSU.
- Trivia: With Cem Özdemir, they are the first party to have a Muslim in the party head (he isn't in there alone, as the head of the Greens are always one female and one male member).
Free Democratic Party
- Political leaning: Classical liberalism, Neoliberalism
- Color: Yellow and Blue
- Short: FDP
- Name in German: Freie Demokratische Partei
- History: Sometimes they were in the government, sometimes they weren't. Because of changing coalition partners, they are the party which has been in government for the most time. The last important head of their party was famous for being gay and equally infamous for living in a libertarian dreamland.[note 3] Their current man in charge is Christian Lindner. In the 2013 federal election, the party did not surpass the five-percent threshold and thus failed to enter the Bundestag for the first time in their history. Plus, they lost several important Landtage (state-level equivalents to the Bundestag), too. As a result, they were considered essentially dead, although it was observed that the corpse was still twitching and may rise from the grave in the next elections. In the run up to the 2013 election (where they were thrown out of parliament) they were the butt of many a joke, especially on the German copy of the daily show "Heute show". Given the rise of the AfD (see below) some people started to miss them, as whatever their faults, they were at least liberal on societal issues and civil rights and did not espouse xenophobic BS. In the 2017 election, the FDP got 10.7% of the vote, thus allowing their reentry to the Bundestag with 80 seats, becoming the fourth-largest party in the parliament.
- Political leaning: Democratic socialism (with sections of democratic communism, Libertarian Socialism), Social Democracy (minor element), pacifism, populism
- Color: Red
- Short: LINKE
- Name in German: Die Linke
- History: Founded in 2007 as a merger of PDS (successor of the SED, the party that was in charge in the East Germany) and the WASG, which was founded by somebody who has enough of the "liberal" policies of the SPD.
- In the Thuringan state election in 2014, Die Linke became the second strongest party (behind CDU). They subsequently formed a coalition with the SPD and the Greens (by itself no rare occurrence in the eastern state parliaments), making up the new state's government with the local Linke leader as Prime Minister. (Thus, they don't quite belong into this section anymore.) This marks only the second time in the modern era that a German state is led by a politician who is neither a member of SPD nor the Union. Incidentally, he is serving at the same time as his colleague from the green party. It is home to a number of unreconstructed East Germany apologists and even a few old Stasi types, but these don't seem to wield much influence over the party's direction.
- Reaction of other parties to this party: "AHHH! OMG! OMG! THE COMMIES ARE BACK!!1!!! WE DON'T PLAY WITH THESE KINDS OF PEOPLE!!"
- Political leaning: (originally): anti-Euro (now): right wing populist, socially conservative, economically libertarian, Euro-skeptic, batshit insane, islamophobic, antifeminist
- Color: Blue (official) /
Brown (unofficial)[note 4]
- Short: AfD
- Name in German:
Alte NaiveAlternative für Deutschland (~Alternative for Germany)
- History: Founded in recent years by right wing CDU/CSU voters and (former) members dissatisfied with Merkel's policies being "too left wing". Add in some cooks and crazies and the odd economy professor et voila a Frankenstein party is born. In 2013 they polled at 4.7% just 0.3 percentage points shy of seats in Berlin. They have managed to poll rather well in state elections, particularly in Saxony where they got almost ten percent (most of it former NPD voters). In 2017, they received 12.6% of the vote, unfortunately becoming the third-largest party in the Bundestag.
- Cooperation (or not) with them represents a similar problem for the CDU/CSU as the Linke does for the SPD. Sadly the SPD does not thus far milk this topic for all its potential. Became 3rd largest bloc in 2017, after CDU/CSU and SPD; the latter’s decision to jump into bed with the former leaves AfD as the leader of the opposition.
More minor parties, with some relevance nontheless
In German federal elections, parties only get seats in Bundestag if they receive more than 5% of the vote[note 5]. This is considered by some a stability issue, who claim, that in the old days of the Weimar Republic too many Parties had seats and democracy banned itself. In public discourse, however, people are also praising it it as an instrument to keep Nazis out of the parliaments. Whether due to this 5% "hurdle" (which in some form exists in most European representative democracies) or due to other factors, the German party system has proved remarkably stable for a long time and only in the last decade or so some movement has occurred, starting with the emergence of a party to the left of the SPD with a chance to enter the Bundestag and culminating (for now) with the FDP - the party with the longest combined time in government to date - getting thrown out of the Bundestag.
The New Liberals
- Political leaning: Social liberalism
- Color: Teal and Yellow
- Name in German: Neue Liberale
- History: They are made up of members who split from the Free Democratic Party in order to promote social liberalism in Germany. They disagreed with FDP's economic neoliberalism and seek to create legislative equality.
Pirate Party Germany
- Political leaning: "digital liberalism," social progressivism/libertarianism, social democracy, individualism, e-democracy
- Colors: Black/Orange
- Short: PIRATEN
- Name in German: Piratenpartei Deutschland
- History: Founded in 2006 and modeled after the Swedish Piratpartiet, they reached 'only' 2% in the 2009 Bundestag elections and therefore were the biggest party in Germany that had no seats in the Bundestag before the AfD happened. Won 8.9% in regional elections in Berlin in 2011, which lead to speculations that they might be the next party to get into the Bundestag. However, in more recent times their support in the polls has collapsed and instead of making it into the Bundestag they have to fear for their relevancy even at the local and state level. Their worst fears were realized in 2017, when they lost all of their seats in the state parliaments.
National Democratic Party of Germany
- Political leaning: Far-right, "democracy"Do You Believe That?, ethnic nationalism, Neo-Nazism
Brown(unofficial)[note 4], Black/White/Red (official)
- Short: NPD
- Name in German:
NaziparteiNationaldemokratische Partei Deutschlands – Die Volksunion
- History: Founded in 1964, several tries to ban the party failed. Also known as a "Nazi Party" and due to them being extreme wingnuts and Germany's past, it's probably not that far off to stray into Godwin County about them.
The laughing stock, the others and just weird ones
For the matter of disk space we can't list all the parties - also that list would be so long you wouldn't want to read it, so here are the highlights:
- Party of Bible-abiding Christians (PBC, Partei Bibeltreuer Christen): Evangelical Christians, although much more left then you might think. They really don't like abortion, sex and the gays. They also say that all states without God are designed to fail - using Nazis and Communists as an example.
- The PARTY ("Die PARTEI", which is an humourous acronym for "Partei für Arbeit, Rechtsstaat, Tierschutz, Elitenförderung und basisdemokratische Initiative"): Founded out of the satirical magazine "Titanic." Proposes to build up the Wall again – and they said they aren't kidding. Their head is an MEP and vlogs about his parliamentary activities.
- Anarchist Pogo Party of Germany (APPD, Anarchistische Pogo-Partei Deutschlands): Calls itself the party of social parasites. Advocates special zones for Nazis, racists, fascists and child molesters, free beer and more freedom. No they aren't joking... Supposedly not.
- The Violetes (Die Violetten, Die Violetten – für spirituelle Politik): Advocates a "more spiritual" political consensus.
- Bavaria Party (BP, Bayernpartei): A separatist party in the Land of Bavaria - if the rest of Germany would care is not known. The Bavarians sure wouldn't, seeing as the last time BP won any seats in the state parliament was in 1962.
- Civil Rights Movement Solidarity (BüSo, Bürgerrechtsbewegung Solidarität): Lyndon LaRouche's German arm of his
sectparty led by his equally deranged wife Helga Zepp-LaRouche. The party does the usual LaRouche-movement antics and its booths can usually be found not far away from Scientology booths in larger cities. Ironically the party seems to have no opinion on domestic German politics because it seems more important to make the current POTUS appear as a bloodthirsty tyrant and trying to make Putin look like the second coming of the Buddha.
- Die Friesen Friesian nationalist party based in the far northwest of Germany.
- Lusatian Alliance Representing the interests of Wends (aka Sorbs or Lusatians), a slavic minority in the eastern edge of Germany.
- South Schleswig Voters' Association (Südschleswigscher Wählerverband, SSW) For those Germans who consider themselves a bit Danish. After the 2012 elections, they became a junior partner in the coalition government of Schleswig-Holstein.
They didn't make it
- National Socialist German Workers' Party (NSDAP, Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei): Banned after WWII for obvious reasons.
- Communist Party of Germany (KPD, Kommunistische Partei Deutschlands): Banned in 1956 as dangerous to the Constitution. There have been several small parties and groups that tried to revive it and today communists are organized in dozens of different parties.
- Socialist Unity Party of Germany (SED, Sozialistische Einheitspartei Deutschlands): Ruling party of East Germany. Dissolved in 1990 and many of its members joined the successor party "PDS", which became today's "The Left" (see above).
- i.e. a socially conservative south-eastern state that used to be its own country and still has separatist tendencies. While both were originally known for farming and herding cattle, they have recently come to a lot of money. Now imagine Texas had its own party and what you get closely resembles the CSU
- Mitglied des Bundestages, the German way of saying federal MP
- Although that is only if you compare him to the rest of the German political landscape. Most libertarians from, say, the US would call still him a pinko commie for wanting to just "curtail" the welfare state instead of just canning it.
- brown is the political color of Nazism in Germany (after the brown uniforms of the SA)
- Or win three or more constituencies (German election laws are weird). The latter happened once in 1994 and almost happened again in 2002 when the PDS (now the Left party) got two constituencies while losing a third to the Greens by a razor thin margin
- Or slightly younger if you only count their taking the exact name they have today; If you want to read all about it auntie Wi has an entire article on it
- See the Wikipedia article on Guido Westerwelle.
- Westerwelle counters US Europe-bashing - The Local
- Guardian: Germany gets first socialist state governor since reunification
- See the Wikipedia article on Die Friesen.
- "We want to have a self-determined, democratically legitimated Sorbian Parliament", Nationalia, 29 April 2015
- See the Wikipedia article on South Schleswig Voters' Association.
- About, SSW website