Robert Rohrschneider, Rüdiger Schmitt-Beck
Introduction: Parties and Voters at the 2013 German Federal Election

German Politics, 2017: 26, Heft 1, S. 1-11
ISSN: 0964-4008 (print); 1743-8993 (print)

Introducing the special issue, section (1) provides an overview of the election campaign, (2) discusses major aspects of the election's outcome and (3) highlights the broader theoretical implications of the contributions to the special issue to the research literature. The 2013 Federal Election indicates a considerably growing volatility of the German electorate. Smaller parties, partly founded just shortly before the election, gained substantial support from an increasingly dealigned electorate. For the first time ever, the FDP, which was represented in every Bundestag since 1949, failed to clear the 5 per cent threshold and did not gain any seats in the Bundestag. For the second time in short order a Grand Coalition became thus the most viable option for the formation of a government. However, this time the Social Democrats entered the collaboration with the Christian Democrats clearly as a smaller partner. All this (and more) signals the greater mobility and willingness of the electorate to defect from the pillars of the established party system. With these features, the German context seems to reflect broader trends that occur in many European democracies. Most electorates in Western Europe clearly experience weakening partisan loyalties among voters; and in newer democracies in Central-Eastern Europe, partisan loyalties are still forming so that, on the whole, the patterns in the 2013 election fit a more general assessment that established parties are losing their grip on electorates.