Christian Stecker
Parties on the Chain of Federalism: Position-Taking and Multi-Level Party Competition in Germany

West European Politics, 2015: 38, Heft 6, S. 1305-1326
ISSN: 0140-2382 (print); 1743-9655 (online)

Germany’s federalism imposes significant constraints on sub-national parties. They cannot enact their ambitious policy agenda as most legislative powers are concentrated at the federal level. This article demonstrates how sub-national parties use position-taking strategies to escape these constraints. By position-taking, parties try to induce regional voters and interest groups to judge them for what they stand for instead of blaming them for the policies they cannot deliver. This argument is illustrated empirically by analysing all 1,715 announcements of legislative initiatives in the Bundesrat in 562 electoral manifestos and coalition agreements that were published during all 92 regional elections since 1990 and all 1,619 Land bills from the period between 1972 and 2013. It is shown that regional parties and governments that are in opposition at the federal level announce and submit significantly more legislative initiatives that aim at changing federal policies.