Andreas M. Wüst, Hermann Schmitt, Thomas Gschwend, Thomas Zittel
Candidates in the 2005 Bundestag Election: Mode of Candidacy, Campaigning and Issues

German Politics, 2006: 15, issue 4, p. 420-438
ISSN: 0964-4008

Electoral campaigns are conducted by parties and candidates to convince the people to turn out to vote and to vote for them instead of voting for a competitor. In parliamentary democracies, and especially in those that apply electoral systems of proportional representation with closed party lists, parties and their top candidates for prime minister or for chancellor are considered to be the main actors in campaigns. Consequently, electoral campaigns are primarily party campaigns which are neither won nor lost by any ‘average’ candidate. Parties structure the electoral competition by collectively emphasizing certain issues and by presenting a rather cohesive ideological perspective in a campaign. Further, candidates and elected MPs are first and foremost representatives of their parties with very limited personal room for political manoeuvre. While this assessment is not challenged in principle, we argue that it cuts too short. In addition to parties, candidates play important roles in electoral campaigns, and due to the modernization of parties and campaigns, we expect a substantial degree of personalized campaigning which is likely to increase in the future. Given the particular mixed-member electoral system used to elect the German Bundestag, we are able to differentiate the campaign of pure constituency candidates, pure list candidates and the most frequent hybrids who ran for office both in a constituency and on a party list in 2005.