German Political Parties

August 4, 2009

Having established the basic similarities between the NZ and German electoral systems, we now have to ask: How do they function day-to-day in each country? The best place to start here is with the parties – what they stand for and how they are represented in the Bundestag give us a good indication of how politics in Germany works under a proportional representation system.

CDU/CSU (NZ Equivalent: National): The Christian Democratic Union was formed after WWII with the goal of a ‘Christian Socialism’, which has now changed into that of a ‘Social Market Economy’ (we see that in this point the two main parties agree). However the CDU is more conservative than the SPD, and also more market-oriented. One should not underestimate the Christian element of the party (it is in the party’s constitution), although it is open also to non-Catholics. The CSU is the CDU’s sister party in the state of Bavaria, which cooperates with the CDU in the Bundestag.

SPD (NZ Equivalent: Labour): The German Social Democratic Party is the oldest party represented in the German parliament and committed to its own version of Democratic Socialism, which means: Freedom, Equity and Solidarity. In practice, this means what the Germans call the Social Market Economy, including a comprehensive welfare state and redistribution of wealth. The SPD historically has high membership and close ties to organised labour unions, although this is no longer necessarily the case.

The Free Democratic Party/FDP (NZ Equivalent: None): Often known as ‘The Liberals’, the FDP has successfully positioned itself in the middle of the political spectrum in Germany, and so has been in Government longer than any other German party – albeit as junior coalition partner. As a liberal party, the FDP is for the rights and responsibilities of the individual and free market economic policies.

Green Party/ Bündnis 90/Die Grünen (NZ Equivalent: Green Party): The Green Party is, quite obviously, a party with a focus on enviromental issues. Its core philosophy is that of sustainable development, however its policies spread into areas such as health, social policy (where they are leftist/liberal) and foreign policy (where they are more pacifist than other parties).

Left Party/Die Linke (NZ Equivalent: None): The so-called Left Party is the direct successor of the ruling party in the former socialist German Democratic Republic (East Germany), which after 1989 was renamed PDS and has gone on to merge with other leftist parties and contest elections in Germany on the state and federal level. As an extreme left party, it pursues ‘democratic socialism’ and that Capitalism be ‘overcome’.

Advertisements