Winning Elections and Strategic Change
The SPD began the 1990s as a party characterised by loosely coupled anarchy with its leaders playing mostly to their own followers. After poor performances in the federal elections of 1987 and 1990, the SPD under Björn Engholm began the process (to be continued in fits and starts) of turning itself into a more effective electoral machine, capable of finding its way out of the 30 per cent ghetto. Electoral-strategic change manifested itself in three ways. First, a more ‘responsive’ policy approach was adopted towards a limited number of actors in the German system (e.g. the electorate). This was characterised with regard to European policy by short-term, sometimes ‘populist’ or parochial policies, often based on single issues and lacking a holistic perspective (not integrated into policy as a whole). These tactics were frequently employed by the domestic-oriented Länder minister-presidents up until the late 1990s and reflected the increasingly zero-sum view of the European Community/ European Union held by the electorate. This perspective was further sharpened by the penetration of the European Union into domestic politics, the penetration of the media into politics, and the growth of material concerns in Germany after unity.
KeywordsParty Leader European Policy Strategic Change Federal Election Labour Market Reform
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