Mueller and Strom pgs. 1-27
Guiding Questions
What is party government?
 What do parties want?
 What are vote seeking goals? Office
seeking? Policy seeking?
 Can parties maximize all three goals?
Political Parties and Government
Political science suggests that political parties a
central role in promoting and maintaining democracy.
Schattschneider 1942
“modern democracy is unthinkable save in terms of political
Muller and Strom 1999
In a democracy, voters delegate policy-making authority to
representatives via political parties.
What Is Party Government?
We can conceive of democracy as “party government”
Katz 1986; Katz 1987
1) Parties organize policy-making
Government decisions made by party leaders.
 Government policy decided within political parties.
 Parties act cohesively to enact policy.
2) Parties serve as intermediaries between voters and
Elections seen as mechanisms to ensure party accountability.
3) Parties recruit political leadership.
Most elected officials are affiliated with a party.
What Do Parties Seek?
Mueller and Strom 1999
 Three strategies are typically offered.
 Parties as:
2) Policy-seekers
3) Vote-seekers.
These are ideal type strategies.
 Most
parties seek more than one end.
Factors Shaping Party Options
Mueller and Strom 1999
Party behavior is shaped by a variety of factors:
1) Party leadership and organization
Motivations of the leadership (political entrepreneurs)
 Relationship between leadership and party activists
2) Political institutional structures
Electoral/legislative laws
 Laws governing coalition formation
3) Political context
General elections/economic circumstances
 Number of parties at the bargaining table
Office Seeking Models
Riker 1962
Parties seek to maximize their control over the
benefits associated with taking office.
Benefits include: cabinet portfolios, political appointments,
Parties share power only when necessary.
Votes and policy viewed as instrumental to obtaining
office (i.e. a means to an end), not as intrinsically
Policy Seeking Models
De Swaan 1973
Parties seek to maximize their impact on policy.
Political parties have policy platforms that they seek to
enact once in office.
When parties coalesce, they will do so with parties
that have similar policy outlooks.
Policy can be considered as intrinsically valuable or
as instrumental to other goals (e.g. office).
Vote Seeking Models
Downs 1957
Parties seek to maximize their vote share.
Parties use policy manifestoes to win votes, not for policy
ends per se.
Parties maximize votes even when they are assured
of a majority.
Votes are instrumental and not intrinsically valuable in
and of themselves.
Election 2005: Merkel’s Dilemma
Majority = 308
No party could govern
Schroeder and Merkel both
made claims on the
Merkel was given first crack
at forming a coalition.
Her party held the most seats.
Election 2005: Merkel’s Dilemma
Merkel’s preferred policy coalition
 FDP/CDU/CSU = 287 seats
 21 short.
Schroeder’s preferred policy
coalition (red-green):
 SPD/B90GR = 273
 35 short.
PDS/Left was not an option.
Both sides needed to woo another
 Attention turned to the B90Gr
and FDP.
Election 2005: Merkel’s Dilemma
From an office seeking
standpoint, adding B90/Gr
(i.e. a “Jamaica coalition”)
would give Merkel 338
 Rejected by the Green
party on policy grounds.
Adding the FDP to the
SPD/B90/Gr (i.e. traffic
light coalition) would give
Schroeder 334 seats.
 But this was rejected by
the FDP on policy grounds.
Election 2005: Merkel’s Dilemma
Polls showed Germans did not
want another election.
Merkel agrees to form a grand
coalition with the SPD.
Coalition was strained by:
 1) conservative social policy
advocated by the CSU
 2) center left economic policy
favored by the SPD
 3) desire for economic reform
by members of the CDU.
SPD entered 2009 elections
pushing for a return of the
grand coalition.
 CDU wanted to end it.
Election 2009: The Aftermath
CDU vote declined slightly
Being in government can sometimes come at an electoral cost.
Voters punished the SPD
Worst performance in the postwar era
Voters rewarded the FDP, the Greens, and the Left
All opposition parties fared well.
Government formed by the CDU/CSU and the FDP.
Merkel was seeking a yellow-black coalition rather than another
grand coalition
Conclusions: Party Goals
Goals are not mutually exclusive.
Parties may attempt to maximize one (e.g. votes) to obtain
another (e.g. policy or office).
But parties must also make tradeoffs.
 Pursuing one type of goal can hinder the attainment of
other goals.
 Office
seeking strategies may risk a rebellion amongst
party activists.
 Policy seeking strategies may please activists but harm a
party’s ability to win votes within the larger electorate.
 Vote seeking strategies may impinge on a party’s policyseeking goals if they water them down to appeal to the
larger electorate.
Next Unit
Theme: Parties and Votes
CH 11
Mueller and Strom pgs. 112-140
Game: Elections

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