Becoming Party Politicians

Becoming Party Politicians

  • East German State Legislators in the Decade following Democratization

  • by Louise Davidson-Schmich

  • 232 pages, 6.00 x 9.00 , 22 tables

  • Paperback | 9780268025854 | March 2006

  • Contemporary European Politics and Society


After the Berlin Wall fell, scholars flocked to eastern Europe to conduct extensive opinion research on citizens' political attitudes and values. In eastern Germany, post-communist political elites were found to differ from western German politicians, exhibiting greater distrust of both political parties and party discipline, more political intolerance, a preference for economic equality over political freedom, and support for direct rather than representative democracy. These attitudes were expected to be hurdles to democratization.

Yet only limited research has been done to determine whether eastern German politicians' attitudes and values actually influenced their actions. Becoming Party Politicians fills this empirical void by comparing eastern and western German state legislators in the decade following unification. While the two groups hold contrasting attitudes, they serve in virtually identical political institutions. The book finds little evidence to suggest that the political attitudes and values of eastern parliamentarians have hindered their adaptation to united Germany's political system.

Instead, Germany's parliamentary and electoral institutions—together known as the party state—have created disciplined eastern parliamentarians. Placed in these identical parliamentary institutions, both eastern and western German legislators have responded similarly. Legislative voting on issues surrounding political tolerance, direct democracy, and economic equality can now be predicted on the basis of parliamentarians' partisan affiliation rather than their eastern or western origin.

Davidson-Schmich's conclusions, based on personal interviews with state legislators and analysis of parliamentary debates between 1990 and 2002, not only shed light on German politics and the sources of legislator behavior; they also contribute to broader debates involving both the ability of western European political institutions to survive societal change and the influence of political institutions on the consolidation of democracy in post-communist settings.