Member Parties - Decline without End?

The decline of members of political parties in Europe has led to the presumption that they will disappear as membership organizations in the future. This view is opposed to the normalization thesis, meaning the survival of the member parties at a low level. The authors deal with the extent to which the disappearance or normalization of the parties in Germany can be expected. They point out that their membership development is subject to a business cycle whose climax ranges from the mid-1970s until shortly after the German-German reunification in the early 1990s. Since then, there has been a steady drop in membership, mainly due to a lack of entry, withdraws and an increasing mortality of a party cohort growing old. According to the normalization thesis, a further decline of the member level following the extraordinary inflow of members in the mid-1970s and early 1990s is expected, but in a longer term a stabilization is estimated. By means of a time series analysis the future development of the member numbers is estimated by the example of SPD and CDU until the year 2030. Their results show that the number of accessions will not fall as much as those of the departures, which are already determined by a high proportion of deaths. When this phase subsides, the volumes of entries and exits are likely to equalize.

The article is published in: ZParl, Vol. 49 (2018), Issue 2, S. 304 – 324.

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