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Module Code: POU44231

Module Name: Topics in German Politics: Electoral Behaviour, Government Formation, and Migration.

  • ECTS Weighting: 5
  • Semester/Term Taught: Semester
  • Contact Hours: One 90-minute seminar per week
  • Module Personnel: Dr Jan Berz
  • Office Hours: TBA

Learning Aims

The aim of this module is to provide students with an enhanced knowledge and understanding of theories of electoral behaviour, polarization and citizens' attitudes towards migration – using empirical research on cases in the Federal Republic of Germany and other European cases.


Learning Outcomes

On successful completion of this module students should be able to:

  • understand different theories of electoral behaviour, party competition, and the effect of natural disasters on electoral behaviour
  • discuss and explain the changing nature of party competition in Germany and other European countries
  • analyze causes of government formation on the federal-, state- and local-level in Germany
  • examine how the 2015 refugee crises has shaped citizens' attitudes towards migration

Module Content

This seminar will cover a variety of contemporary topics in German politics under three overarching themes: the 2021 election campaign and changing party system, the increasing complexity of coalition governments in Germany, and attitudes towards migrants and refugee among German citizens. Students will gain an enhanced knowledge of contemporary theories of party competition (e.g. challenger parties, issue yield theory), election campaigns and coalition governance that enable them to analyse the German and other European cases. After participating in the seminar students will be able to critically assess and devise empirical studies on these themes.

The module is structured in three consecutive parts in which we will focus on one of the three individual themes using the German and other European cases. We will discuss how the recent migration crisis transformed political alignments in Germany and how we can make sense of the transformative effects for the success of challenger parties like the AfD.

This seminar will also cover new theories like 'issue yield' and examine the success of the Greens. The module will also address behaviour in German Federal elections with a focus on the July flood, negative campaigning and polarization in the 2021 German Federal Election.

The last part of the module will start with an overview on theories of government formation (e.g. policy- and office-seeking strategies, minimum-winning and dominant player theories). We than discuss empirical studies on coalition bargaining processes and the allocation of ministerial portfolios in German and other European cabinets. More specifically, we focus on the role of coalition agreements in German governments. Furthermore, we examine the potential negative consequences of grand coalition governments that have been formed frequently after German federal elections.

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Recommended Reading List

Detailed readings will be given in the module handout.

Key readings are:

  • Langenbacher, E. and Conradt, D. P. 2017. The German Polity. Rowman & Littlefield Publishers. Chapters 5 & 6
  • Lau, R. R. and Rovner, I. B. 2009. Negative campaigning. Annual review of political science, 12, 285-306.
  • De Vries, C. E. and Hobolt, S. 2020. Political Entrepreneurs. Princeton University Press.
  • Strøm, Kaare and Wolfgang C. Müller (Eds). 2008. Cabinets and Coalition Bargaining: The Democratic Life Cycle in Western Europe. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Assessment Details

The overall grade will be based on:

  • a mid-term essay - 40%
  • a research proposal - 60%

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