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Module Code: POU44231

Module Name: Topics in German Politics: Party Competition and Government Formation in Germany and in European Comparison 2021-22

  • ECTS Weighting: 5
  • Semester/Term Taught: Semester 1
  • 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 party competition, challenger parties and government formation – 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 party competition, electoral campaigns, government formation and governing in coalition governments
  • discuss and explain the changing nature of party competition in Germany and other European countries
  • assess the relevance of coalition agreements in government coalitions and identify relevant selectorates in the formation of German cabinets
  • examine the relevance of TV debates in German Federal Election campaigns, as well as, in other European elections

Module Content

This seminar will cover a variety of contemporary topics in German politics under three overarching themes: challenger parties, election campaigns and coalition governments. 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 campaigning in German Federal elections with a focus on negative campaigning, TV debates and 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.

Visiting Students

This module is OPEN to one-term and full-year visiting students. Incoming Socrates / Erasmus / visiting students are required to fulfil the same module requirements, in terms of coursework and exams, as TCD students. Registering for the module implies acceptance of this.

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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
  • Padgett, S., Paterson, W. E. and Zohlnhöfer, R (Eds). 2014. Developments in German Politics. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan. Chapters 2, 4 & 5

Students who have not received a basic introduction to German politics are encouraged to familiarise themselves with the German political system and its processes using additional chapters from the two monographs listed above.

  • 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.
  • Lau, R. R. and Rovner, I. B. 2009. Negative campaigning. Annual review of political science, 12, 285-306.

Assessment Details

The overall grade will be based on:

  • a paper response (400 words) - 15%
  • a mid-term essay (1,700) words) - 30%
  • a research proposal (2,500 words) - 55%

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