A comparative study of Christian Democratic parties in Germany, Austria and the Netherlands : at the crossroads between tradition and adaption
This study is an in-depth investigation into the Christian Democratic parties of Germany, Austria and the Netherlands, focusing particularly on these parties during the 1990s. The primary intention is to give greater coverage to these oft-neglected parties through an account of political, electoral, programmatic and organisational developments. The research probes the position of the parties in the 1990s and analyses the extent to which the electoral decline of these parties after 1990 was the result of common factors as well as the role of nationally specific contextual variables. This is carried out through a consideration of the contraction of the social bases of Christian Democratic partisanship and detailed case-studies of the parties in the 1990s. The reactions of the parties to this decline are also analysed, looking specifically at strategic, programmatic and organisational changes. Historical background will also be provided by the opening chapters. Chapter two looks at Christian Democrats in the early post-war period, highlighting the rapid use of such parties and contrasting the lack of a unified Christian Democratic party in the Netherlands while chapter three investigates the reaction of the parties to the loss of national office and/or the emergence of electoral problems. In each case, programmatic and organisational adaptation occurred although as the chapter argues, by the end of the 1980s such efforts were very much marginal after the parties had re-established their position in government. Chapter four then examines the key social bases of Christian Democratic support and illustrates their long-term decline. It concludes that while such change need not necessarily result in electoral problems, there has been a decline of Christian Democratic partisanship in the electorate in the three countries. Chapters five, six and seven analyse the CDU, ÖVP and CDA in the 1990s. In each case, Christian Democrats found their position under greater threat than previously although the scale of their problems varied. Chapter eight scrutinises the development of Christian Democratic electoral programmes using the Comparative Manifestos Project dataset.