Parties and Party System in Germany after 1990

Place-name sign covered with stickers of the parties standing for election in the 1990 federal elections
© Federal Archives / Bundesarchiv, Bild 183-1990-1009-033, Ralph Hirschberger, CC-BY-SA 3.0

From »illegal« opposition to the Volkskammer elections in 1990 to the elections of the reunited German Bundestag – the democratisation process in the GDR is by now well-researched. In contrast, the long-term repercussions of implementing West-German party structures for the emergence of a democratic culture on the territory of the former GDR remains controversial. In light of old Federal Republic party headquarters recruiting new political leaders and the appointment of West German officials in administration and the justice system, many people in East Germany felt reunification to be the »colonisation« of their lifeworld. This has been seen as an explanation for the poor election results of CDU, SPD, Greens and FDP in several 2019 state elections.

The research focus »Parties and Party System in Germany after 1990« explores the formation and – in the case of the SED – transformation of political parties as well as the establishment of party-political structures in the new German Länder in the wake of the 1989 system transformation. Emphasis is placed on different expectations in East and West and competing influences of West German »mentor parties« in building the »East German party system«. Furthermore, consequences and repercussions of this process on the overall German party system (co-transformation), including its increasing fragmentation, are being investigated.

Since the adoption of its »Berlin Programme« the KGParl has increasingly devoted its research efforts to studies on the »GDR and the new German Länder«. With Dominik Geppert as the new chairman of the KGParl, it was decided to expand the institute’s focus on »party research«.


Research project »Formation and Development of Parties in the New German Länder, 1989/90–2005«


Initiated by its chairman, Prof. Dr. Dominik Geppert (University of Potsdam), a major research project on the »Formation and Development of Parties in the New German Länder, 1989/90–2005« has been launched within the framework of the research focus »Parties and Party System in Germany after 1990«. The basic concept has been discussed and decided on by the members of the commission at the annual general assembly of the KGParl in May 2019. [→ concept paper (in German)]

The coordinates of the research project’s frame of reference are the changing landscape of political parties after the end of the East-West conflict throughout Europe and the specific German process of system transformation. The period under investigation ranges from the stage of party formation and consolidation after 1989, to reactions to the announcement of extensive social reforms in 2005 (»Hartz-IV shock«), which resulted in rapidly visible political changes, particularly in the new German Länder.


Cooperation with Party-Affiliated Foundations

The research project »Formation and Development of Parties in the New German Länder, 1989/90–2005« is based on the cooperation between the KGParl and party-affiliated foundations. The prospects of future cooperation were discussed at a meeting on 25 January 2019. The project is a research partnership comprising of PhD projects that are topically interrelated but follow separate application procedures, funded by the scholarship programme of the political foundations. The KGParl coordinates and manages the overall project. It supports PhD supervisors with expert advice, organises workshops and helps plan research stays.

In cooperation with the Hanns Seidel Foundation, the first PhD project within the framework of the postgraduate scholarship programme has been launched. It focuses on »reconstruction aid« provided by the CSU for the DSU, newly founded in 1989/90. The project is titled »Gemeinsam in die Einheit? Die Zusammenarbeit von DSU und CSU im Prozess der Wiedervereinigung« (»Moving Together into German Unity? The Cooperation between DSU and CSU during the Process of German Reunification«) by PhD candidate Jens Weinhold-Fumoleau.

Recently, the Friedrich Naumann Foundation has also advertised a PhD scholarship on »Die Entwicklung der FDP in den neuen Bundesländern 1990 bis 2005« (»The Development of the FDP in the New Federal States from 1990 to 2005«).

Until April 2021 it was also possible to apply to the Rosa Luxemburg Foundation for a doctoral scholarship »From the SED to the PDS: The Transformation of the GDR State Party in Democracy«. The supervisors of this PhD project are Prof. Dr. Frank Bösch (member of the KGParl since 2018) and Dr. Jens Gieseke, both from the Leibnitz Centre for Contemporary History Potsdam.

Prof. Dr. Frank Bösch also supervises a PhD project launched in 2018 on the history of Bündnis 90/The Greens, funded by the Heinrich Böll Foundation. The PhD candidate is Florian Schikowski.

Current Projects

»Christdemokraten in Ost und West. Eine Kommunikationsgeschichte 1990–2005« [»Christian Democrats in East and West. A History of Communication 1990-2005«] from February 2021 edited by Carsten Deitmer, supervisor Prof. Dr. Dominik Geppert, funded by the Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung

»Übernahme auf Augenhöhe? Die Fusion von Bündnis 90 und den Grünen« (»Hostile or friendly takeover? The merging of »Bündnis 90« and the Green Party«) (since 2018), PhD candidate Florian Schikowski, supervisors Prof. Dr. Frank Bösch and Prof. Dr. Thomas Lindenberger, funded by the Heinrich Böll Foundation [→ project outline]

»Gemeinsam in die Einheit? Die Zusammenarbeit von DSU und CSU im Prozess der Wiedervereinigung« (»Moving Together into German Unity? The Cooperation between DSU and CSU during the Process of German Reunification«) (since 2017), PhD candidate Jens Weinhold-Fumoleau, supervisors Prof. Dr. Marie Luise Recker and Prof. Dr. Andreas Schulz, funded by the Hanns Seidel Foundation [→ project outline (in German)]


Together with the Institute of Contemporary History Munich-Berlin and the GraduateCenter of the LMU Munich, the KGParl hosted the workshop »Parteiendemokratie in der Krise? Politische Parteien und Bewegungen im gesellschaftlichen Wandel (1970 bis heute)« (»Party Democracy in Crisis? Political Parties and Movements in a Changing Society, from 1970 to the Present«) from 21 to 22 November 2019. Building upon the notion of the »crisis of party democracy«, the workshop participants discussed consequences of the peaceful revolution and German reunification for the party landscape in Germany. [→ conference report (in German)]


Andreas Schulz, Tobias Kaiser