Wed Jul 30th, 2008 at 03:21:51 AM EST
According to end-of-July numbers, for the first time ever, the German Social Democrats (SPD) have less party members than the Christian Democrats (CDU): 530,755 vs. 529,994. The SPD's membership melted to half of what it was at its peak in the seventies -- in West Germany only.
But, Merkel can't be happy: this only came to be because the SPD is losing members faster than the CDU (-1,744 vs. -644). The smaller parties are more stable, but only the Left Party showed some growth recently. I suspect the downwards trend is similar in most EU countries.
A sign of disconnect between the political class and common people, perhaps. Or maybe it's the new individualism, where people don't feel they have to invest more into politics than discussing issues in private and voting.
Here is the longer term trend of the membership of Germany's parties with parliamentary representation (from Bundeszentrale der Politischen Bildung):
Note how transient the Reunification bumps are. Disillusion with politics got really strong in that time and place.
Also note that the SPD-CDU comparison is a bit improper: the CDU doesn't run in Bavaria, but its permament ally the CSU does, and together they overtook the SPD already in the middle of the nineties.
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So, can you dig up similar data for the main parties in other countries? And what do you think are the reasons?