Calculated Competitors or Ideological Bedfellows? : A Comparative Analysis of the Policy Similarities and Differences Between the National Democratic Party of Germany (NPD) and Die Linke in the Saxon State Parliament During the 5th Legislative Period, 2009-2014

Faculty/Professorship: Comparative Politics  ; Bamberg Graduate School of Social Sciences (BAGSS)  
Author(s): Rayder, Benjamin
Publisher Information: Bamberg : opus
Year of publication: 2017
Pages: VI, 246 ; Illustrationen, Diagramme
Supervisor(s): Saalfeld, Thomas  ; Ripoll Servent, Ariadna  ; Marx, Johannes  
Language(s): English
Dissertation, Otto-Friedrich-Universitaet Bamberg, 2017
Licence: German Act on Copyright 
URN: urn:nbn:de:bvb:473-opus4-496182
The institutional literature about party families contends that far right and far left political actors occupy opposite poles in the standard left/right dimension. However, recent demand-side studies about the influence of globalization have challenged this assumption due to the ongoing dealignment of traditional cleavages at the voter level that were highly salient for determining political conflict in Western European party systems. More recently, supply-side analyses of populism suggest that, in an attempt to appeal to similar segments of the electorate, far right and far left actors might share more commonalities than their disparate ideologies would indicate. Research about niche parties also suggests the potential for similarities. Often treated as unitary actors, the far right and far left are believed to behave differently than their mainstream competitors. However, these claims have not yet been substantiated in a comparative analysis with systematic measurements. The present work contributes to the secondary literature by taking a comparative supply side approach that examines party policies from the far left Die Linke, and the extreme right Nationaldemokratische Partei Deutschlands (NPD) during the 5th legislative period in the Saxon State Parliament. The analysis introduces an innovative theoretical framework that is grounded in existing models of party competition. It assumes that political competition occurs in multiple dimensions of competition and parties must weigh the prospective costs and benefits of their available strategies. As niche parties, the NPD and Die Linke share ideological features and issue ownership reputations that restrict their behavior and produce policy overlaps in some dimensions. At the same time, it is these limitations that ultimately contribute to policy differences in others. A content analysis using hand-coding is performed on a new data source for measuring party policies: legislative motions for the agenda (Anträge). In this data source, positions, issue salience and rhetoric are measured in six dimensions of political competition that enhance the descriptive value of the study. The findings largely confirm the theoretical assumptions. The NPD and Die Linke select a strategy of product differentiation in their core dimensions of political competition. For issues in these areas, the parties’ policies are uniquely dissimilar. One exception was in the socio-economic dimensions where the NPD and Die Linke shared overlapping left positions. This result is a significant empirical finding and further demonstrates the proletarization of the far right. In contrast, the NPD and Die Linke proposed similar policies in their peripheral dimensions of competition. Here, they are able to adapt their policies to the preferences of a larger set of voters without incurring high costs at the polls. Based on the findings, the study subscribes to recent analyses in the secondary literature, which argue that the traditional understanding of the left-right heuristic has become increasingly less able to describe political actors in Western European party systems. However, the niche label should not overlook fundamental differences between the NPD and Die Linke. Despite the similarities that emerged in their positions, salience and rhetoric, the NPD and Die Linke remain distinctive political actors. This fact is reflected in the nuances that distinguish their respective policy proposals.
GND Keywords: Sachsen ; Landtag ; Die Linke ; Nationaldemokratische Partei Deutschlands ; Geschichte 2009-2014
Keywords: Radical parties, political competition, niche actors, legislative behavior, Saxony
DDC Classification: 300 Social sciences, sociology & anthropology  
RVK Classification: MG 29535     MG 29323   
Type: Doctoralthesis
Year of publication: 13. September 2017

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