Okay, this will probably make me look like a total nutjob but I happened to enter a discussion about which German Land that could be described as the FDP’s Stammland: Baden-Württemberg or Nordrhein-Westphalen. With that in mind, I couldn’t help wondering about the FDP’s role as a party which has been balancing on the 5% hurdle for many years, continuously entering and leaving state assemblies.
First, regarding “Stammland” our friend Google leaves no room for doubt: Make a search for “FPD” and “Stammland” and Baden-Württemberg, not Nordrhein-Westphalen comes up.
But there are many ways to do this calculation. As Nordrhein-Westphalen is the largest state in Germany, anything which happens in the NRW branch of the party is bound to have a major impact on the national scene.
If we look at the party chairmen since 1947, six have had their basis in Nordrhein-Westphalen (Blücher, Mende, Scheel, Genscher, Lambsdorff, Westerwelle), four in Baden-Württemberg (Heuss, Maier, Bangemann, Kinkel), and one each in Bayern (Dehler), Hessen (Gerhardt) and Niedersachsen (Rösler).
If we only look at the “old” states (but include Berlin) and discount the 2009 state election in Hessen, FDP at present has its strongest representation in Nordrhein-Westphalen (9.9% of the vote in 2012) followed by Niedersachsen (8.6% in 2013). These, incidentally are the home states of Christian Lindner and Philipp Rösler. The party is also performing well in Schleswig-Holstein where Wolfgang Kubicki has been the leading name in the state branch while it is down to 5.3% in Baden-Württemberg. Over the entire life-span of the Federal Republic, the FDP had its strongest support in Hessen (10.9% on average in all state elections), followed by Baden-Württemberg (10.4%) and Schleswig-Holstein (9.2%), while Baden-Württemberg is the only state where the FDP has never lost its representation in the Landtag.
So, the FDP can be said to have its heart in Baden-Württemberg and its organizational and electoral core in Hessen and Nordrhein-Westphalen with Schleswig-Holstein as the forgotten stronghold. If we add the “new” states, Sachsen also belongs here.
In the long run, the FDP’s electoral history at the state level is a complicated one. The first diagram shows the party’s average performance in state elections – again: only the states of the pre-1990 FRG are included – from 1946 until the September 2013 Bavarian state election and the sliding average tells us that the party was in electoral decline from the mid-1950s until the mid-1990s when its support began to stabilize around the 5% mark. The surge in national support following the second Grand Coalition 2005-2009 also spilled over into – occasionally spectacular – electoral wins at the state level followed by a new phase of decline with the party winning around 6% of the vote.
At the federal level, things are even more complicated with support for the FDP fluctuating wildly over the years: Big wins have been followed by huge losses. This points to the FDP’s role as a reservoir for disgruntled CDU/CSU-voters.
My own prediction for tomorrow’s federal elections is that the FDP will make it to the Bundestag, winning some 6% of the national vote.