Minor party

A small party is a political party that has only a relatively small trailer or electorate and their political influence at parliamentary level is correspondingly low, if it is at all represented in a parliament. Colloquially, the term faction is often used in the literature it is due to its negative connotations only rarely used. There you will find next to it, among other terms such as non- established or rare minority party. In the recent literature, the term micro party is used now.

  • 4.1 Rights smaller parties
  • 4.2 Left parties and small groups of Communists
  • 4.3 Christian small parties
  • 4.4 The Greens: from small party to government involvement
  • 4.5 SED, SED - PDS, PDS, Left Party, Die Linke
  • 4.6 FDP
  • 4.7 See also


In the policy sciences are understood to small parties those political parties that have a low political influence due to their small number of members, as well as low voter results. In the election statistics are often grouped under "other parties " and sometimes referred to pejoratively as " factions ". Political scientist Dirk van den Boom differentiated between quantitative and qualitative aspects, and defines small party as "a political party that prevails because of the legal, financial, human, organizational and programmatic context in which they work is not so in the political system that they actively contribute significantly and shaping the decision-making process and in the selection of political leaders participates " ( van den Boom, 1999: 21). Thus, this term subsumes those parties would, which have only a small number of active members and accordingly has low membership fees and often have too few staff to occupy party offices and political mandates and effectively conduct public relations and fundraising. However, they differ not only because of lower resources of the larger parties, but often focus on narrow target groups and by the other parties neglected topics and developed on the other hand often no comprehensive framework or party program that would appeal to larger groups of voters (cf. interested party or single-issue party). Some small parties, such as the regional parties, limited only to regional priorities. As so-called " town hall parties " parties are referred to that are on the local level of significance mainly due to their local political objectives. Similarly, it often is ideologically motivated parties whose members are their political views do not match those of the major parties may agree to or protest parties whose success is mostly temporary.

The definition of small parties about the low resonance in elections and the lack of representation in parliaments is most widely used in Germany. In explaining their lack of success, however, compete different perspectives, depending on whether more organizational or programmatic deficiencies of the parties themselves are viewed as primarily responsible for their failure or whether this is attributed to external factors, including the electoral system matters.

In Austria, the term is generally used for established parliamentary parties such as the Greens and the FPÖ, in contrast to the two major parties SPÖ and ÖVP. So this is understood those parties that could not form the government, but at best coalition partners would be. Your electorate is usually below 10%, rarely to 15 % - together they represent today nationwide but about 1/3 of the electorate, even in the 1990s, only about 1/5. Parties under the respective thresholds of choice ( National Council election: 4%) are, usually called micro party, including numerous regional only active parties.

In Switzerland we speak rarely of small party. The biggest parties are represented in the Federal Council and Federal Council therefore called parties. The smaller, not represented in the governing parties are referred to as other parties or smaller parties.


Small parties can be considered " attorneys Single " as a matter of urgency perceived interests and topics to draw attention and force the major parties to deal with them. They also serve as a kind of "democratic pressure relief valve " to give the voters within the political system the opportunity to express rejection. Furthermore they offer, among other organizations, the design possibilities of public life.

Small parties and election law

While a majority voting smaller groups only in the case of pronounced strongholds (such as for regional parties ) offers better chances of success favors the pure proportional representation the collection of small parties in a parliament, which may result in the formation of a majority government is difficult. For this reason, there are various parliamentary systems, as well as in Germany, a restrictive clause in the electoral laws.

Situation in the Federal Republic of Germany

Restrictive clause five percent hurdle

A party must in the Federal Republic of Germany at least five percent of the second combined votes or received three direct mandates to be represented according to their share of the vote with the appropriate number of deputies in the Bundestag ( see basic mandate ). Direct mandates received by a candidate through first votes in a constituency, are not affected by this restrictive clause. During the 15th legislative session this concerned two members of the PDS in the Bundestag, who were elected at the general election in 2002 in Berlin constituencies directly to the Bundestag, although the party had nationwide receive less than five percent of second votes. In state elections in Bavaria the direct mandate of the candidate receives the majority of first preference votes in the constituency only if his party has overcome the five percent hurdle.

An exception to the five- percent hurdle in state and federal elections applies to parties representing national minorities in the population. Currently, this only affects the Landtag Schleswig -Holstein with the Südschleswiger Wählerverband (SSW ), which represents the interests of the Danish and Frisian minorities of German citizens in the north of Schleswig-Holstein.

The admissibility of the restrictive clause in elections in Germany is controversial. It is only permissible if it is necessary to form a government and thus for the functioning of the respective parliaments or representative. Even small parties be granted a vital function in a democracy of the Federal Constitutional Court 's view. In local elections and elections to the European Parliament a restrictive clause was considered inadmissible and declared unconstitutional.

More competition hurdles for parties

In addition to the five percent hurdle the provisions of the electoral and party laws, viewed against further restrictions that prevent non- established parties find truly level playing field.

Another hurdle is the quorum, which must be achieved in order to benefit the election campaign expenses: Parties who reach a voting share of 0.5 percent ( parliamentary or European election ) or one percent ( state elections ), get in the following the relevant choice legislature, government grants deriving from the number of votes received and their own donations and contribution revenues. Small and new parties that fail to meet these hurdles, remain dependent on their own resources.

The candidacy of a small party can fail not only financial, but also for technical reasons. The nominations non- established, not -represented generally in the body to be elected associations must be accompanied by a certain amount of support signatures, whose number varies depending on the choice and size of the electoral district.

Smallest parties

Even in the presence of supporters signatures candidacy may still fail because the responsible Returning Officer or Election Committee does not recognize the party status of the applying organization. According to § 2 paragraph 1 of the Law on Political Parties an association is only to be considered as a party, " if, after the overall picture of the actual conditions, in particular on the size and strength of their organization, according to the number of its members and their conduct in the public a sufficient guarantee provides for the seriousness "of their claim. However, these criteria leave room for interpretation and are not equal and verifiable by a detailed definition for each candidate.

Therefore, recent studies argue in different accents for it to verify the validity and effectiveness of the relevant regulations and to liberalize partially or to make it more transparent and binding. The fact that the Federal Constitutional Court itself ( to 2012), made by decisions of the Federal Electoral Committee regarding a ballot access could only deal in the context of an election audit subsequently been described by commentators as " legal gap " or " legal refusal ". In April 2012, the German Bundestag and the Bundesrat decided by a two - thirds vote to introduce a legal protection for parties before the election. Inspired by the Federal Election Commission to recognize a union as a party on the other hand, appeal may be brought before the Federal Constitutional Court.

Such associations that consider themselves qua name or statutes as parties are referred to as the smallest parties. You may submit to the Bundestag no own country lists ( § 18 para 1 BWahlG ). For the European elections they can compete with its own list as "other political organization" (§ 8 para 1 EuWG ). In many states they can also municipal and partly also to compete for state elections.

German small parties

In today's Federal Republic of Germany, there have been hundreds of small parties which exist in terms of degree of organization, life and political leanings significant differences.

Found the most attention in the media and in political discourse and find small parties that are active on either the left or right edges of society, some of which are observed by the intelligence.

Among the observance place small parties are still groups that can be grouped into less a certain ideological direction and often special, not primarily political areas dedicated as the German beer drinkers Union.

Even spiritually oriented parties are found among the smaller parties, such as The Violet - for spiritual policy.

Notwithstanding the extreme and exotic, however, are among the majority of which came in the last decades in appearance small parties to groups that accept the democratic rules of this state and of the established parties initially only through its organizational weakness and a lower resonance with voters differ. While a significant portion of these forces would like to address as wide a range of interested parties, there are other parties that are limited to the perception of particular interests. These can be found more or less in terms of the overall system with the role of a small party from, but can by focusing on specific parts of some cases where you can reach a certain relevance.

The particularistic orientation may relate to different areas:

  • A party that makes its appearance only in a city or region is often referred to as a local or regional party. Examples of this include the Bavarian Party, the People's Party of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern and the South Schleswig Voters' Association. The latter formation limits their effectiveness in Schleswig -Holstein. But since it does, because only there the Danish minority population plays a role, it could also serve as example for the next group:
  • Parties representing only the interests of a particular social group, can be configured as " interested parties " denote, unless one assumes that it belongs to the essence of any party to explicitly represent certain interests more or less. In these social groups may be to certain age groups (eg, The Grey - Grey Panthers or youth parties such as future or PETO! ) Or gender ( women's party and other feminist groups ), but also to groups with certain social status as unemployed ( PASS ), retired or medium-sized ( SME Party and others). A certain role was played in the early years of the Federal Republic of Germany parties, such as the BHE represented the interests of the expellees, but these have increasingly lost importance. The closer outlined the view expressed by their group or the articulated by their interest is, the more it approaches a party of the third category:
  • Parties that put only one topic or a receivable in the focus of their interest and this usually also consider when naming ( such as the car driver or the Animal Welfare Party), often referred to in the research as a "single -issue parties." You can, if they pick the right topic at the right time, achieve short-term electoral success, but then often face the alternative of dealing either with other policy areas or to disappear into insignificance. Parties that are dedicated to very specific and non- political in the narrow sense themes are hardly to be distinguished from the so-called fun - or anti-party, in terms of their "seriousness " at least doubt entitled to appear.

Another way to typify small parties, their origin or ancestry. Some of them were ( from programmatic or personal motives ) as an elimination of an existing, often already established party. Another group was formed in situations where social forces and social movements have decided to accept the status of a party in order if possible to be able to be effective in the parliamentary chamber. The most prominent representatives of this type are the Greens, where it's basically succeeded as the only foundation of the last decades in Germany to advance into the circle of the established parties. In addition, there are always party -ups " at the green table ", that is of small groups without reference to socially relevant forces; this, however, remained mostly as marginal as short-lived.

Although the small parties in parliament have only a small influence on legislation and government due to lack of presence, they are attributed to different specific functions in the political process of the party's research, which include:

  • A signal or indicator function for the established parties by draw attention to thematic deficits and unconsidered interests,
  • An integration function by incorporating even more radical positions in the process of policy formulation,
  • An enriching function for political discourse, which can range from a " greater competition " and " maintenance of open intra-party communication " in the established parties to a " preservation of political traditions."

Rights smaller parties

Small parties are on the right side of the political spectrum, for example, the National Democratic Party of Germany (NPD ) and the civil rights movement per NRW. As a right-wing populist parties, among others, the Republicans or the freedom to look at.

Some of these parties could temporarily exceed the five percent hurdle in state elections. End of the 1960s about the NPD managed a place in some state legislatures, but could not be there last. In 2004, she was able to move into a state parliament in Saxony and repeat this in 2009. Since 2006 she is also represented in the Landtag of Mecklenburg -Vorpommern with six mandates. The DVU achieved in 1998 at the state election in Saxony -Anhalt with 12.9 percent, their best result and was represented from 1999 to 2009 in the state parliament of Brandenburg. In western Germany, she reached several times a place in the Bremen State Parliament in 1992 in the state parliament of Schleswig- Holstein, where her group but soon fell apart.

The partially founded by former members of the CSU Republicans could even make it to the Berlin House of Representatives, and twice in the state parliament of Baden -Württemberg and were only one of the right small parties previously represented for five years in the European Parliament, but failed repeatedly clear the five percent hurdle in federal elections.

The success of the party right Staatlicher offensive in Hamburg at the state election in 2001, had even led by sensational 19.4 percent of the vote to government participation of this party in the Senate of Hamburg, was of short duration. After a rift between Mayor Ole von Beust and the then deputy mayor Ronald Schill, the party quarreled. In the subsequent early elections, neither the party nor the right Interstate offensive List Pro DM / Schill could skip the five percent hurdle. In 2007, these two parties have dissolved.

The aforementioned small parties from the right spectrum could in no state parliament in the long term foothold and yet never move into the Bundestag, but they were mainly in the eastern German states since the protests against large sections of the population perceived as unjust social policy agenda in 2010, before especially the Hartz IV legislation of the Federal Government of the coalition SPD and alliance 90/The Greens with Chancellor Gerhard Schröder to 2004, increasingly new impetus. In the regional elections of 19 September 2004 in Brandenburg, the DVU made ​​the re-entry in the forthcoming state. At the same time achieved the NPD in Saxony with a 9.2 percent election victory and moved to 36 years for the first time back in a German state parliament. Shortly after this success, both parties decided in early October 2004 establishing a common list for the next following general election. Although it maintained a similar success of the extreme right like in the previous federal election in the general election on 18 September 2005, however, the NPD was able to increase its earnings by 1.2 percentage points and thus quadruple with 1.6 per cent of second votes. From the first votes accounted for 1.8 per cent even on it. 2002 was only 0.2 percent. Bearing in mind, that at that time the DVU faced her not as a partner but as a competitor. In the general election on 27 September 2009, the two parties as candidates separated again, in the sum of their share of votes equal to the preceding choice about.

Left parties and small groups of Communists

After the KPD ban 1956, the German Peace Union's (DFU ), founded in 1960, the first significant attempt at a collection of political forces left of social democracy dar. Communist, socialist and neutralist circles joined together with Christian-oriented pacifists to be primarily for a use of détente which preferred an understanding with the eastern neighbors of an increasing integration of West Germany. The DFU reached 1.9 percent in 1961 and 1965, 1.3 percent of the vote in the national elections in the year. Some state election results were better, but ranged in no case for a Parliament feeder. After the founding of the DKP in 1968, the DFU did not expand on their candidacies in 1984 and gave their party status. It participated in the following years on the list, and peace came after 1989 hardly any public appearance.

In the late 1960s several fiercely competing with each other small parties that are oriented to different directions of communism, the so-called K- groups emerged in the left spectrum with the waning of the student movement (APO).

Over a longer period proved the most stable based on the SED of the GDR, founded in 1968, German Communist Party, which considered himself a successor to the 1956 anti-constitutional banned Communist Party of Germany. However, you could parliamentary federal or state level does not gain a foothold. Only in some municipal councils (for example, in Tübingen, Marburg, some cities of the Ruhr and Mörfelden-Walldorf/Hessen, where she obtained in 2006 11.6 per cent ) it was and is partly represented to the present day. After the end of the GDR and thus the SED many members of the DKP came out.

Other small communist parties in the Federal Republic of Germany went between the 1970s and 1990s variously alliances with each other, then split up often because of ideological grave disputes or lived as start-up companies under different names again, until many of them in the course of the 1980s and 1990s years eventually disbanded. These parties included, among other things, the Communist League and the Communist League West Germany, from which then the covenant West German communists seceded, the Trotskyist group International Marxists, the Stalinist Communist Workers' Union of Germany, which later still active Marxist- Leninist Party of Germany emerged, or the Maoist Communist Party of Germany / Marxists -Leninists. GIM and the KPD / ML united in 1986 to form the United Socialist Party, which existed until the late 1990s.

The International Communist Party (ICP ), which was also active in West Germany 1974-1981, however, represented a section of a flow, referring to the founder and first President of the Italian Communist Party, Amadeo Bordiga, leaning.

Christian small parties

The German Centre Party until 1933, representing the Catholic Germany one of the most important parties of the Empire and the Weimar Republic. With the CDU as a non-denominational collection party, the center lost his constituents and members base and provides since the mid-1950s a small party dar. 1987 the Christian fundamentalist wing split under the name CHRISTIAN CENTER - For a Germany to God commandments from the center from.

In 1989, the party spreader Bible Christians (PBC ) as a Christian conservative small party with evangelical embossing it. Centre Party and PBC are members of the European Christian Political Movement ( ECPM ).

2008 founded another Christian German small party with the Party of Labour, Environment and Family ( UP), with the goal arose from the initiative "New Horizons 2009," to try the cooperation of all the Christian forces in politics.

The Greens: from small party to government involvement

In the early 1980s some former supporters of the K- groups of the newly formed Green Party joined (now Alliance 90/The Greens ) to, in which supporters of the new social movements such as the peace movement or the anti -nuclear movement and the but the New Left also collected some right-wing populist and sometimes quite extreme blood - and-soil ecologists to form a parliamentary game leg of the hitherto non-parliamentary movement. Early on, the eco- conservatives separated from the Greens and founded until today about the status of a small party not go Come ecological value conservative ODP.

Since 1983, the Greens with the election to the Bundestag overcome their extra-parliamentary status and established itself as a more parliamentary party - including the participation in government from 1998 to 2005 in the coalition with the SPD. 1990, however, only the recognized separately occurred eastern part of the party succeeded in gaining the Bundestag and in state elections failed the 90/die after unification Greens called party especially in eastern Germany remains at individual, although only a few choices at the 5% hurdle. In the 2009 federal election first a result about 10% could be achieved.

At the end of the 1980s and early 1990s had left in protest against the increasingly real political course of the party quite a lot of so-called eco-socialists, among them 1991, a co-founder of the Green Party, Ditfurth that the party Ecological Left founded in Frankfurt, its existence but had to continue as a small extra-parliamentary party. After the approval of the Greens to the war in Yugoslavia, there were further attempts to establish a new left-wing party from the environment disappointed former supporters, such as the Rainbow Group in Hamburg or the Democratic Left in Berlin.

Some former members of communist factions were on their membership of the Green Party today hold high political office win (for example, Antje Vollmer as Vice President of the Bundestag or Trittin as Federal Minister for the Environment ).

SED, SED - PDS, PDS, Left Party, Die Linke

The SED, state party of the GDR, renamed itself in December 1989 in SED - PDS and in February 1990 in PDS and stood under that name since 1990 in West Germany, where they assumed the status of a small party to the mid-2000s and with shares of votes usually around 1% failed in all state elections at the five-percent hurdle. After another name change to The Left Party and the gradual integration of members of the Electoral Alternative for Labour and Social Justice (WASG ) since 2005, officially opening into a merger with the WASG in 2007 and connected to a further name change to The Left, got the party particularly by the inclusion of the renegade former SPD chairman Oskar Lafontaine in West Germany updraft and moved into the second half of the 2000s in the majority of the West German parliaments a. While she was able to repeat the move into the city and small states of Hamburg, Bremen and Saarland, the latter especially due to the origin of its former chairman Lafontaine, she fell beginning of the 2010s in several West German states in state elections back to the status of a small party with shares of votes from now by 2 to 3%. In East Germany, however, remains in elections since 1990, continues to consistently above 10 % and can in state elections occasionally SPD or CDU overtake and win constituencies. Since 2009, she ruled together with the SPD, the state of Brandenburg. In the Bundestag, the PDS / Left is represented continuously since 1990, although it fell below the five-percent hurdle several times. In 1990 she moved due to separate five-percent hurdles for East and West Germany but a 1994 due to four gained direct mandates, each in group strength. In 2002 it reached only 4.0% of the second votes and two direct mandates and was then represented only with these two deputies. In the following general election she skipped each the five-percent hurdle and in 2009 reached even 11.9%.


Phased or regionally restricted can also be the Free Democratic Party ( FDP), regarded as a small party. In the new federal states as well as in Bavaria they reached the end of the 1990s only partially election results of just over one per cent; 2011 in the election for the House of Representatives of Berlin in city districts even just under one percent. However, it is present in some countries parliaments and was also represented by 2013 as the only power other than the two major parties since the founding of the Federal Republic of Germany continuously in the Bundestag.