The membership development of the Bremen parties was slowed down in the Corona year 2020. (Mohssen Assanimoghaddam / dpa)
The pandemic is causing the government to come to the fore with its actions, while the parties are left behind in perception. Politics professor Andreas Klee from the University of Bremen registered this. For the parties, this means, among other things, that membership growth in the past was slowed down in 2020, both in terms of emigration and entry. The number of members of the SPD and CDU has fallen slightly, the FDP remains constant, while the Greens and the Left are on the up.
Bremen’s party traditionally with the largest number of members is the SPD – it has provided the President of the Senate and thus the Mayor without interruption since the Federal Republic was founded. At the end of 2020, according to party information, 3,900 comrades had a party book of the Social Democrats. 129 less than a year earlier. The decline is mainly due to the age structure of the members, says country manager Roland Pahl. “We have a larger proportion of older members.” The party cannot compensate for the number of deaths with new members. Overall, Pahl believes that long-term relationships are not in line with the social trend. “You get involved more often in projects.”
Andreas Klee also confirms this: “It is not that people are not interested in politics. But they have no interest in binding themselves to a party in the long term. ”That is similar to volunteering. “People are already interested in doing something in the club when their own child is playing football there. But the golden club pin for 40 years will be less and less. ”The commitment is often more selective.
The CDU also reports a slight decline in membership. The Christian Democrats in Bremen had a total of 2094 members at the end of 2019, and 2060 at the end of November 2020. State Managing Director Heiko Strohmann also justified this with the old age of many of the members. Around a third are over 80 years old. The Bremen CDU is planning to work more on a topic and project basis. “We have set up several project groups. It works very well and the people are highly motivated, ”reports Strohmann. “We have massively slowed down the decline in the numbers.” The Bremen regional association had lost around 1,400 members since 2005, according to figures from the Free University of Berlin.
Driven by the pandemic
At the FDP, says state chairman Thore Schäck, the numbers have been stable around 400 members for years. “We are happy that many younger people are joining us. That’s always a good sign. ”Many new members would be driven by the pandemic and economic development. The fact that jobs are at risk and the economy is not doing well has moved many to join. At the end of 2019, the FDP had 395 members, a year later 393.
The Left was happy about an increase in membership last year: According to their statements, the party was able to welcome 42 new members. With 689 members it is the fourth largest party in Bremen. “I have the feeling that more and more younger people have entered. There are many under 30 there, ”says regional manager Andreas Hein-Foge. The AfD announced that “to protect our members”, no absolute numbers would be given.
(Graph WESER-KURIER / Majetic, STV)
The Bremen Greens cracked the thousand-thousand mark last year. According to its own information, the party grew from 988 to 1037 members. The growth of the past few years has flattened out somewhat, says state board spokeswoman Alexandra Werwath. “We cannot say whether it is due to Corona.” With regard to the motivation of the new members to join, she mentions core issues of the Greens: “We continue to notice that the focus is on the question of a liveable planet. Climate change, cohesion and the defense of our democracy are frequently mentioned reasons. “
Hopes for the federal election
Across Germany, too, many young people join the Left and Greens, says scientist Klee. The developments in German politics – with the exception of the role of the SPD – can be easily transferred to the Bremen party system. “The Greens are still benefiting from the trend towards sustainability and climate change.” Overall, the pandemic led to a shift in perception in politics last year. “Government action is very much in the foreground, in other words Chancellor Merkel and the Prime Ministers. Usually we have a very strong perception of politics over parties. That is currently totally thwarted. ”All in all, this leads to the parties being less relevant as actors. “You are not perceived that way. But not punished either, ”explains Klee.
That could change with the upcoming general election in September. According to political scientist Klee, the dynamics that arise will also be related to how strongly the pandemic will determine political events up to then. The relatively stable polls indicated that not much will change with the parties and their members. Klee says: “The parties are just not the big players right now.”
There is agreement among the parties regarding the hopes for the federal election. “Membership growth is the order of the day in the context of elections. This is due to the party’s increased activities, ”says Hein-Foge from the Left. “Politics is then more tangible and more present,” says the liberal Schäck. “Polarizing election campaigns are important,” said CDU representative Strohmann.