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Big German parties bleeding members, expert says

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12:13 CEST+02:00
For the first time in its history, Germany's Christian Democratic Union (CDU) may have more members than the Social Democratic Party (SPD) but both major parties are suffering from declining membership rates.

According to the latest statistics, the CDU has outstripped the SPD in terms of membership and is now the largest party in the country. The exact number of CDU members will be released at a press conference on Monday.

But pundits say the party has little reason to celebrate, as membership in both parties is currently on a downward spiral with no sign of stopping.

“It's not as if it'll stop now, just because the CDU has edged out the SPD on the way down,” political scientist Jürgen Falter told DPA.

At the end of May, the CDU had 531,300 members, just behind the SPD with 531,740 members. By the end of June, the SPD's number had sunk to 529,994 members.

Falter said it's a “double blood-letting of the SPD in the past 20 years” that is causing the number of card-carrying Social Democrats to drop faster than the number of Christian Democrats.

“You have the Green Party, which was carved out of the flesh of the SPD, and the Left Party, which also took its share of the SPD,” Falter said.

He did not apportion any of the blame to SPD leader Kurt Beck's low popularity ratings.

“This development started long before Kurt Beck (became party leader) and there has been no detectable acceleration,” Falter said.

According to the pundit, both parties are losing members because of the unwillingness of many people to bind themselves to formal organizations.

For the younger generation of Germans, the idea of joining a party seems antiquated, Falter said, adding that generally, trust in political parties has gone down.

“Today, people would rather react to issues spontaneously, for examply by joining a citizens' initiative,” he said.

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