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  • Print publication year: 2010
  • Online publication date: November 2010

6 - Looking Eastward: The Women's Union and Cobbled Coalitions, 1989–1998


In the 1990s the power of the Women's Union waned because the organization was no longer part of the dominant coalition. From its weaker internal position, the Women's Union was able to make some gains, but the reforms were limited compared with those of the 1980s, even though women's issues were arguably more a part of mainstream German society than they had been in the 1980s.

Once the Women's Union was no longer in the dominant coalition, it was forced to work through “cobbled coalitions” to get its preferred reforms adopted by the CDU. A cobbled coalition is an ad hoc alliance formed only for a short period of time around a single issue or policy. Cobbled coalitions can achieve one-time successes, but they cannot mount a long-lasting campaign. The reforms passed by a cobbled coalition are also likely to be more limited than those enacted by a dominant coalition. Cobbled coalitions are possible in a corporatist catch-all party partly because minority elites in such parties are not completely excluded from the decision-making process.

The 1990s Women's Union did have the advantage of being able to work with a new, often sympathetic, group – easterners from the former German Democratic Republic. Working with this new alliance partner, the Women's Union successfully ensured CDU backing for a policy mandating child care spots for all children aged three to six (Kindergarten). On the other hand, the party balked at providing funding for those Kindergarten spots.

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