What do political party genealogies tell us about France and Germany?

"Blue Marine" suggests re-naming her party, the "National Front" into the "National Get-together", taking up a long and prosperous French political tradition to put a new label on an old thing. But in Germany, even when the parties substantially change their political orientation, they would never change their name. Why are we so different?

The political landscapes in France and Germany are fundamentally different. France is an old republic (with some off-time thanks to the one or other Napoleon), Germany's first experiment with democracy died in child-birth (the revolution of 1848). The second, the Weimar Republic, nurtured the greatest European disaster since the plague in the Medieval Ages (the latter killed about one third of Europe's population). Germany's current stable and still more or less functional system is not the outcome of a revolution, but was imprinted on us by the West-Allies, and the Soviets. Being occupied by three different nations (each with a different agenda) turned out to be a great luck: West-Germany neither got the archaedemocratic system of the U.S. or its British original, nor the centralistic systems of the third/forth (and fifth) French republic, but something quite fitting: a federal council, the Bundesrat manned by the state governments, and a (semi-)representative parliament, the Bundestag. Stalin kept things simple in East Germany, they got a parliament, the Volkskammer, which was manned by a proportional key (officially a unified list) with faithful organisations and parties.

Current composition of the Bundesrat, Germany's sort of upper chamber, which ensures an influence of state governments on legislation (Germany is a federal, now pluralistic, republic). In contrast to e.g. the U.S. or French senate, the Bundesrat is not directly elected, but each state (Bundesland) government has a certain number of votes depending on the size of the state. The currently ruling coalition (CDU/CSU and SPD) cannot pass any legislation affecting the states without support from opposition parties. In case coalition parties disagree, their Land usually absents from the vote.

And whereas our (now for two generations) French friends re-modelled their republic another time to suit the needs of General de Gaulle, and have been quite busy in changing the rules who gets into the parliament, Germany's system has not really changed since the first Bundestag-election in 1949.

An odd thing: number of parties in the French and German parliament

In principle the French parliament, the Assemblée nationale (I'm afraid you have to read the French wikipedia page for a good explanation/homepage in English), is manned in the same way than its even more unrepresentative counterparts in the U.K. or U.S.: each conscription elects a direct candidate with a relative majority of the votes (all-or-nothing). A main difference is, however, that you have two rounds (for MPs as well as to elect the president). To qualify for the second round, a MP-candidate must collect 12.5% of the registered vote.

Voting in France before last years election. Three candidates qualify for the second round, and to keep the candidate of the far-right Front National (FN) out, the candidate of the so-called "parliamentary left" or parliamentary right" with fewer votes in the first round would retreat. In last year's election such "triangulaires" were very rare, because the new-elected president's movement En marche! marginalised "left" and "right". The scattered vote together with a low turn-around in the first round meant that only two candidates would qualify [Note: the threshold does not apply, when only one or no candidate gets enough votes in the first round; so in contrast to the U.S. House of Representatives, there will always be a choice in the 2nd round.
In case of a standard face-off: "left" vs. "right", the "left" and "right" parties retreat their candidates in the second round in favor of the "left" or "right" candidate with the most votes/most likely to perform best. Or make a deal, I leave you conscript one, you leave me conscript two.

Such "first past the post" systems may favour the formation of few, dominating parties. The actual British parliament, the House of Commons, hosts three (max. four) parties per part of the United Kingdom (North Ireland not to be counted, because their seats are assigned by a mixed system) and there are only two "parties" (Democratic Party, Republican Party) in both chambers of the U.S. Congress. But in France, we currently have half a dozen groupes politiques ("political groups" = factions), in parliament, which represent one (or many) political parties (some information about the last election can be found in this November 2017 post). As often the case in democracies with direct candidates, the parliament is pretty unrepresentative.

The Assemblée nationale as elected in the 2017 election, after-election re-shuffling not considered. Shown are seat per party, not per groupes (faction). Occassionally MPs (called élus) of the same party belong to different factions, a French tradition, and highly confusing. E.g. there are members of the hail-the-president club REM (République en marche) that are in the allied MoDem-faction, and MoDem-MPs that are in the REM-faction. A comprehensive infographic about the reshuffling between the 2012 and 2018 has just been published by Le Monde's Decodeurs.

In Germany, the semi-proportional parliament, the Bundestag [wp/hp], is elected by a two-vote system: one vote determines the direct candidate, the other the strength of the party in the parliament. If one party gets too many direct candidates (called Überhangmandate; which was rare in the past, but now is a standard), extra seats compensate the others. It's not fully representative, because a party needs at least 5% of the cast votes or three direct candidates to be able to enter parliament. The 5% clause was the "lesson we learned" from the failure of the Weimar Republic and should avoid too many parties in parliament, hence, easy to form stable (ideally conservative) governments, a prime interest of our (western) allies. The first Bundestag was still messy and included far-left (KPD, Communistic Party) and far-right (nationalists, revanchists, Nazi) parties. But the messiness cleared out quite fast, either by incorporating the Nazis, regionalists etc. in the conservative and the liberal party, or by banning-by-law unwanted parties: the openly fascistic Sozialistische Reichspartei (SRP) in 1952 and the Communistic Party in 1956 (something many people considered unconstitutional later on: see KPD-Verbot on the German Wikipedia with further links). So, for a long time, there were only three parties, one big "centre-left" (social-democrats, SPD) and "centre-right" party (christian-democrats, so-called Union of the "sister parties" CDU and Bavarian CSU), and one much smaller "centrist" party in-between them: the liberals – the Freie Demokratische Partei (FDP; Free Democratic Party). Due to environmentalism (Die Grünen, Green Party), the re-unification (Die Linke, Left Party), and the global increase of ignorance and stupidity (new: populistic, "right-wing" Alternative für Deutschland, AfD, Alternative for Germany; Germany's Front National für Arme, politically close to campaign-Trump), we now have seven parties (counting both sister parties of the Union) in our parliament.

The elected (and current) Bundestag. See also this post for more information, and this (in German) and this post (uncommented English version) for political orientation of parties that competed in the last election. This post illuminates voter migration in two- and three-dimensional space. Two MPs of the AfD have now their own party, called Die blaue Partei ("The Blue Party"; a strange naming parallel to France, where the presidential candidate of the Front National, Marine Le Pen, run as candidate of a platform named Rassemblement Bleu Marine, literally the "Blue Marine Get-together")

The evolution of political parties – a natural process

The common way to depict evolution, what we scientists call "phylogenies", is a tree. And there are a lot of analogies between biological evolution and evolution of parties (most of which are a problem for tree inference, but that is a different story).
  • Like particular organismal forms in the fossil record, parties can emerge seemingly out of the void, and vanish, i.e. go extinct, when their electorate migrates (or dies). As in the case of organisms (see here for an "alternative view" shared by some politicians in our democracies), such a virgin-like emergence reflects an evolutionary step. For instance, many green parties appeared out of the nothing in the political spectrum, but have civic movements, associations etc. as precursors, which at some point evolve into a visible, organised political party.
  • A party can evolve into another party, one being the ancestor of the other. Something rare in Germany, but common in France. The evolutionary step in this case may be very small, e.g. a name change.
  • Some members may split off (another common sport in France, less so in Germany because of the 5% hurdle), forming a new party; a process known in biology as "budding".
  • A party may split into two (or more) parties, quite rare in politics, but the prime process in biology called "speciation"; budding and speciation are phenomena more common in political lineages associated with the "far-left" or "left" of the political spectrum (but France is, as usual, special).
  • Two or more parties can band together, a process known in biology as "hybridisation", the formation of bastards. Biological bastards typically have two parents (parental lineages), in the case of political parties, particularly, those of the "right" in France as we will see, it can be an orgy.
Trees are simple sequences of speciation events, but with parties we have a lot of reticulation, secondary fusion. So what we need here (and more commonly in biology than most biologists think) is a network. Before Wikipedia, it would have been a great deal to get the information together, but now its pretty fast (when you can read French and German). To make things easy, I will focus on parties with élus (MPs) in the Assemblée and France proper – France métropolitaine – ignoring those of the former oversea territories (including Corsica) and colonies, now mostly départements by their own right. All of which naturally have their own parties. Same for Germany.

Information on French parties is mostly from the French Wikipedia pages but I had to switch to the English pages, too, for the parliament composition (for the English-only readers of this post: a good entry page is list of current French parties). For the German parties, I could rely on my education (I was still taught politics in school) sieving through the German pages (also here, a good entry page is Wikipedia's list of German parties). The starting point is the first post-World War II parliament, the end-point is now.

Bart Simpson's Tree of Life (by Matt Groening ©). Politicians can be found in most of the here shown evolutionary lineages. E.g., as seen in various Simpsons episodes, all vampires (centre-left in this tree) are members of the Republican Party of the U.S.A., a party Homer Simpson (upper right) would vote, if Marge would allow it. This and equally interesting phylogenies have been collected here, here and here.

The fourth and fifth French republic – marrying (r)evolution and opportunism  

The end of the second World War marked also the end of the hollow skeleton of the third French republic, the IIIe République (effectively eliminated by the Nazis after the invasion of France in 1940, but suffering already before from similar problems than the Weimar Republic). The IVe République was formed in 1946, pretty chaotic, and lasted till 1958. In that year France decided to exchange its parliamentary democracy for a presidential democracy, or – as I would call it (not the first to do so) – a monarchy with an elected monarch. This Ve République was custom-tailored for one person: general Charles de Gaulle, a French war hero and main figure of la France libre, Free France. Gaullistes, adherents of the general's ideas (chauvinism, holistic protectionism – protecting both the people and the country, souverainism) are still found today and sit in the current Assemblée, but scattered across a large swath of the political spectrum. De Gaulle had his experiences with parliaments during the IVe République, when he founded the Rassemblement du peuple français (RPF). Rassemblement is a French word that literally means "get-together", and is used for political movements and parties that aim to bracket politicians from different backgrounds, in de Gaulle's case: the French people. Accordingly the RPF included élus that before run for socialistic, liberal (libertarian in the classic sense; in France originally known as "radicals": Parti radical), or conservative parties and platforms. And the lesson De Gaulle learned was, only a weak parliament is a good one. So when France needed him (again), he came back under one condition: make me a temporary monarch. They did, but – not untypical for France – kept some loopholes, so that the monarch – the French president is constitutionally more powerful than his American counterpart – cannot rule entirely against the parliament.

Another speciality of France is that you can be member of more than one party (often two or three). As consequence, parties fusing e.g. to provide a majority for the current president to not cease to exist. Once the presidential majority is lost, the various parties/politicians in the combo-party go their own ways or establish new parties. In parliament party-MPs from different parties and independents form fixed factions, the groupes politiques. Groupes can transform into a party, usually a non-trivial evolutionary process. Parties can also join together forming electoral coalitions (called coalition or cartel). As consequence, an élu is not rarely member of several parties, and changed parties through his career as normal people change shirts. On the French Wikipedia (mainly), you find profiles for various listing the party affiliations (ancient and current). A nice example gives Jean-Louis Borloo, a veteran centrist politician and one of the founders of the Génération écologique (GE; "Ecological Generation"), a "right"-ish alternative to the French Green Party, Les Verts.

How presidential campaigns pull together and divide in France. Parties before presidential and general elections in 2017, and the situation now (more or less). Only parties with MPs before or after the election are shown. Names of the additional parties of the presidential candidates are provided as far as I could dig them out easily. [Most presidential aspirants found their own micro-party prior to running, and keep them; e.g. Fillon's (LR) microparty Force républicaine (FR) kept on collecting money, after they had enough for his bid.] 
PCF = Communistic Party, PG = Left Party, FI = Unyielding France, MRC = Republican and Civic Movement, EÉLV = Green Party, PS = socialdemocrats (still called socialists), g.s = Hamon's new party: "Generation S", PRG = Radical Party of the Left (social-liberal), FD = Democratic Front (somewhat green, current élu is also member of LaREM), = Ecologist Party (former Greens supporting Macron's bid, after Hamon won the primary of the left, both élus are members of LaREM), MdP = Progessivist Movement (a split-off the PCF turned centrist, also LaREM), (R)EM, LaREM = Jupiter Macron's party (mostly neoliberal), MoDem = Democratic Movement, UDI, AC, LC = right-leaning (neo)liberals (may still include LaREMs), MR = Radical Movement (a left-right fusion and re-birth of the original Parti radical), R! = Resist! (one-man party), LR = The Republicans (conservatives), Agir = Former Republicans supporting Macron but not willing to enter LaREM, DLF = France Ahead (archae-gaullist one-man party), Jeanne/RBM = microparty and movement to support Le Pen's presidential bid(s), FN/RN = far-right National Front, to be re-named in National Get-together, LP = The Patriots, recent FN split-off, LdS = League of the South, older FN split-off. [All links go to the French Wikipedia pages]

Founding and having a party is fiscally beneficial. Thus, candidates running for president or other important politicians usually have a micro-party in addition their actual party. France has strict rules regarding political spending, having two parties means you can collect more money. If you are very clever, like Marine Le Pen in 2012, the candidate of the Rassemblement Bleu Marine (literally: the Blue Marine Get-together) in the last presidential face-off, you have the candidates of your main party (Front National – FN, which is about to change its name into Rassemblement National) paying for services your personal party (with the beautiful name Jeanne) provides.

And being directly elected, an élu may choose a different groupe (faction) than his/her party does. Which may explain that for many elections, the English and French Wikipedia pages give different numbers for the parties, election cartels, factions etc., the deeper we go back in time.

A genealogy of French political parties with élus (potentially) in the Assemblée since 1945. Parties represented in the current Assemblée at the top. The golden stars indicate the parties that form the current presidential majority or include individual élus supporting (open signatures) the president (LaREM).
Communistic and associated parties in pink, parties of the "left" (social-democratic) in red, left-leaning (mainly social-liberal) parties in orange, centrist (liberal, often neoliberal) parties in yellow, their more conservative counterparts (including explicitly Christian democratic parties) in light blue, conservative ("right") parties in dark blue, parties classified as "far-right" (extreme droite) in brown. Note that the colours represent the putative orientation when coming into existence; and does not aim to accurately represent the actual political position later on. For a representation of the political positions of presidential candidates and their parties in the last election, see The Political Compass and my earlier post). Abbreviations: see text and end of post.

Quite a map, with a lot of evolution going on. A lot of budding and hybridisation (including multiple partners), even a speciation event/major budding: the split of the Radical Party, Parti radical etc. (rad.), one of the oldest parties still existing (lots of name changes) into a left and right branch – the Parti radical de gauche (PRG), the Left Radical Party, originally Movement radical de la gauche-socialiste (MRGS, Radical Movement of the Socialistic Left) and the Parti radical valoisien (PRV). And whereas the left branch was busy renaming itself (MRGS, then MRG, then Radical, then PRS, finally PRG), its sister jumped from one president-applauding commitee to the next. The first UDF (Union for the French Democracy – utterly meaningful name) to support president Giscard d'Estaing from the neo-Gaullist PR – Parti républicain (Republican Party). Then it joined the neoliberal-conservative Union pour un movement populaire (UMP: Union for a people's movement), founded to give Chirac, originally neo-Gaullist RPR – Rassemblement pour la République (Get-Together for the Republic; note the creativity in party naming found in the "right" spectrum), a parliamentary basis (hence, also known as "Union pour une majorité parlementaire", the union to generate a presidential majority; a name much better grasping the UMP's political programme). And most recently (after election day, that is) the love for the new president, Jupiter Macron, re-united both branches, which now form the Movement radical (the Radical Movement). A pretty romantic story, finally unified under a "centrist" president after fighting for the "parliamentary left" or "right" and opposing each other. And also a bit sad: the name "radical" expressed the original political direction, as a radically progressivist and anti-monarchist/-elitist movement.

And it reflects two characteristic features of France: 
  • The love for revolution, people leaving their parties to found new ones, because the party moves towards a direction they don't like, or because the party doesn't move in the direction they want. As in the first French revolution: decapitate the King, and then those who decapitated the King.
  • The well-developed opportunism, the weak ones band together, even when this means to join a socialist with a conservative, and once a monarch-for-a-time is elected, everyone is pretty busy to get together (13 parties/factions in the network are Unions, five Rassemblements; Marine's Front is about to be renamed into Rassemblement National, too) and to back him (sorry, no female monarchs yet, of course). The King is dead, long live the King.
"The state, it's me" Jupiter Macron (a "social liberal"; LaREM) on the way to the newly elected parliament, assisted by his first minister (formerly conservative LR)

After-war Germany. Stability and stagnation.

In contrast to France, only the political landscape in Germany evolves (in a modest way) or the orientation of a party. Social-democrats, SPD, and green, Bündnis 90/ Die Grünen started left and went right; the Christian democrats (CDU) and their Bavarian sibling, the Christlich-Soziale Union in Bayern (CSU; Christ-social Union in Bavaria) started and essentially stayed on the right. The liberal party, the Freie Demokratische Partei (FDP; lit. Free Democratic Party), Germany's counterpart of the Parti radical lineage, started as a national-liberal, fascist-tolerating party, a bit left of the then very conservative CDU/CSU. Then it went left – becoming truly social-liberal (comparable to the left branch of the Parti radical, the PRG), economically staying at the right side of the then still "left" SPD (but being substantially less authoritarian), for which it played the junior government partner. Under dem Dicken (chancellor Kohl), it changed sides and turned sharply right – becoming neoliberal ("libertarian" in the U.S. sense), ending up on the economic far-right, firmly staying on the right side of the conservative CDU/CSU or even their national-populistic unwanted child, the Alternative für Deutschland (AfD; lit. Alternative for Germany). But remained (much) more liberal in social aspects (libertarian in the classic sense; not unlike Jupiter Macron's LaREM).

But the party assemblage did not really evolve. There are only very few parties popping up in German parliaments that evolved into new ones, or fused, or budded from an existing party. Such as the AfD from the CDU- and FDP-basis, and the recently founded micro-party, Die Blaue Partei (Blue Party, like in Blue-Marine) from the AfD. Or the Linke, the Left Party, which is a fusion of the a unsuccessful offspring of the SPD-basis – the Wahlalternative Arbeit & soziale Gerechtigkeit (WASG; Electoral Alternative for Labour and Social Equity) – and the successor of the ruling party of the Eastern Germany, the Sozialistische Einheitspartei (SED, Socialistic Unified Party; itself a Stalin-forced fusion of the Communistic Party, the KPD, and SPD in the Soviet-occupied zone). Rather than a lot of Darwinian evolution, we observe Lamarckian stagnation. A stark contrast to France.

A genealogy of German parties. Only political parties are shown that (at some point) staffed the Bundestag (West Germany, FRG, till 1990, unified Germany after 1990) and the Volkskammer (East Germany, GDR; freely elected only once in 1990). Pink, far-left (communists); red, left(-ish) parties; orange, civic movements in the final days of the GDR that could be described essentially as social-liberal; green, Green Party; yellow, (pseudo)liberal parties, light blue, conservative-(pseudo)liberal parties; blue, (pseudo)Christian democratic and other conservative parties; brown: far-right parties (Nazi-remnants and modern-day right-wing populism, AfD). Asterisks indicate the members of the Nationale Front, that controlled the Volkskammer during the SED dictatorship. The dagger indicates the two parties in the history of (West)Germany that were deemed unconstitutional and eliminated (banned). [The NPD was the third party considered to be banned. The Bundesverfassungsgericht (wp-EN/hp-EN), Germany's highest court, ruled that they are politically irrelevant, hence, can pose no threat to the country and constitutional order.] Abbreviations see text and end of post.

Notable exceptions are the first two Bundestage (1949–1957), which witnessed quite some dynamics on the right side of the political spectrum, and the turn-around related to the collapse of the SED-regime in East Germany and the subsequent German reunification in 1990.

Whereas the Western Allies (mainly the British and American commands) used soft skills to influence post-war West Germany (the CSU is effectively an invention of the American High Command to collect conservatives and moderate socialists, hence "Christ-social", in this important frontier state, and was de-facto the state party in Bavaria), parties forming in East Germany after the war were usually Soviet-controlled constructs to cover parts of society (hence, pseudoliberal etc.) For instance, the National-Demokratische Partei Deutschlands (NDPD; National-democratic Party of Germany) was designed to give low-profile Nazis a home. After 1949, they formed the Nationale Front (NF; National Front, same name as the far-right French party that was kick-started by fascists) together with so-called mass movements (Massenorganisationen), and became known as Blockparteien (block parties). The NF (members indicated by asterisks in the graph above) filled all parliamentary seats using a fixed quota for its constituent parties and organisations and ensured the dictatoric rule of the SED.
The nascent democratic movement in the last days of the so-called German Democratic Republic was originally a broad civic movement, and – probably the first time in the history of Germany – people of all backgrounds engaged in a revolution and politics. On the left, actual marxist and other communistic movements re-surfaced (as an actual communist, you ran the risk of being expelled from the SED). Civic, basis-democratic movements morphed into parties, western parties formed local committees. GDR mass movements such as the Demokratische Frauenbund Deutschlands (DFD; Democratic Women's Association of Germany) tried to survive as political movements, and all "parties" of the NF run, the SED (under a new name) and the Blockparteien (except the East German CDU, which directly fused with its western "counterpart"). There was also no hurdle to enter the first (and last) freely elected Volkskammer, and parties could join up. But the eastern voters decided against democracy and for VCRs and bananas. And except for the Partei des Demokratischen Sozialismus (PDS, Party of Democratic Socialism), the successor of the SED, and the civic movements (which failed miserably in the election lacking the money and organisation of the Blockparteien and the established western parties), they vanished or became marginalised. All Blockparteien were eager to fuse with their western "counterparts" — a win-win situation, the politicians had a chance to keep their seats, while the western parties would get access to the organisation structure and considerable wealth of the former Blockparteien. Which lead to the odd situation that the first all-German Bundestag looked nearly as homogenous as the last West German Bundestag. And that most GDR-faithful communists ("rote Socken" – red socks) sitting in the Bundestag in the 1990s (or the eastern state parliaments) were not found in the post-communistic PDS but in the CDU (which consumed the East-CDU and the Demokratische Bauernpartei Deutschlands, DBD – Democratic Farmers' Party of Germany) and FDP (which consumed the Liberal-Demokratische Partei Deutschlands, LDPD – Liberal-Democratic Party, and NDPD). A situation nicely reminiscent of the 1950s, when former NSDAP-members filled their parliamentary ranks.

The cover of the Titanic, a satirical magazine, commenting the decision of the majority of GDR voters to choose Kohl's "flowering landscapes" promise over the civic movements that brought them democracy. The text reads: "GDR-Gaby (17) is happy (being part of the FRG): My first banana." [Cucumber, Gurke, is used in German to address things that went wrong, e.g. when our football team loses badly, you call them Gurkentruppe, cucumber troop]

What France in Germany have in common

Aside all differences (lots of evolution in France, lots of stagnation and extinction in Germany) the genealogies have certain parallels. One can observe that the "centre" is more permeable towards the "right" side of the political spectrum than to the "left", and also more dynamic.

The latter is relatively surprising, as it is known that three leftists will usually have four opinions and may split about the controversy, whereas right politicians more act on the "crow princip" following a German saying that no crow hacks out an eye of another. The dynamics in the French system can be explained by the fact that as a sitting MP, you are not likely to be punished for forming a party. Even if you split off, your former rigth-ish party will not invest too much in a counter-candidate, knowing that you will anyway vote with them being essentially an opportunist. The level of opportunism, both in France and Germany centrist and centre-right parties have welcomed and soaked up far-right politicians and political movements. Whereas the lineage on the left side of the political spectrum are much more coherent and struggle to unite. In France, also on the left, temporary coalitions are formed and bargains are made, but the élus stick more decively to their parties' agendas, even against a "left" president. Thus, in France, the PCF and its allies ("left") survived next to PS and its allies ("centre-left"); in Germany the Linke evolved from the organisation and voter basis of the PDS and SPD-dissidents and attracting further left-oriented groups and voters. But the SPD did e.g. not use the "left" parliamentary majority in the last legislature, instead it played the junior partner of Mutti (Merkel) and the conservative/more or less neoliberal Union, got destroyed in the last election, and will do it again (have to, the current Bundestag has a right majority, but FDP and CDU do not want to lie in the bed with their most natural coalition partner, the right-wing AfD)

"Centrist" political parties are typically liberal parties. And although parties like the French PRG or the German FDP in the 70s tried to bridge the gap between "socialist" and "liberal", it is an unlikely choice. An association with conservative parties comes much more natural as seen in the 2-axis concept of the The Political Compass. 

Approximated placement of main political lineages found in the parliaments (lower chambers) of four European countries (France, Germany, Austria, Sweden). Lilac, left parties; green, green parties; red, social-democratic parties; light-blue, Swedish liberals; yellow, liberal parties in other countries; blue, christ-social and conservative environmentalist ("blue-green") parties; black, other conservative parties; brown, nationalist/far-right parties. The Political Compass' assessment of (in)famous people given for comparison.  

The Political Compass tries to categorise parties and candidates (and yourself) along an economic left/right and a social libertarian/authoritarian axis. A fully liberal party would be deep in the bottom-right quadrant, a place one may choose for putting the original Radical Party of France, but completely off for the German FDP forming after 1945 (which would be placed top-right quadrant). The bottom-right quadrant has been essentially deserted by the political spectrum in Europe's larger countries (as well as the top-left).

Economically speaking, far the most liberal parties are right to extreme right parties following the example of Friedman, the demi-god of neoliberalism, a feature they share with many conservative parties. Unless those are Christ-social, a rare combination, but fitting for e.g. the Bavarian CSU and possibly some former or existing small French parties (part of the light blue-coloured in the geneaology). The genealogies further show that the liberal politicians are much more likely to compromise along the social axis than along the economic axis: a lot of reticulation has been going on between liberal and conservative lineages, and there are occasional links towards the nigh-authoritarian parties of the "far-right". Something that is obviously welcomed (at least not punished) by the electorate.

But a social-liberal party must be libertarian and centrist, something that obviously (see the few orange lineages in the genealogies) cannot attract a significant amount of the electorate. Furthermore, it is a niche covered to some degree by parties representing other main political lineages, e.g. progressive social-democratic parties and green parties. The former were originally defined by being the opposite to the conservative parties, which are authoritarian and right, so they are (were) libertarian and left. And the latter, the dominant green parties, are progressive per nature (environmentalism is often associated with modernism) and also tend to be libertarian (e.g. regarding LGBT issues, freedom of choice) rather than authoritarian.

Related posts
Wahl-O-Mat 2017 – wie nah sind sich eigentlich die Parteien? provides a similarity analysis of German parties that competed in the 2017 election, a method-only post can be found here (in English)
La Belle France—don't fear the FN, but Jupiter gives some background about the last election in France (political positioning etc.) including some infographics (including those re-used for this post with more comprehensive commentaries). It was Part 2 of my series on the last elections and the surge of so-called "right-wing" parties in the countries that made me a European.
Made in Germany or Wurm drin? was Part 3, with a similar angle but for the German election.
Part 4 of the series Gehst schaißen! If it is the will of the sovereign, the voters adds Austria, and compares the results across all countries and with the U.S., which has already lost a substantial amount of the electorate to general insanity, something just starting in Europe.
In case you have missed it so-far, check also out The Political Compass, which provides some pretty neat (and short) analysis of the political situation in France, Germany 2005, 2013, and 2017 (in English and German), the U.S. (mainly presidential elections; interesting for those that still think Obama was a socialist) and some of Her Majesty's realms (current and one former)  

Abbrevations and links
French parties and related factions (groupes) and electoral coalitions (cartels), in alphabetical order
AC – Alliance centriste; Agir – Agir, la droite constructive; ARS (groupe) Action républicaine et sociale; CD – Centre démocrate; CDP – Centre démocratie et progrès; CDS – Centre des démocrates sociaux; CERES (faction within PS) – Centre d'études, de recherches et d'éducation socialiste; CIR – Convention des institutions républicaines; CNI, CNIP – Centre national des indépendants et paysans; CNRS – Centre national des républicains sociaux, see RS; CR – Centre républicain; DL – Démocratie libérale; DLF, DLR Debout la France, Debout la République; DVD – "Divers droite", collective term to address independents and adherents of the "parliamentary right"; DVG – "Divers Gauche", same for the "parliamentary left"; EÉLV – Europe Écologie Les Verts; FD – Front democrate; FD* – Force démocrate; FGDS (cartel) – Fédération de la gauche démocrate et socialiste, two-term electoral coalition of CIR, rad., SFIO, UGCS; FI – La France insoumise; FN – Front national; FNRI – Républicains indépendants, see also RI; FRS – Forum des républicains sociaux, see PCD; GE – Génération écologie; g.d. (political direction) – Gaullistes de droite, the mainstream Gaullism, see RPR, UDR; g.g. (political direction) – Gaullistes de gauche; g.s – génération.s; GU – Gauche unitaire; JR – Ligue de la jeune République; LaREM – La République en marche; LC – Les Centristes; LdS – Ligue du Sud; Les Verts – Les Verts; LP – Les Patriotes; LR – Les Républicains; M.r. (cartel) – Mouvement réformateur, one-term electoral coalition of CD, PLE, PRV; MDC – Mouvement des citoyens; MdP (MUP) – Mouvement des progressistes; MDS, MDSF – Parti social-démocrate; MGRS – Mouvement de la gauche radical-socialiste, see PRG; MoDem – Mouvement démocrate; MPF – Mouvement pour la France; MR – Mouvement radical, social et libéral; MRC – Mouvement républicain et citoyen; MRG – Mouvement des radicaux de gauche, see PRG; MRP – Mouvement républicain populaire; NC – Nouveau centre, see LC; PCD – Parti chrétien-démocrate; PCF – Parti communiste français; PDM (cartel) – Progrès et démocratie modern, two-term electoral coalition of CD, CR, CNIP; PÉ – Parti écologiste; PG – Parti de gauche; PLE – Parti libéral européen; PPDF – Convention démocrate – Fédération des Clubs Perspectives et Réalités; PPUS – Parti paysan d'union sociale; PR – Parti républicain; PRG – Parti radical de gauche; PRL – Parti républicain de la liberté; PRS – Parti radical-socialiste, see PRG; PS – Parti socialiste; PSA – Parti socialiste autonome; PSU – Parti socialiste unifié; PSUt – Parti socialiste unitaire; R! – Résistons!; rad. – Parti républicain radical et radical-socialiste; Radical – Radical, see PRG; PRV – Parti radical (valoisien), see rad.; RDA – Rassemblement démocratique africain; RF – Parti républicain social de la réconciliation française; †RGR (cartel/groupe, then party) – Rassemblement des gauches républicaines, an electoral coalition/faction in the Forth Republic with varying composition that included smaller parties of the soon so-called "Third Force" (together with SFIO and MRP) standing in opposition to communists and Gaullists such as rad., RDA (one-term), RF, UDSR, UR; RI (groupe) – "Républicains indépendants"; RPF – Rassemblement du peuple français; first and last Gaullist party collecting all Gaullists, RPFIE – Rassemblement pour la France et l'indépendance de l'Europe; RPR – Rassemblement pour la République; RR, Républicains et Résistants, see UP; RS – Républicains sociaux; SFIO – Section française de l'Internationale ouvrière; UCP – Union des chrétiens progressistes; UDCR (syndicate) – Union de défense des commerçants et artisans; UDF (combo-party) – Union pour la démocratie française; UDI (combo-party) – Union des démocrates et indépendants; UDR – Union des démocrates pour la République; UDSR – Union démocratique et socialiste de la Résistance; UDT – Union démocratique du travail; UFF – Union et fraternité française; UFD – Union des forces démocratiques; UGCS – Union des groupes et clubs socialistes; UGS – Union de la gauche socialiste; UMP – Union pour un mouvement populaire; UNR – Union pour la nouvelle République; UP  – Union progressiste; URR (groupe) –  Union républicaine et résistante, see UP.

German parties and joined lists (Listenverbindungen) and former mass movements (only allowed for Volkskammer election in 1900), in alphabetical order
AfD – Alternative für Deutschland; ALFA – Allianz für Fortschritt und Aufbruch, see LKR (the acronym was already taken by a charitive organisation, who went to court, not wanting to be associated with a right-wing party);  AVL (joined list of Nelken, VL, and others) – Aktionsbündnis Vereinigte Linke; BFD (joined list, short-term party) – Bund Freier Demokraten, collecting "liberal" parties for the 1990 election in East Germany; BHE – Bund der Heimatvertriebenen und Entrechteten; Blaue – Die blaue Partei; Bü'90 (joined list) – Bündnis 90, collecting basis-democratic movements in East Germany, see Grüne; CDU – Christlich Demokratische Union Deutschlands (West Germany)CSU – Christlich-Soziale Union in Bayern DA – Demokratischer Aufbruch; DAP – Deutsche Aufbaupartei; DAV – Deutsche Aufbaupartei, see WAV; DB – Der Deutsche Block; DNS – Dachverband der Nationalen Sammlung DBD – Demokratische Bauernpartei Deutschlands;  DFD (GDR mass movement) – Demokratischer Frauenbund Deutschlands; DFP – Deutsche Forumspartei; DJ – Demokratie Jetzt; DKP (pink) – Deutsche Kommunistische Partei; DKP (brown) – Deutsche Konservative Partei; DKP-DRP – DKP-Deutsche Rechtspartei, see DKP; DP – Deutsche Partei; DRP – Deutsche Reichs-Partei; DSU – Deutsche Soziale Union; DZP – Deutsche Zentrumspartei; FDP – Freie Demokratische Partei; FVP – Freie Volkspartei; GB/BHE – Gesamtdeutscher Block/BHE, see BHE; GDP – Gesamtdeutsche Partei; GPD – Gesamtdeutsche Partei Deutschlands, see GDP; Grüne – Bündnis 90/Die Grünen; IFM – Initiative Frieden und Menschenrechte; KPD – Kommunistische Partei Deutschlands; LDPD – Liberal-Demokratische Partei Deutschlands; Linke – Die Linke; LKR – Liberal-Konservative Reformer; NDP – Nationaldemokratische Partei; NDPD – National-Demokratische Partei Deutschlands (East Germany); Nelken – Die Nelken; NF – Neues Forum; NF (DDR) – Nationale Front; NPD – Nationaldemokratische Partei Deutschlands (West Germany); PDS – Partei des Demokratischen Sozialismus, since 2005 just Die Linkspartei.PDS; SED – Sozialistische Einheitspartei Deutschlands; SPD – Sozialdemokratische Partei Deutschlands; SRP, SRPD – Sozialistische Reichspartei (Deutschlands); UFV (civic organisation) – Unabhängiger Frauenverband; VL – Vereinigte Linke; WASG – Arbeit & soziale Gerechtigkeit – Die Wahlalternative; WAV – Wirtschaftliche Aufbaupartei.

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