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Chapter

Daniele Caramani

This chapter examines how competition between political parties gives rise to different party systems. In liberal democracies, competition for power is based on popular votes. The shape and dynamics of party systems are determined by the electoral game, with parties as main actors. A party system is thus essentially the result of competitive interactions between parties. A party system has three main elements: which parties exist, how many parties exist and how big they are, and how parties behave. An obvious but important point is that party systems must be composed of more than one political party. The chapter begins with a discussion of the origins of party systems, followed by an analysis of the format of party systems, such as two-party systems and multiparty systems. It then considers the influence of the electoral system on party systems, before concluding with an assessment of the dynamics of party systems.

Chapter

André Krouwel

This chapter charts some of the more important developments in European party politics, as well as analysing the contemporary state of party politics. It begins with a discussion of the value of political parties for democracy, after which it describes the origin of party systems in historical social cleavages, how these cleavages relate to the various party families, and the variation in party systems found across European democracies. Subsequently, it examines how parties have changed over time in terms of organization, ideology, and electoral appeal. Highlighting the changing roles political parties performed over time, it focuses on recent changes in European party systems, particularly growing polarization and fragmentation.

Chapter

This chapter assesses what politicians and members of political parties really care about: getting into office on the back of a successful election campaign. Rather than the general determinants of voting outlined in the previous chapter, this is about the choices voters and parties face within a particular system, so they can organize themselves to win. For that they need to play by the rules of the game, which includes developing strategies within electoral systems. The chapter then discusses the impact of electoral systems on that calculus, and how the number of parties is affected by the electoral system in place. It also looks at the factors that assist the winning of elections, and the extent to which the choices of parties and voters are affected by growing instability in the system. Overall, the chapter provides an overview of British political parties and party systems.

Chapter

This chapter switches the focus to political parties. It looks at their individual roles and how they operate. The chapter discusses the parties that constitute the ‘party system’. It considers the two main parties operating at the UK level: the Conservative Party and the Labour Party. It also looks at the smaller parties, such as the Liberal Democrats. The chapter considers the political approach of the various parties and the type of support they attract. It also looks at how parties are funded. The chapter provides a number of theoretical perspectives to help with an analysis of political parties. These are: the extent to which parties pursue values or power; the respective roles of their members and leaders; groupings within parties; how far the UK has a two-party system or whether our definition of the party system should be revised; and the relationships between the various parities. The chapter then gives examples of how these ideas play out with specific focus on recent events involving the Conversative and Labour parties. The chapter asks: do members have too much influence over their parties? The chapter ends by asking: where are we now?

Chapter

This chapter looks at the nature and evolution of political parties in a number of European democracies. It analyses the important functions of political parties. It charts how they have developed over time. Starting with the social cleavage approach, the chapter addresses the origins of European party families and party systems. It then turns to the transformation of European party families and systems. It considers this both nationally and within the European Union (EU). It provides evidence of the ‘unfreezing’ of European party systems and thinks about whether a dealignment of traditional cleavage patterns can currently be witnessed. It asks: is there also a realignment along a new ‘cultural’ dimension of politics? Finally, the chapter addresses the evolution of party types from cadre over catch-all to modern entrepreneurial challenger parties.

Chapter

Peter Ferdinand

This chapter deals with political parties: why they emerged, how they can be classified, what functions they perform, how they interact, and what challenges they are facing today. One of the paradoxes about democracies is that there is almost a unanimous consensus about the indispensability of political parties. On the other hand, the benefits of being a member of a political party are bound to be minuscule compared to the costs of membership. Thus it is irrational for people to join parties. They should only form (small) interest groups. The chapter first provides a historical background on the development of political parties before discussing their functions, such as legitimation of the political system, structuring the popular vote, and formulation of public policy. It then considers different types of political parties as well as the characteristics of party systems and concludes with an analysis of the problems facing political parties today.

Chapter

This chapter deals with political parties, focusing on why they emerged, how they can be classified, what functions they perform, and how they interact. It identifies two phases in the development of political parties. The first parties were intended to structure the work of legislatures, and later evolved into mass parties to structure the votes of electors, catch-all parties to win more votes irrespective of ideological appeal, and cartel parties more dominated by party professionals. The chapter also considers seven functions typically carried out by a political party, irrespective of whether they operate in democracies or authoritarian regimes: legitimation of the political system, integration and mobilization of citizens, representation, structuring the popular vote, aggregation of diverse interests, recruitment of leaders for public office, and formulation of public policy. Finally, it discusses various types of party outside the West, party systems, and some of the challenges facing political parties today.

Chapter

15. European parties:  

a powerful caucus in the European Parliament and beyond

Tapio Raunio

The party system of the European Parliament (EP) has been dominated by the two main European party families: centre-right conservatives and Christian democrats, on the one hand, and centre-left social democrats on the other, which controlled the majority of the seats until the 2019 elections. In the early 1950s, members of the European Parliament (MEPs) decided to form party-political groups, instead of national blocs, to counterbalance the dominance of national interests in the Council. Over the decades, the shape of the EP party system has become more stable, and traditional levels of group cohesion and coalition formation have not really been affected by the rise of populism and the increasing politicization of European integration. National parties remain influential within party groups, not least through their control of candidate selection. Outside of the Parliament, Europarties—parties operating at the European level—influence both the broader development of integration and the choice of the Commission president.

Chapter

This chapter examines the party system of the European Parliament (EP). In the early 1950s, members of the EP decided to form party-political groups instead of national blocs to counterbalance the dominance of national interests in the European Council. Since then, the party groups have gradually, but consistently, consolidated their positions in the EP. The chapter first considers the shape of the EP party system, the structure of the party groups, and the role of national parties within them. It then looks at the Spitzenkandidaten (lead candidates) initiative, whereby the Europarties put forward their own candidates for the Commission President in the 2014 elections. It also discusses coalition politics and parliamentary committees as well as electoral accountability in the EP and concludes with an overview of the state of research on the EP party system, emphasizing the need to understand how coalitions are formed in the committees and the plenary.

Chapter

Amie Kreppel

This chapter focuses on the political roles and powers of legislatures. It first describes different types of legislatures on the basis of their functions and relationship with the executive branch, before analysing the roles of legislatures within the political system as a whole, as well as several critical aspects of the internal organizational structures of legislatures. It then examines the relationship between the political power and influence of a legislature and the structure of the broader political and party system. The discussion focuses on legislatures within modern democratic political systems, although many points apply to all legislatures, regardless of regime. The chapter also explains how legislature differs from assembly, parliament, and congress.

Chapter

Ian McAllister and Stephen White

This chapter examines the most visible and politically important act of conventional citizen participation: turning out to vote in a national election. Patterns of political participation are influenced by a variety of institutional factors, such as the type of electoral system and the number of political parties in a country, along with individual socioeconomic factors such as a person’s educational attainments or income. A particular problem in many previously authoritarian societies is the absence of a diverse civil society, so that the social trust upon which a healthy democracy depends is often absent. The chapter first considers various dimensions of political participation before discussing voter turnout in democratic countries. It then analyses the effects of institutional arrangements such as election rules, the type of electoral system, and the party system on political participation. Finally, it describes some of the factors that determine whether or not citizens participate in politics.

Chapter

This chapter focuses on electoral systems and institutional design in new democracies. It first compares Maurice Duverger’s electoral laws with those of Giovanni Sartori before discussing the main insights from the literature on electoral systems in established democracies as well as evidence from new democracies. It then considers the impact of the electoral law on the type of party system and its role as intermediary between society and government in plural societies. It also examines the party system as an independent variable, along with dependent variables such as the number of political parties, social cleavages, and presidentialism. Finally, it discusses consociational democracy and how electoral system design can be used in managing ethnic conflicts.

Chapter

This chapter starts off with an overview of the institutions that decide how citizens cast ballots, firstly, in elections, and secondly, directly for policy. The former is related to electoral systems and the latter to direct democracy. The chapter considers the implications of these institutions for party systems and political representation from the view point of the principal–agent framework. There is a large variety of electoral systems used in Europe. Most elections are held using the system of proportional representation. However, there are important institutional differences that need to be remembered. The chapter then goes on to examine the effects of electoral systems on the party system. This is carried out with electoral change over time in mind. Finally, the chapter turns to direct democracy and analyses the use of referendums, specifically with regard to the question of the European Union (EU).

Book

Andrew Blick

UK Politics gives an introduction to this subject, providing the foundational understanding, critical perspectives, and historical knowledge needed to make sense of politics in the UK today. Part I looks at the way people are governed in the UK. This includes an analysis of the Cabinet and the Prime Minster, parliament, and the UK and human rights. Part 2 looks at how people participate in politics through examining the party system, elections, and voting. It also considers the issue of referendums. The third part is about how society affects UK politics. This part of the text examines communication and public opinion and considers identity, equality, and power. The final part is about the UK relates to the rest of the world. The key concepts here are devolution, local government, the nations and the union, and the outside world.

Book

This book provides a broad and accessible introduction to contemporary European politics, covering the fundamental elements of European democracies, institutions, and practices of government. It provides comprehensive coverage of the twenty-seven member states of the European Union, additionally drawing on examples from the UK, Switzerland, Norway, Iceland, Serbia, and Bosnia-Herzegovina. The book is divided into three parts. Part 1 focuses on democratic representation, examining the core features of electoral democracy in Europe. Part 2 turns to the institutions and practices of government, focusing in particular on how institutional design shapes political outcomes. Part 3 examines a number of contemporary issues and challenges, including migration, economic crises, the threat of international terrorism, and the rise of anti-establishment parties, and examines the effects they have had on politics in European countries. Throughout, up-to-date examples on issues such as Brexit, the coronavirus pandemic, and growing instability in Europe are used to help students understand the real-world context of European politics.

Chapter

This chapter examines the general issue of leadership in the British political system and the stresses and strains of this task, examining the role of the prime minister. As well as being leader of the largest party in the House of Commons, able to command a majority, and potentially able to get government business through Parliament and into law, the prime minister has executive powers, which helps keep this focus. Despite the power of the position and its importance in the British system of government, there are fundamental weaknesses in the role that come from the instabilities of party politics. Overall, the picture of prime ministerial and core executive power and capacity is a mixed one that is changeable over time. In recent years, over Brexit and the Covid-19 pandemic, the prime minister's fate can change dramatically, even week-by-week.

Chapter

This chapter describes how the institutional design of new democracies affect their political evolution. By institutions, it refers to formal political institutions, including political parties, electoral systems, and state design (namely federal versus unitary states). In addition to the decision to create a federal versus a unitary state, some scholars and policymakers have advocated for a consociational approach to democracy in countries that feature significant ethnic, religious or other cleavages. Consociational democracy is essentially a democracy that allows for significant power sharing—or the ability to access positions of power—among the country's various factions. Ultimately, institutions can play a particularly critical role in the consolidation and sustainment of democracy because they structure and constrain political behaviour. The chapter then considers the relationship between institutions and democratization.