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Chapter

Cover Comparative European Politics

2. Political Parties  

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.