Revisiting Linkages between Citizens and Politicians in Contemporary Europe

An international workshop organized by the Institute of Sociology, Czech Academy of Sciences and the Institute of Political Science, Charles University, Prague, 27-29 January 2021

The workshop revisited the influential book Post-communist party systems: Competition, Representation, and Inter-party Cooperation, published by Herbert Kitschelt, Herbert, Zdenka Mansfeldová, Radosław Markowski, and Gábor Tóka in 1999. My task was to discuss the first workshop panel: “Contemporary Challenges to Party Systems”. Chaired by Zdenka Mansfeldová, the panel featured two of her co-authors as presenters (Radosław Markowski, Gábor Tóka). Additional papers were presented by Oľga Gyárfášová, Comenius University in Bratislava, and Peter Učeň, Michel Perottino, Charles University Prague, Dragomir Stoyanov, University of Sussex, and Plamen Ralchev, University of National and World Economy, Sofia.

Workshop theme:

What is the nature of citizen-politician linkages in the 21st century? This question is highly relevant today due to the crisis of representative democracy, decreasing trust in political elites and democratic institutions. At the same time, established parties are faced with the threat of populism. Ideologically footloose voters and the weakening of traditional cleavage structures undermine programmatic appeals typical for the post-War era in Europe. In an era of rapid economic changes and globalization that cut across national boundaries, the linkage mechanism between the represented and their representatives are transforming. 

The authors of Post-communist party systems have challenged previous research that posited the programmatic linkage to be the only mechanism capable of safeguarding accountability and responsiveness. Reflecting on the challenges of the globalized economy, dealignment, and the welfare state crisis, Kitschelt has shown how, in the absence of a functioning welfare state, clientelistic linkage can functionally substitute programmatic ties, especially in new democracies. The third – charismatic linkage – is brought to the fore by the recent rise of populism. Populists build personalized linkages with voters using direct forms of online communication to foster a closer relationship with the people that bypasses traditional political parties. Populists create an illusion of responsiveness while simultaneously eroding accountability.

Panel I. Contemporary Challenges to Party Systems

Chair: Zdenka Mansfeldová, Institute of Sociology, Czech Academy of Sciences

Turning Symbolic Linkage to Programmatic: An Authoritarian Dividend Gábor Tóka, Vera and Donald Blinken Open Society Archives, Central European University

Linkage and Political Representation: Orthodoxy, Innovations, or Paradigmatic Shift? Radek Markowski, SWPS, University of Social Sciences and Humanities, Warsaw

Dynamics of Newness in the Slovak Party System Oľga Gyárfášová, Comenius University in Bratislava & Peter Učeň

From Heaven to Hell? An Attempt to Explain the Czech Social Democratic Party Decline Michel Perottino, Institute of Political Studies, Faculty of Social Sciences, Charles University

Anti-establishment and Euroscepticism: Bulgarian Far-right 2005-2019 Dragomir Stoyanov, University of Sussex & Plamen Ralchev, University of National and World Economy