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.
The subsequent economic and refugee crises have weakened the credibility of mainstream political parties in East-Central and Southeast Europe (ECSE) since prosperity and security no longer appear to be guaranteed consequences of European integration. The declining legitimacy of incumbents has provided opportunities for populist and anti-establishment mobilization. While these crisis-induced influences have been similar in all ECSE countries, the extent to which populist challengers have been able to win elections and form governments has varied significantly across countries. To explore these differences and assess the likelihood of populist electoral victories and subsequent illiberal policies in ECSE, the paper combines case studies of Hungary, Macedonia and Poland with a multivariate analysis of party systems, issue dimensions and cleavage configurations. It is argued that populist parties have attained political majorities through bipolar party competition, facilitated by congruent cleavages, particularly the congruence between sociocultural and EU-related cleavages. Based upon a comparison of the country cases, the paper discusses conditions that could constrain the illiberal erosion of democracy in ECSE.
The subsequent economic and refugee crises have questioned the promise of prosperity and security associated with European integration. Governments in East-Central and Southeast Europe struggled to bridge between the diverging policy expectations of voters on the one hand, international economic and political actors on the other. The weakened credibility of mainstream political parties provided opportunities for populist and anti-establishment mobilization. While these crisis-induced influences have been similar in all countries of the region, the extent to which populist challengers have been able to win elections and implement their preferred policy preferences has varied significantly across countries.
In my paper, I analyze the conditions and constellations that account for the resilience of countries with regard to the domestic political consequences of the European crises. I argue that populist challenger parties benefit from bipolar competition because they use polarizing frames of people versus elites to mobilize electoral support. The fragmentation and polarization of party systems reflect the nature of the electoral system and the configuration of cleavages in society. A majoritarian electoral system and congruent cleavages have supported the emergence of bipolar party system in Hungary and Poland. In contrast, cross-cutting cleavages tend to generate and sustain multi-polar party systems. These party systems facilitate the entry of new parties, but have posed obstacles to new parties trying to broaden and consolidate their constituencies. To assess the intersection or congruence of cleavages, the paper studies the configuration of differences among parties on salient policy issues.
The present article proposes to study and compare the state of democracy in East-Central European countries. Such a comparative survey is deemed timely because there have been electoral landslides, corruption scandals involving political leaders and mass protests in several of these countries. Popular satisfaction with democracy has declined and democratic accountability institutions have been eroded in Hungary and Poland. These developments pose questions about where these democracies are heading and how their paths are related to the crisis of European integration.
I argue that the crises of economic and European integration together with the existing dealignment between voters and political parties have discredited the nexus between economic integration and prosperity and widened the incongruence between responsive and responsible government. The impact of the crises differs from country to country, depending on institutional constraints, socio-political cleavages and the interrelation of economic and democratic performance. Multi-dimensional policy spaces facilitated the growth of anti-establishment parties in the Czech Republic and Slovenia. Higher performance expectations of citizens, the mixed electoral system and missing institutional safeguards of societal-political pluralism rendered Hungary’s democracy more vulnerable.
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Claudia Matthes and I prepared a paper for the panel: “Demokratieentwicklung in vergleichender Perspektive”, organized at the annual conference of the DVPW section on Comparative Politics, German Institute of Global and Area Studies, 25 – 27 February 2015
East-Central European Democracies Adrift? Trajectories and their Causes
Electoral landslides, corruption scandals involving political leaders, declining satisfaction with democracy, mass protests and the erosion of democratic accountability institutions in one of the countries, Hungary, raise questions about the development of East-Central European democracies. Our paper argues that these democracies are subject to several drift processes triggered by the crises of economic and European integration and the deeping dealignment between voters and political parties. The impact of these factors differs from country to country, depending on its configuration of institutional constraints, socio-political cleavages and citizens’ expectations. In the paper, we examine how these structural factors influence democratic governance in East-Central Europe (Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, Slovakia and Slovenia) and why some of these democracies have been more resilient than others.
Mehrere Parteien konkurrieren um die Repräsentation der magyarischen Volksgruppen in Rumänien und der Slowakei. Während der Verband der Magyaren Rumäniens (UDMR/RMDSZ) seine dominante Position seit der politischen Pluralisierung Anfang der 1990er Jahre behaupten konnte, verlor die traditionelle Partei der Magyarischen Koalition (SMK/MKP) in der Slowakei gegenüber der 2009 neugegründeten Partei Most-Híd, die magyarische und slowakische Wähler anzusprechen versucht.
In dem Vortrag analysiere ich die Wahlergebnisse, Organisationssstrukturen, Wählerbasis, Programmatik und Koalitionspolitik der magyarischen Regionalparteien sowie ihre Beziehungen zur ungarischen Regierung.
How well do electoral competition, ideological divides and territory-based cleavages explain the strategies of administrative-territorial reform chosen by political parties in Poland? The role of these logics is explored in the creation of regions and regional self-governments (1999), local electoral reform (2002), rules of adopting regional development projects (2006) and the creation of metropolitan regions (2008). The paper provides evidence supporting the salience of vote- and office-seeking strategies, the rise of a national-conservative opposition to decentralisation associated with the weakening of the post-communist divide, and parties representing distinct eastern and western constituencies. Since its creation, subnational government has become more dominated by state-wide parties and has stabilised the emerging bloc party system on the central level.