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Explaining party systems I

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1 Explaining party systems I
Reading: Sartori

2 Guiding Questions What are party systems?
How do we characterize/explain party systems? Why do we study party systems? Which variables do competition theories privilege? How do we evaluate competition theories of party systems?

3 Party Systems Defined Ware 1996 Units: political parties Systems: “patterns of competition and co-operation between the different parties [within a given] system”

4 Why Do We Care? It was believed that the number of parties within a system exerted a large influence on party behavior. Two party systems promote moderation. Also argued that democratic stability was predicated on the number of parties within a system. Examples: French Third and Fourth Republics, Italian First Republic, Weimar Germany. But the number of political parties within the system only tells us part of the story. These cases also had other factors which promoted instability. Multiparty systems are not necessarily less moderate than two party systems. Two party systems are not necessarily more moderate than multiparty systems.

5 Why Do We Care? Understanding the party system gives us a basic understanding of the political system. An “entry level” discussion of a political system. Knowing the number (and types) of parties present within a system provides a basis for analysis and comparison with other systems. Are there anti-system parties? How polarized is the political system? Understanding party systems helps us to identify whether or not broad political change is occurring. Are the “old guard” parties holding their own? Are new movements eclipsing the older parties?

6 What Shapes Party Systems?
DV: Party systems Competition theories (e.g. Sartori 1976) IV: patterns of political competition Sociological theories (e.g. Lipset and Rokkan 1967) IV: social divisions/cleavage patterns Institutional theories (e.g. Duverger 1951; 1954). IV: electoral systems; number of parties

7 Competition Theories: Fragmentation
Sartori 1976 Number of parties (fragmentation) shapes complexity of the system. But this begs the question: Which parties should be counted? Parties are relevant if they possess: Coalition potential Blackmail potential

8 Competition: Polarization
Sartori 1976 Fragmentation only tells us part of the story. Ideological spread of relevant parties (polarization) also matters. Classifies party systems on the basis of fragmentation (number of parties) and polarization (ideological spread and intensity). Identifies seven categories. Known for discussion of moderate vs. polarized pluralism

9 Multiparty Systems: Polarized Pluralism
Sartori 1976 Fragmentation: Five to six relevant political parties. Polarization: Center of spectrum is occupied. Relevant anti-system parties exist. Bilateral oppositions force coalitions of the center. Patterns of competition: Centrifugal Polarization creates center fleeing effects. Consequences for the party system: Ideological patterning, irresponsible oppositions, and a politics of outbidding. Example: Weimar Republic; Italian First Republic

10 Multiparty Systems: Moderate Pluralism
Sartori 1976 Fragmentation: 3-5 parties exist Polarization: Center of spectrum is not occupied. No anti-system parties or bilateral oppositions Patterns of Competition: Centripetal Lack of polarization creates center seeking effects. Consequences for the party system: Bipolar coalition structure; alternation in government occurs. Example: Italian Second Republic, Germany, amongst others.

11 Two Party Systems Sartori 1976 Fragmentation: Polarization:
Two parties Polarization: No anti system parties Pattern of competition: Two parties can conceivably win a majority of the seats. One of the two parties always win a parliamentary majority. Consequences for the party competition Majority party is willing to govern alone. Alternation of government is expected or possible Example: United Kingdom (2.5 parties)

12 Evaluating Sartori STRENGTHS WEAKNESSES Useful in terms of determining relevant political parties. Appear to be links between the number of political parties within a system and its polarization. Pattern of competition does appear to shape coalition formation. Classification lumps most systems into the moderate pluralist category. Although if we relax the assumption about anti system parties, this changes Extreme parties, whether or not anti- system, may create centrifugal tendencies. Far right parties not “anti- system” but they do shift patterns of competition Appeals in two party systems are not always moderate.

13 Sociological and Institutional Rejoinders
Sartori hints at aspects of society that foster moderate politics. Boosts sociological explanations. Discussion glosses over how institutions frame competition within the system. If institutions frame competition this suggests that institutional explanations are relevant. Is competition epiphenomenal?

14 Next Unit Theme: Explaining Party Systems II
Readings: Lijphart and , Lipset and Rokkan, Duverger, Cox PAY PARTICULAR ATTENTION TO: 1) Cleavage patterns and party systems. 2) Critical junctures and issue dimensions. 3) Relationships between electoral systems and party systems.

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