Academic journal article Romanian Journal of Political Science

Factors Affecting the Long-Term Success of New Parliamentary Parties: Findings in a Post-Communist Context

Academic journal article Romanian Journal of Political Science

Factors Affecting the Long-Term Success of New Parliamentary Parties: Findings in a Post-Communist Context

Article excerpt

Introduction

Following an initial academic interest in party formation and survival (Duverger 1954), research into the electoral success and parliamentary durability of new parties (4) has remained rather underdeveloped. This is probably because few Western countries (the Netherlands being the exception) have experienced the rich phenomenon of new political parties emerging. However, two further rounds of research have since taken place. During the 1980s, political scientists analysed the process of de-freezing post-Second World War party systems embedded in postmodern social movements (the so-called New Social Movements), bringing about a new party family (the Greens). A further round of in-depth research interest in new parties has recently begun (characterised by the work of Allan Sikk, Tim Haughton and Kevin Deegan-Krause). While this latter round initially focused on studying the dynamics of post-communist party systems, it has not yet produced a considerable number of publications but rather has been joined by some studies in older democracies (e.g. Deschouwer, ed., 2008; Bolleyer 2013; Bolleyer & Bytzek 2013). However, we are not aware of any research into new parties that systematically takes into account the impact that the recent international financial and economic crisis has had on decreasing the legitimacy of older political parties and on increasing the opportunities for new parties, despite the fact that recent election reports from Greece indicate that this has been the case (Tucker 2012).

Much of the existing literature on new parliamentary parties addresses the factors that support the emergence of new parties but tends to overlook the placement of new parties in the existing parliamentary party systems in general, as well as the long-term functioning of party systems in particular. Furthermore, this type of research is scarce in fragmented party systems--particularly in consolidated post-communist party systems. One of the most notable weaknesses of the current research concerns the explanatory power of the (changing) patterns of party competition in an analysis of the dynamics of the party system (as suggested by Mair 2006).

In this article, we aim to tackle the described research gap by examining the Slovenian party system--an interesting research laboratory where electoral rules could be treated as a constant. From a comparative perspective, the Slovenian party system has changed gradually and moderately. It stands out among the post-socialist EU member states by being among the least polarized systems in Central and Eastern Europe while being characterised by persistent party fragmentation, relatively dispersed party competition, rather soft ideological changes in government, and by its stability for most of the period since 1990 (Haughton & Deegan-Krause 2010; Enyedi & Bertoa, 2011; Fink-Hafner 2012). Nevertheless, the Slovenian case shows that the legitimacy of the older parties becomes threatened in circumstances in which national politics become bipolar (centre-left and centre-right) and the politicisation of the EU-linked management of the international financial and economic crisis not only interlinks, but reinforces political divisions in both national and supranational arenas (Fink-Hafner 2012; 2013). This opens a window of opportunity for newcomers to enter the legislative and the government. The research framework, including domestic factors as well as the international factors of party system change (such as the problem of financial mismanagement and corruption which became more pronounced in the context of the crisis), may not only be particular to Slovenia, but also applicable beyond the Slovenian case. Also, the considerable reduction in electoral support for the previously strong political parties as well as the recent significant success of new parties (Havlik 2013) has not been confined to Central and Eastern European countries, but this phenomenon has also occurred elsewhere in Europe with the recent rise of extreme-right parties comparable to the 1930s. …

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