Securing Democracy: Political Parties and Democratic Consolidation in Southern Europe

By Geoffrey Pridham | Go to book overview

Chapter one

Southern European democracies on the road to consolidation: a comparative assessment of the role of political parties

Geoffrey Pridham


Political parties in liberal democracies

It is now regularly assumed in the growing literature on the new democracies of Mediterranean Europe that they have at last conformed to the type of liberal democracy common throughout western Europe. Thus Schmitter in his introduction to the collective study Transitions from Authoritarian Rule comments on the various contributions:

implicitly, they argue that these countries-Italy some time ago; Portugal, Spain and Greece more recently; and Turkey more ambiguously-have entered into, and can be expected to remain within, the range of institutional variation and patterns of political conflict characteristic of Western Europe as a whole. 1

Similarly this conclusion is evident in some country studies on these new democracies. For example Opello's Portugal's Political Development: A Comparative Approach commences:

The Portuguese political tradition, although no doubt different in important ways from that of the major powers, is as much West European as is that of France, West Germany or Italy. The inclusion of Portugal within the tradition of comparative scholarship adds one more case to the universe of pluralist democracies and can aid our understanding of the West European political experience generally. 2

This assumption about the outcome of regime change is tantamount to saying that, transition to democracy having been accomplished, these countries have now embarked on the subsequent process of democratic consolidation or have even moved well towards its achievement. Such an assumption begs, however, a variety of questions. There are, first, different types of liberal democracies in terms of institutional, political, and cultural features, so that testing for the outcome of regime change requires some differentiation. Second, the process of democratic

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