Cleavages, Party Strategy and Party System Change in Europe East and West

TitleCleavages, Party Strategy and Party System Change in Europe East and West
Publication TypeJournal Article
AuthorsSitter, N.
Journal titlePerspectives on European Politics and Society
Pages425 - 451

This article analyses the development of competitive party poli tics in post-communist East Central Europe from a comparative perspective.The central concerns are party system stabilisation and change in Hungary, Poland, the Czech Republic and Slovakia, and implications for comparative theory. Starting from Lipset and Rokkan’s ‘cleavage model’, the article assesses the relevance of their key variables for party politics in the 1990s. Although there are considerable similarities (particularly in termsof choice of electoral systems), the cleavages, relationships between voters and parties, and the very nature of parties all differ considerably from the early Twentieth Century West European cases. Party strategy emerges as the key variable in explaining patterns of party system stability and change.Variations result from: (i) the prevalence of catch-all type strategies; (ii) interest representation strategies; and (iii) the presence of parties that have staked out positionson the anks of the system. The conclusions concerning the central role of party strategy are not con ned to East Central Europe, but are also pertinent to the study of party system change in Western Europe.


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