Publications of Fernando Casal Bértoa

Institutionalization and De-institutionalization in Post-communist Party Systems

This article is part of the special cluster titled Parties and Democratic Linkage in Post-Communist Europe, guest edited by Lori Thorlakson, and will be published in the August 2018 issue of EEPSIn an article written in 1995 titled “What Is Different about Postcommunist Party Systems?” Peter Mair applied the method that he called “ex adverso extrapolation.” He matched his knowledge of the process of consolidation of party systems in the West with what was known at that time about Eastern European history, society, and the emerging post-communist party politics. Considering factors such as the existence of fluid social structures, the weakness of civil society, or the destabilizing impact of the so-called triple transition, his article predicted long-term instability for the region. In the present article, we evaluate the validity of Mair’s predictions, thereby also contributing to a lively debate in the current literature about the scale and nature of East–West differences and about the trajectories of the two regions. Going beyond the identification of cross-regional similarities and differences, we also differentiate between individual party systems, establish subgroups, and describe changes across time. Using four major dimensions (i.e., party system closure, party-level stability, electoral volatility, and fragmentation), the article finds that Mair’s predictions were largely, though not in every detail, right. Ironically, however, we also find that changes in the West tend to match over time the trajectory of the East.

Party system closure and openness: Conceptualization, operationalization and validation

The degree of closure of the governmental arena is a central aspect of the stabilization of party systems, and yet little systematic effort has been devoted to its operationalization. The article proposes a new index, examines its reliability and validity, and reports the ranking of 60 party systems. By redefining the units of measurement we suggest new indicators that are uniform and transparent in their logic of construction, can be applied both to specific government-changes and to time periods, and are sensitive to the degree of change. The article finds a hierarchy among the components of party system closure, dominated by coalition formula. While new and established democracies can both produced closed patterns, the analysis of inter-war European party systems shows that closed systems are less prone to authoritarian takeover. The article demonstrates the power of inertia: the completely closed configurations stand out as the most durable ones.