Fragmentation of European Party Systems: Prerequsities, Scenarios, Sequences

DOI: 10.20542/0131-2227-2022-66-12-16-26
B. Makarenko,
National Research University Higher School of Economics, Office 206, 7/8, Bol’shoi Zlatoustinskii Per., Moscow, 101000, Russian Federation.

Received 01.07.2022. Revised 01.08.2022. Accepted 29.09.2022.

Abstract. The article explores the process of fragmentation of political party systems in 25 member countries of the European Union during the last three decades (since 1990s). The analysis starts with discussion on prerequisites of fragmentation through the theoretical lens of the works of S. Lipset/S. Rokkan and A. Lijphart. The main prerequisite is accretion of the system of cleavages in the societies in post-materialist age. Other – secondary – reasons include effects of proportional electoral systems, the rise of populism, volatility of party systems in post-communist countries. Further, the article presents the results of analysis of the Effective Number of Parliamentary Parties (ENPP) dynamics in all national elections since 1990; the average ENPP rose from 4.2 to 6.1. Though scenarios of the rise are similar in many respects (i.e., the simultaneous rise in the first elections after 2008–2009 economic crisis), certain distinctions can be found between “old” and “new” countries, systems of moderate and extreme pluralism. The concluding sub-chapter briefly discusses the “pros” and “cons” of party systems fragmentation for the European countries’ politics, which is considered irreversible because it is based on an accreted constellation of cleavages. On the one hand, more fragmented party systems provide for more nuanced representation of societal interests, and are, therefore, democratic and objective. On the other, it gives voice to illiberal populism and complicates the process of coalition building to form the executive; and, in addition, more plural executives tend to be volatile. Recent European political history presents plentiful examples of both. The ultimate challenge for European politicians is to learn to take advantage of the “pros” and tackle the “cons”.

Keywords: political parties, party systems, elections, populism, post-communist countries, European Union


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For citation:
Makarenko B. Fragmentation of European Party Systems: Prerequsities, Scenarios, Sequences. World Eonomy and International Relations, 2022, vol. 66, no. 12, pp. 16-26.

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