Community Research and Development Information Service - CORDIS

Volatile political landscapes

Political party instability may be on the rise in certain parts of Europe, not least because of tougher economic times. Understanding what’s behind this phenomenon could help foster healthier democracies.
Volatile political landscapes
In recent years, political parties in democratic nations worldwide have seen their support fluctuate significantly, reflecting continuously shifting ideologies and attitudes fuelled by factors ranging from worsening economies to increased immigration. The EU-funded PARTYINSTABILITY (Unstable party supply in established and new democracies: causes and electoral consequences) project examined the reasons of such instability and its repercussions.

Lack of stability can compromise government’s ability in representing peoples’ interests, mobilising voters, maintaining accountability and solidifying the political landscape. Against this backdrop, the project team investigated why parties form temporary electoral coalitions and permanent party mergers. It also looked at what impacts the staying power of merged parties have and what drives parties to fail.

To achieve its aims, the project team analysed party statistics from different parts of Europe. It collected data from publications, archives and the media, using as well case studies and examples to define probable causal relationships.

The results revealed that party mergers, electoral coalitions and splits are more likely to occur in newer democracies within Central and Eastern Europe than in Western Europe, noting however the exceptions. Despite this, party change has been overall less frequent compared to the chaos of the 1990s.

Project findings also point out to smaller parties joining forces to gain parliamentary representation, while larger parties are coming together to increase their influence in forming government coalitions. Moreover, the project articulated the impact of European parties on party mergers in Central and Eastern Europe, underlining changes of party organisations and facilitating the prediction of related transformations in the future.

The findings are important for policymakers and government to enrich their understanding or even influencing party change in democracies, whether new or firmly established ones. Better, more solid democracies could potentially emerge in these volatile economic times by considering the results of this project.

Related information

Keywords

Political party, instability, PARTYINSTABILITY, democracies, electoral coalitions, party mergers
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