Party system institutionalisation in east-central Europe: empirical dimensions and tentative conclusions

Lewis, Paul G. (2008). Party system institutionalisation in east-central Europe: empirical dimensions and tentative conclusions. In: Joint Sessions of European Consortium for Political Research, 11-16 Apr 2008, Rennes, France.



The nationalisation of party systems is a topic closely related to processes of party system institutionalisation, an area that has developed its own literature and dimensions of analysis. Institutionalisation is understood to comprise four main dimensions: the growth of stability in the rules and nature of inter-party competition, the development of stable roots in society that help ensure a measure of regularity in how people vote, the acquisition of legitimacy by parties and the electoral process, and the establishment of party organisation that have an independent status and some value in their own right. The idea of party system institutionalisation was first presented by S. Mainwaring and T. Scully in 1995 and has been developed in a range of other publications, mostly by Mainwaring with a number of different contributors. It was first developed in a Latin American context but has an obvious relevance to developments in other newly democratising countries. In terms of outcomes, party system institutionalisation is understood to have a strong impact on the quality of democracy and to reduce tendencies to clientelism, political populism and the growth of anti-politics sentiments, and to foster mechanisms of democratic accountability and effective policy formulation.
Over the years, a substantial literature on the process of party system institutionalisation has been produced and, in recent years, a growing proportion of this has concerned systems in Central and Eastern Europe. This paper will, firstly, survey and evaluate some of the most recent literature with a view to establishing what light it sheds on the process in East-Central Europe and, secondly, identify and assess the key data that enable any judgement to be made on the course of this process in the region and to identify the contributions in this area of various data-bases relating to party politics.

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