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SPP 241

Title: PARTY SYSTEMS IN EAST CENTRAL EUROPE: CONSOLIDATION OR FLUIDITY?
 
Author: Herbert Kitschelt
 
Description: Many observers of emerging post-communist East Central European democracies have subscribed to a tabula rasa theory of politics there: because of the collapse of the old system, voters and party leaders have great difficulty to define programmatic party alternatives. Based on a pilot study among national party representatives of all electorally significant parties in Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland, this paper shows that the process of programmatic structuration in post-communist party systems varies in predictable ways across countries. Moreover, it shows that the emergence of programmatic party alternatives leads to cleavage structures that pit at least three camps against each other: a liberal camp that endorses free markets and calls for a secular, individualist, and participatory social order; a national and Christian camp that invokes traditional collectivist and religious values and is ambivalent about economic reform; and a post-socialist camp that is most hesitant to accept maket liberalization but shares with the liberal camp a broadly secular and individualist socio-cultural orientation. The picture is complicated by the presence of ethnic divisions. In the final section, the paper summarizes studies that demonstrate the significance of programmatic competition for voters. Voters understand party alternatives and different camps assemble different electoral coalitions behind their flags.

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Postal Address:    CSPP Publications, University of Strathclyde, Glasgow, G1 1XQ, UK

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