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Party System Institutionalization and the Quality of Democracy in Eastern Europe Party System Institutionalization and the Quality of Democracy in Eastern Europ

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Party System Institutionalization and the Quality of Democracy in Eastern Europe Party System Institutionalization and the Quality of Democracy in Eastern Europ
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    DISC WP/2009/7 Party System Institutionalization and the Quality of Democracy in Eastern Europe Fernando Casal Bértoa    Party System Institutionalization and the Quality of Democracy in Eastern Europe Fernando Casal Bértoa 1   Focusing on parties and party systems must remain a basic if not the central theme for examining the quality of […] liberal democracy Pridham (1990:2) Introduction Almost two decades have passed since the Third Wave of democratization brought an avalanche of new, relatively unstable democracies into being in Eastern Europe. Although democracy and a market economy seem to have taken firm root, at least for the ten Eastern European countries currently members of the European Union (EU), in the light of the complicated post-communist legacy, this may have not been enough time for their political parties and party systems to institutionalize. Moreover, a well-rehearsed litany of complaints has been recited against the countries in the region encompassing, inter alia,  weak governability and accountability, a representation deficit; corruption and clientelism, populism, and threats to democratic stability; raising once again the question, “How important the former (i.e. political parties and party systems) are for the quality of democracy?” Reflecting Huntington´s famous critique in the second half of the 1960s, a preoccupation with weak institutions has been a recurrent theme in the (usually pessimistic) democratic literature of the past decade. In this vast and growing literature there is a widespread agreement that, whether in Africa (Kuenzi and Lambright, 2001; Lindberg, 2007), Asia (Johnson, 2002; Stockton, 2001), Europe (Lewis, 1994; Morlino, 1998) or Latin America (Dix, 1992; Mainwaring and Scully, 1995), few institutional developments are more critical to the consolidation and healthy functioning of democracy than the development of institutionalized political parties and party systems. Further, there is a general perception 1  Social and Political Sciences Department EUI, Florence, Italy. Fernando.Casal@eui.eu     2 that “the contribution of parties [and party systems] gets increasingly important as the process [of democratization] evolves” (Randall and Svåsand, 2002:5). Examining the level of party and party system institutionalization constitutes then an essential task, given the fact that such institutions can in fact foment the quality of democracy (Diamond and Linz, 1989; Elster, Offe, and Preuss, 1998; Pridham, 1990; Mainwaring, 1998; Tóka, 1997). The link between weak party/party system institutionalization and lower quality democracy has been examined in a myriad of countries and regions (see, e.g. Dix, 1992; Hicken, 2006; Johnson, 2002; Lewis, 2006; Mainwaring, 1999; Mainwaring and Scully, 1995; Markowski, 2000; Kuenzi and Lambright, 2001, 2005; Tóka, 1997). In general terms, the relationship between (party/party system) institutionalization and the operation of democratic institutions is considered to have neither a unidirectional or linear nature (Diamond, 1997; Huntington, 1968; Powell, 1982; Stockton, 2001; Wallis, 2003). Unfortunately, the majority of these studies takes the form of either single-country case studies or do not statistically test the relationship between institutionalization and the level of democracy (Stockton, 2001; and Thames and Robbins, 2007 are the only exceptions). Moreover, while most   analyses view political parties and party systems   as an independent variable or, at best, as an intervening variable, they almost always fail to operationalize the dependent   variable, or to correlate the independent and dependent variables. Hence the   conclusion of Foweraker (1998:675) that the “present state of comparative analysis does   demonstrate, beyond reasonable doubt, that the institutional variation across regimes has significant implications for governability” is   itself open to doubt. In this sense, what those comparative analyses demonstrate   is, at best, variability in the independent variable and some conceptual grounds for   supposing this has an impact on the dependent variable. Seeking to begin to fill this gap in the literature, this paper attempts to statistically analyse the effect of weak party/party system institutionalization on the quality of democracy. The goals for this research are, therefore, two-fold. First, using Mair (2000) and Lewis (2006) as a foundation, assumptions are tested about the direction of the relationship between political party and competitive party system institutionalization and quality of democracy in Eastern European political systems relative to each other. Second, the challenge put forth by Mainwaring and Scully (1995) to extend this investigation into another region of the world by examining new democracies in Europe is pursued. The rest of the paper will proceed as follows. First, I outline the conceptualization debate regarding party/party system institutionalization and the quality of democracy.   3 Second, I briefly review the literature explaining the hypotheses that both weak party and party system institutionalization should undermine the quality of a democracy. Third, I identify indicators for all the variables examined, with application to Eastern European democracies. Fourth, an empirical analysis of the relationship between party (system) institutionalization and the level of democracy is presented. Finally, the conclusion addresses the significance of the results achieved. Party and party system institutionalization Any scholar who studies the institutionalization of political parties and party systems faces the problem of the unit of analysis. Should the main emphasis of a study be on individual political parties, party systems, or both? Are there differences between institutionalization of single parties and party systems? The mainstream literature on the subject does not, in fact, differentiate between institutionalization of these two units. Beginning with the seminal works by Samuel Huntington (1965, 1968), most scholars approach the institutionalization of individual parties and party systems interchangeably, “the implication being that [since individual political parties constitute integral parts of the whole party system] the institutionalization of the party system directly depends on that of individual parties” (Meleshevich, 2007:16). The relationship between these two notions is, however, not nearly so simple and deterministic: for while individual political parties may be institutionalized, their operation in a party system may not be, and viceversa . In this sense, Randall and Svåsand (2002:6) are correct when they argue that, although closely related, “individual party institutionalization and the institutionalization of the party system are neither the same thing nor necessarily and always mutually compatible”. 2  In fact, while in some instances the institutionalization of political parties, their organizational stability and continuity might prove conducive to party system institutionalization, in others they could be at odds with this, particularly in the case of young democracies. 3  As a result of this lack of conceptual clarity or absence of consistent analytical frameworks, research on (party and party system) institutionalization has thus far 2  This is not to deny, however, a possible theoretical and practical relationship between both phenomena. 3  Randall and Svåsand point here to the so-called unevenness of party institutionalization (i.e. the party system might consist of individual parties at drastically different levels of institutionalization).   4 led to contradictory or at least inconclusive assessments on the relationship between institutionalization and democracy. 4  For all the abovementioned reasons, in approaching the relationship between political institutionalization and the quality of democracy, the first problem which needs to be examined is the distinction between party system institutionalization , on the one hand, and party institutionalization  on the other, and, with this, the allied problem of when precisely the latter also implies the former. In order to do so, it is necessary first to put some flesh on the bones of both concepts. Party System Institutionalization Although it may be difficult to believe given its central importance, the concept of party system institutionalization 5  has no established definition.   The concept was first introduced by Mainwaring and Scully in their classic Building Democratic Institutions: Party Systems in Latin America (1995). There, the authors defined the institutionalization of a party system as:   [The] process by which a practice or organization becomes well established and widely known, if not universally accepted. Actors develop expectations, orientations, and behaviour based on the premise that this practice or organization will prevail into the foreseeable future (1995:4). According to the two authors, institutionalized party systems are characterised by four different dimensions: regular patterns of inter-party competition, strong party roots in society, electoral and partisan legitimacy, and solid party organizations. While their discussion of the four dimensions is sufficient, Mainwaring and Scully fail to provide objective measures for the last two dimensions (i.e. legitimacy and party organization). Most authors follow Mainwaring and Scully´s pattern of proposing a series of “dimensions” of party system institutionalization. Morlino (1995) claims that “structured” party systems must be stable in terms of electoral behaviour, partisan competition and political class; Bielasiak (2001), who is interested in the institutionalization of party systems in Eastern Europe and post-Soviet States, distinguishes three dimensions of stability: electoral democracy, political contestation, and political representation; Grzymała-Busse 4  See, among others, Kreuzer and Pettai (2003), Lewis (2006), Mainwaring and Scully (1995), Mainwaring and Torcal (2006), Mainwaring (1998, 1999), Meleshevich, (2007), Morlino (1995), Rose and Munro (2003), Shabad and Słomczyński, 2004), or Tóka (1997). Exceptions to this general rule are Lindberg (2007), Mair (2000), Stockton (2001), Markowski (2000), Randall and Svåsand (2002), and Welfling (1973).   5  Other authors do prefer to talk about party system  “structuring” (Morlino, 1995), “stabilization” (Birch, 2003; Bakke and Sitter, 2005; Krupavicius, 1999; Robert and Wibbels, 1999; Lane and Ersson, 2007), or “consolidation” (Horowitz and Browne, 2005).  
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