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Parliamentary Opposition in European Legislatures. Responsiveness without Responsibility?

Comparative Politics
Executives
Government
Parliaments
Political Parties
Representation
P287
Elisabetta De Giorgi
University of Trieste
Gabriella Ilonszki
Corvinus University of Budapest

Building: Faculty of Social Sciences, Floor: 1, Room: FS112

Friday 11:00 - 12:40 (09/09/2016)


Abstract

This panel seeks to investigate the parliamentary behaviour of the opposition parties, that is, parties that are either temporarily or permanently out of power but have representatives in national legislatures. This focus is justified by major party and party system transformations that occurred, particularly in Europe, in recent years. Democratic theory considers fundamental for parties in government to be both responsive to their electorate and responsible to internal and international constraints, but these two roles have recently become more and more incompatible (Bardi et al. 2014, Freire et al. 2014, Rose 2014). Government capacity and vocation have become characteristic of a small group of actors, located at the centre of the party system and able to offer voters a government alternative. At the same time, the ability to represent, that is, to act as the people’s voice, seems to have become characteristic of a different group of parties: the “new opposition” (Mair 2011). Furthermore, as Kircheimer (1957) had already detected the role of opposition is waning as the catch-all parties have replaced the class-cleavage-based mass parties. In the same vein, Dahl (1965) reflected on “surplus consensus” as the potential consequence of pragmatism among the elites and the government and opposition actors. Furthermore, the traditional dichotomy that has structured the opposition’s behaviour for decades has been recently challenged by further factors: the cartelisation of parties (Katz and Mair 1995) and the growing number of new party families. All these factors together make the theme of the panel a challenging academic undertaking.

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