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Whither Goest Eastern Europe's Voter Turnout? Not to the Parties

Comparative Politics
Democratisation
Elections
Electoral Behaviour
Party Systems
Voting Behaviour
Mark Franklin
European University Institute
Mark Franklin
European University Institute
Ksenia Northmore-Ball
University of Nottingham

Abstract

Since their first democratic elections, post-communist countries have seen a far more rapid decline in turnout than the decline in established democracies that has attracted so much scholarly attention. Using repeated cross-sectional data covering elections from 1989 until 2014, this paper examines how the characteristics of post-communist elections, ranging from the sudden end to communist compulsory voting requirement to the impact of persistent party volatility in each successive election, have shaped turnout. This paper shows how this seemingly single process of decline can be disaggregated into multiple factors, many of them reinforcing each other to generate a downward push on turnout. Generational replacement plays a role, as does variation in electoral characteristics, potentially showing increasing divergence as party systems in some countries stabilize more than in others. Party system volatility and the consequent weakness of party identification is potentially the key to understanding the turnout habits of younger Eastern Europeans.