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Political Parties or Party Systems: Does it Make a Difference? Consequences of Institutionalization for the Quality of Democracy in Eastern Europe

Fernando Casal Bértoa
University of Nottingham
Fernando Casal Bértoa
University of Nottingham
Open Panel

Abstract

Although two decades have passed since the Third Wave of democratization brought a huge avalanche of new democracies in Eastern Europe, this may have not been enough time for their political parties and party systems to institutionalize. In fact, as in many other newly democratized regions (see Wallis, 2003), a significant amount of complaints have been made about the quality of democracy in those countries, raising once again the question, “How important the former (i.e. political parties and party systems) are for the quality of democracy?” Although the link between weak party/party system institutionalization and lower quality democracy has been examined in a multitude of countries and regions (see Hicken, 2006; Johnson, 2002; Mainwaring and Scully, 1995; Markowski, 2000; Kuenzi and Lambright, 2005; Tóka, 1997; Ufen, 2008), the majority of these studies take the form of either single-country case studies or when comparative, and with the exception of Thames and Robbins (2007), do not statistically test such relationship. Seeking to begin to fill this gap within the literature, the goals of this paper are three-fold. First, and following a re-examination of the notion, it will try to advance party and party system analyses by improving both the conceptualization and operationalization of institutionalization. Much in the same vein, and using Inglehart and Welzel (2008) as an inspiration, a new operationalization of democratic quality which is both conceptually and empirically superior to the existing ones will be employed. Last but not least, and following Stockton, “assumptions are tested about the direction of the relationship between political party and competitive party system institutionalization and the quality of democracy [in 9 Eastern European political systems] relative to each other” (2001:95).