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Where do Political Parties Go when they Die?

Lars Svåsand
Universitetet i Bergen
Lars Svåsand
Universitetet i Bergen
Open Panel

Abstract

The paper explores the causes and consequences of the decline of political parties in post-communist Central Europe. Political developments in Poland, Hungary, the Czech Republic and Slovakia since 1989 have seen a number of political parties fall by the wayside. In some cases this has been a matter of parties simply falling below the electoral threshold; in others it has been part of the process of party system development as parties merge or split. The paper explores the types of political parties that have left the political scene (e.g. organization, ideology, party type); the patterns and variations in types of ‘death’ these parties have experienced (e.g. decline, split, merger, sudden collapse of support; ‘one-hit-wonders’ versus parties that collapse after winning seats in three or four elections); and what happens to parties and their politicians once a party has ceased to be represented in parliament (e.g. organization continuity, mergers with successful parties, party members’ migration to other parties). Drawing on data on parties and political elites in the four Central European states the paper thus explores how parties end and what happens to their organization an membership ‘after death’, and the relationship of this phenomena with party system stability and change.