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Political Science in Europe

Explaining the Success of the Long-Term Governmental Parties in New Democracies: The Policy-centered and Party-centered Approaches

Europe (Central and Eastern)
Political Parties
Mixed Methods
Policy Implementation
Tõnis Saarts
Tallinn University
Tõnis Saarts
Tallinn University
Marleen Allemann
Tallinn University

Governments in new democracies in CEE have been notoriously unstable and the same could be said about the partisan composition of the government coalitions. However, there have been two unique cases in CEE in which some parties have managed to stay in power for an exceptionally long time: The Estonian Reform Party was constantly in government for 17 years (1999 – 2016) and the Slovenian Liberal Democratic Party governed the country for 12 years in row (1992 - 2004). The proposed paper attempts to explain the success of these two parties in government while assessing critically two competing approaches. Two hypotheses are posed: (H1) the parties’ strong position in government and re-election is related with the good policy performance of the governments led by those parties; (H2) the parties’ long term in office could be better explained by the party-centered approach. Concerning the latter mentioned approach three layers of variables will be considered: (1) the party system variables (including the parties’ ability to exploit the major social cleavages in the society in order legitimize their power and policy agendas), (2) intra-party variables in which the leadership (the leadership skills of the PMs) and coherence of the party organizations are regarded as crucial factors, (3) the coalition-building strategies. Concerning the policy-centered approach a variety of quantitative macro-indicators will be analysed: (1) the economic performance, (2) education and innovation, (3) social security and health care, (4) good governance. The study applies mixed methods in which expert interviews and document analysis is combined with the statistics. The paper integrates a more actor-centered and political science focused perspective with a policy and governance orientated perspective and thus hopes to provide the novel and inter-disciplinary insights into parties’ success in government, particularly if the long-term governmental parties (as the ultimate manifestations of success) are concerned.
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