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Political Research Exchange - PRX

Party System Development and Democratic Consolidation in Civil War Affected Countries

Comparative Politics
Political Parties
Party Systems
Gyda Sindre
University of York
Gyda Sindre
University of York

This article examines the relationship between party system development and democratic consolidation in civil war affected countries. While there is a large literature investigating the links between party systems and prospects for democratic consolidation in new and emerging democracies, the subject of party system development in civil war affected countries has received relatively little attention. This is especially surprising given the transformative effects that civil wars have on political systems: rebel groups are included into politics, new parties are formed, elites are shifted, power sharing mechanisms put in place, and new party laws and election laws are designed. To date, research has shown that particularly violent civil wars have powerful freezing effects on party systems whereas less violent conflicts see the emergence of more fragmented and fluid party systems (Ishiyama 2014). We also suspect that the manifestation of ‘frozen’ party systems, especially if reflecting hardened divisions brought about by war, may hinder the consolidation of competitive party politics long-term. Yet, empirically there is great variation as to the degree of democratic consolidation leaving us undecided as to what factors facilitate the emergence of competitive party systems associated with democratic consolidation and peace, and which that do not. This article addresses this gap by proposing a differentiated typology that identifies paths of party system evolution, leaning on Sartori’s classical differentiation of party systems. The typology highlights conflict specific factors as particularly crucial for understanding outcomes, differentiating between factors external to parties (conflict ending and institutional framework) and factors internal to parties, specifically to former war-contenders and rebel groups that join competitive party politics. The usefulness of this typology is demonstrated through a selection of ideal-type case studies that can underpin future studies in this field. The article demonstrates how post-civil war contexts provide a unique opportunity for analysing party system development and its links to democratic consolidation in a large number of cases.
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