Return to: Search Page or to: Table of Contents Vol. 5, issue 1

Kerstin Hamann and Barbara Sgouraki-Kinsey, "Re-Entering Electoral Politics: Reputation and Party System Change in Spain and Greece," Party Politics, 5 (January 1999), 55-77.

First Paragraph:
Studies of transitions from authoritarian to liberal democratic regimes often note the importance of the length of authoritarian rule as a factor likely to affect the redemocratization process, but few studies explore any aspect of this relationship systematically (Pasquino, 1975; Diamandouros, 1982). One of the most important actors in the transition process are political parties (Pridham, 1990) as they structure alternative policy choices for voters. This article examines how the length of authoritarian rule--i.e. the length of the interruption of competitive party politics-- affects continuity in the party system once liberal democratic regimes are reinstated. We argue that there is a negative association between the length of the electoral interruption and party system continuity at the time of the transition: the longer the inrterruption of competitive party politics, the less the expected party system continuity. Party system continuity refers to the stability of defining features of the structure of a party system, including the number of parties, their electoral strength and their policy positions.

Figures and Tables:
Table 1: Correlation between the June 1977 and February 1936 vote at the provincial level in Spain
Table 2: Correlations between the February 1964 and November 1974 votes at the provincial level in Greece
Table 3: Occupational structure by economic sector, Spain, 1950-75 (%)
Table 4: Occupational structure by economic sector, Greece, 1928-80 (%)

Last Paragraph:
These conclusions are still tentative and in need of further testing. Different levels of party continuity are difficult to establish, and different combinations of various features of party system continuity may also be found to exist in different cases. Moreover, the question of the consequences of these differences on the degree and nature of party competition remains to be answered. For instance, how did the moderation of competitive party politics in Spain in the first elections affect the future of party politics? Linz (1980) cautions against party movement toward the center that involves the alienation of important sectors of the electorate as this may threaten the viability of electoral politics and increase anti-system political activities. And how has the polarization of Greek party politics affected the future of democratic political life in Greece? Is there any way to pinpoint and assess the effects of the different nature of party politics in Spain and Greece on the process of democratization 2 decades later? Even though this article cannot provide answers to these questions, it helps explain the nature of the party systems at the beginning of a new democratic period.