Return to: Search Page or to: Table of Contents Vol. 7, issue 5

Paul G. Lewis, "The `Third Wave' of Democracy in Eastern Europe: Comparative Perspectives on Party Roles and Political Development," 7 (September 2001), Party Politics, 543-565.

First Paragraph:
Generalization about the role of parties in the process of democratization constitutes a major challenge, and the attempt to produce one raises a series of complex questions about modern democracies as well as the contribution of parties in bringing them into existence and securing their consolidation. Much recent discussion of democratization has been dominated by Huntington's (1991) analysis of the `three waves of democracy', but the absence of any broad overview of the role of parties in any of the waves is quite striking. This is not surprising in view of the broad historical sweep taken in a review of democratization in the modern world that spans nearly two centuries. The first wave began in the 1820s under the influence of the American and French revolutions and lasted for nearly a century, seeing the establishment of `at least minimal national democratic institutions' in 33 countries (Huntington, 1991: 17). A reverse wave, reflecting the rise of inter-war fascism, was under way from 1922 with the rise to power of Mussolini, but the victory of the Allies in the Second World War gave strength to a second wave of democracy that only began to recede in 1962. This involved a range of more diverse changes that affected not just the countries liberated at the end of the war but also the achievement of independence by former European colonies as well as changes in a number of Latin American states. A third wave began in southern Europe during the mid-19os, spread to Latin America and then eastern Europe--and also had a major impact of sub-Saharan Africa and parts of east and southern Asia. The number of democracies roughly doubled between 1974 and 1990, and by 1995 as many as 74 percent of states were democratic, or at least partially so (Potter et al., 1997: 9).

Figures and Tables:
Table 1: Presidencies and freedom ratings in east-central and south-eastern Europe
Table 2: Party representation in successive east-central European parliaments
Table 3: Party membership: east and west Europe
Table 4: National electoral turnout (percent)

Last Paragraph:
Broadly speaking, the role played by parties in east European democratization has also been a limited one in the areas of both participation and integration. As core components of the new regimes, parties, naturally enough, play a central role in conflict management -- but only where democratization has already gained some momentum and not been derailed at any early stage by ethnic conflict and the authoritarian tendencies of new rulers. In terms of key political processes, then, east European democratization has not initially involved a high level of party development or been dependent on parties performing more than relatively restricted functions -- important though these may be for the central processes and formal institutions of parliamentary democracy. The most pressing tasks of east European democratization concern the establishment of regime legitimacy, but this is an area in which the contribution of parties remains uncertain and will take considerable time to achieve.