Sánchez-Cuenca, "Party Moderation and Politicians'
Ideological Rigidity," Party Politics, 10 (May
Sometimes parties do moderate.
They announce to the electorate that in the event they win
elections, their policies will be moderate even if in the
past they have defended radical platforms. This announcement
implies ideological change and the jettisoning of some of
the party's fundamental political principles and
aspirations. Moderation typically takes place through
extraordinary congresses of the parties concerned. Some
outstanding examples from the left are the abandonment of
Marxism both by the SPD (German Social Democratic Party) in
the Extraordinary Congress at Bad Godesberg in 1959 and by
the PSOE (Spanish Socialist Workers' Party) in its 1979
Extraordinary Congress, and the metamorphosis of the PCI
(Italian Communist Party) into the PDS (Democratic Party of
the Left) in the 1991 XX Congress. There are cases where
moderation is the outcome of a slow evolution, without the
drama of extraordinary congresses, as in the gradual change
of the British Labour Party between its 1983 radical
platform and its winning 1997 moderate one.
Figures and Tables:
Figure 1. The spatial position
of parties and the median voter
Empirical cases of moderation
show that moderation often takes place in the wake of a
reduction in a party's ideological rigidity as a consequence
of some organizational reform or of leadership renovation.
When moderation is not the best response to the positions
occupied by the median voter and the incumbent, a party will
moderate only if it softens its dogmatism. When parties are
ideologically rigid, party competition follows an
interesting pattern: long periods of stability in which a
rigid party stays in opposition, punctuated by periods of
change in which the opposition party reduces its rigidity,
moderates and eventually wins elections.