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Party Fragmentation and Presidential Elections in Post-Communist Democracies

Abstract

Despite its controversial status as a stable governmental form, many of today's societies attempting to make the transition to democracy have or will, for a variety of reasons, choose presidentialism. Meanwhile, the evidence suggests that the combination of presidentialism and multipartism is especially dangerous for democratic stability (Mainwaring 1994). The question this essay addresses, though, is whether presidential elections themselves serve to encourage a fragmented party system, at least in the initial stages of democratization. In transitional political systems presidential elections encourage party fragmentation, but in a way different from that of highly proportional purely parliamentary mechanisms. Specifically, parties proliferate to support the presidential aspirations of political elites. Multivariate regression analysis on cross-sectional aggregate electoral data, supported by extensive outliers diagnostics and assessments of the role of country-specific effects is applied. A nested model is used to discriminate among the secondary hypotheses. Controls include: parliamentary election rules (district magnitude, threshold for representation, adjustment districts, ballot structure), relative timing of presidential and parliamentary elections, and basic societal cleavage structure. Using as our data source the recent elections in East and Central Europe and the European part of the former Soviet Union, we show that presidential elections consistently significantly increase party fragmentation. At the same time, the data are consistent with the hypothesis that presidentialism does encourage the overall consolidation in party systems through voters' abandonment of some parties, akin to Duverger's 'psychological effect'.

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Filippov, M.G., Ordeshook, P.C. & Shvetsova, O.V. Party Fragmentation and Presidential Elections in Post-Communist Democracies. Constitutional Political Economy 10, 3–26 (1999). https://doi.org/10.1023/A:1009065130231

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Keywords

  • Presidential Election
  • Party System
  • Election Rule
  • Parliamentary Election
  • Governmental Form