Comparative European Politics

, Volume 9, Issue 3, pp 269–291 | Cite as

In from the cold? Left parties and government involvement since 1989

  • Tim BaleEmail author
  • Richard Dunphy
Original Article


Radical left parties – particularly their involvement in government either as full coalition partners or support parties to minority social democratic administrations – have not received as much attention as their counterparts on the far right of the political spectrum or, indeed, the Greens. This interview-based study, which focuses on the calculations made by left parties with a chance of getting involved in governing, suggests that this needs to change. It argues that, whatever the origins of these left parties, such calculations can fruitfully be explored by characterising them – just as we have begun to characterise the calculations of Green and radical right parties – as the kind of trade-offs between policy, office and votes that more mainstream political actors have been making ever since democracy was established in Europe. Similarly, other factors that impact on the calculations made by radical left parties thinking about government are unlikely to be exclusive to them. They include a history of coalition building at the subnational level, the views of trade unions, personal relationships with other party leaders, and finally their reading of how government involvement has impacted on their counterparts in other countries.


left party government formation niche parties communist coalition 



The authors would like to thank the referees for their comments on an earlier version and to acknowledge that funding for this research was kindly provided by a Joint Activities Grant from the British Academy.


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Copyright information

© Palgrave Macmillan, a division of Macmillan Publishers Ltd 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Politics and Contemporary European Studies, University of SussexBrightonUK
  2. 2.School of Humanities, University of DundeeDundeeScotland

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