Political parties use policy radicalism as a means of attaining electoral success. Differentiation from other parties and ideological renewal after a period of incumbency or prolonged opposition are valid reasons for policy innovation, but excessive radicalization has a number of detrimental effects, including mismanaging voter expectations. This article analyzes a number of examples of policy radicalization under the French Fifth Republic. It starts from concepts taken from policy mood and spatial competition models, and examines how French political parties of both Left and Right have overreached in their ideological stances, and thereby exacerbated political disenchantment among the French public. The article concludes by looking at the notion that mainstream politicians may not be acting in their own best interests when they radicalize the political agenda by misreading electoral competitive cues.
A Means to the End?
Electioneering and the politics of self knowledge
Alexander Thomas T. Smith
Following their ‘wipe-out’ at the 1997 General Election, Scottish Conservatives worked from the assumption that they had endured their own ‘crisis’ in representation. The material consequences of this ‘crisis’ entailed losses of !nancial and other resources, knowledge and political legitimacy. This article describes how some Conservative activists addressed this ‘crisis’ in the period leading to the 2003 local Government and Scottish Parliament elections. Their efforts to render the secret ballot transparent in order to discern the voting intentions of potential supporters both demonstrated and re!ected their efforts to manage this crisis. Despite legal constraints, they constructed an imaginary of thousands of local voters’ preferences through a variety of discursive instruments, which allowed Party activists to disaggregate the electoral roll in order to apprehend a new whole – the Conservative electoral base. This, in turn, enabled a Conservative politics of self-knowledge, as a form of empowerment for these activists.
Evidence from the Eastern States
Steven Wuhs and Eric McLaughlin
Partisan attachments and voting behavior in Germany today are more volatile than in the past. This article tests the enduring influence of social cleavages on voting relative to two other factors that account for party performance: path dependent forces and spatial dependence. Drawing on original data from the eastern German states, we explain support for Germany’s main parties in the 2017 federal election. We find relatively weak evidence for continued influence of social divisions for the major parties, but that support for the radical right Alternative for Germany (AfD) did reflect underlying cleavage structures. Additionally, we identify reliable effects of the historical immigrant population on contemporary voting. We also see weak evidence of lock-in political effects associated with German reunification, limited only to the CDU. Most interestingly, we observe powerful and robust effects of spatial dependence for three of the four parties we examine. We conclude that the effects presented here should signal to scholars of parties and electoral politics the need to incorporate history and geography into their analytical frameworks alongside more traditional approaches, since eastern Germany may in fact be less spatialized than western Germany or other country cases because of the homogenizing efforts of the SED regime.
Gianfranco Baldini and Alan Renwick
The topic of electoral reform, a recurring feature of the Italian political agenda, resurfaced in 2014. At the start of the year, a ruling by the Constitutional Court returned the country to a proportional system, similar to the one in place during the First Republic. This chapter examines the key political responses to that ruling and how the decision has spurred further electoral reforms, resulting in the most majoritarian system in Italy's democratic history.
One of the consequences of the dissolution of Parliament at the beginning
of February 2008 and the announcement of a general election to
be held two months later on 13 and 14 April was the postponement
for a year of the referendum on the electoral law. A few weeks earlier,
on 16 January, the Constitutional Court had given its approval to three
referendum questions designed to abrogate several parts of the electoral
law that had been passed by the Italian Parliament in 2005. We
can better understand how this latest referendum initiative influenced
Italian politics over the course of 2007 if we take a long-term view of
the importance of electoral laws and referendums in the country.
Despite several breakthroughs that indicate radical right parties' significant electoral potential, they remain highly volatile players in both Poland and eastern Germany. This is puzzling because radical right competitors can benefit from favorable politico-cultural conditions shaped by postcommunist legacies. The electoral markets in Poland and the eastern German Länder show low levels of affective party identification and low levels of political trust in mainstream parties and government institutions. Most importantly, there is a sizeable, yet largely unrepresented segment of voters who share salient counter-cosmopolitan preferences. They point to a “silent counterrevolution“ against globalization and cosmopolitan value change that displays substantive affinities to radical right ideology. Offering a transborder regional comparison of the four most relevant radical right parties and their conditions for electoral mobilization in Poland and eastern Germany, this article argues that the radical right's crossnational volatility-and often underperformance-in elections is mainly caused by internal supply side factors. They range from organizational deficiencies, leadership issues, and internal feuds, to strategic failures and a lack of democratic responsiveness. In turn, the disequilibrium between counter-cosmopolitan demand and its political representation is likely to be reduced if radical right competitors become more effective agents of electoral mobilization-or new, better organized ones emerge.
Elections and political campaigns make for a fascinating research playground. They correspond to Marcel Mauss’s definition of fait social total, a social phenomenon that involves all individuals and reveals something about them all. They take place frequently and nearly everywhere in the world, providing an ideal vantage point for comparing societies across time and space. They are documented with an increasing amount of data, starting with disaggregated electoral results. These features alone would suffice to explain the central importance of elections in the social sciences, from history and political science to economics and psychology. But a recent evolution makes the study of elections and campaigns perhaps even more appealing today: in almost no other fields are the recommendations of social scientists followed so closely and so rapidly. The first milestone in this trend was a study conducted during the November 1998 general elections in New Haven by two Yale political scientists, Alan Gerber and Donald Green, which compared the effects of door-to-door canvassing, phone calls, and mailings.2 This article launched a large experimental literature investigating which campaign techniques could most effectively increase voter turnout or sway undecided voters. Candidates were quick to apply the most recent findings to their own campaigns, even hiring some of their authors as strategy advisers
German extreme Right parties have increased their political and electoral significance in recent years, in particular through some considerable regional successes in the East. However, in spite of noticeable nation-wide gains by the NPD in the Bundestag election, the extreme Right suffered from another defeat. Looking at the interplay of supply side and demand side factors, the article examines the transformations and continuities of extreme Right parties within the German party system, their performance in the 2005 general election, and the reasons for their ongoing national electoral failure. While extreme Right parties benefit from more favorable conditions related to increased voter volatility, new public issues and new cleavage structures, these parties also continuously face crucial difficulties, especially on the supply side: the cordon sanitaire is still intact, and new cleavages in relation to globalization are more convincingly and effectively utilized by left-wing competitors. The main obstacle, though, are the extreme Right agents themselves. Incorporating Zeitgeist issues, they nevertheless remain unable to actually modernize their agenda. The present and future challenge to liberal democracy may be a new level of cooperation between extreme Right parties and consolidated "informal" right-wing extremist subcultures in Eastern regional strongholds.
The Ebbing Wave in Southern Africa
Huntington's third wave of democracy was no such thing. It neither ushered in a democratic era nor was it a wave in any acceptable historical sense. What it did do was to highlight a contrast and competition among norms and values, so that what we automatically regard as undemocratic practice that is norm-free is no such thing. They might perhaps, and with a freight of contingencies, be bad norms—but they are still norms.
Most explanations that have been advanced regarding the recent
successes of far-right parties in Western Europe suggest that these
parties should have also done well in Germany. With a high percapita
income and a strong export-oriented economy, Germany has
experienced large-scale immigration, a shift toward postindustrial
occupations, economic restructuring, unemployment, and social
marginalization of the poorest strata. These socioeconomic developments
have been accompanied by political responses which
should also benefit the far right: political parties have lost credibility, non-voting has increased, and ecological parties have become
established and have spurred environmental, feminist, and proimmigrant