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Véronique Pujas

The debate in 1999 on how to finance the Italian party system centred

on two aberrations from the European norm that are linked to

the wider issue of the unfinished transition of the Italian political

system. The first of these aberrations is that the Italian political

class has yet to find a definitive remedy for the illegal funding of

the country’s political parties. Although public funding has been

envisaged since the law of 1974, subsequent legislation has

always been determined by circumstances and has never

addressed the real needs of parties. The second problem concerns

the control of three television channels by the state, on the one

hand, and of three further channels by a media entrepreneur and

political leader, Silvio Berlusconi, on the other. In the opinion of

many observers, this situation comprises an interweaving of interests

harmful to democratic pluralism.

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La course au centre

Policy Convergence and Partisanship in France, 1981-2002

Sally Marthaler

Policy convergence between the political parties and the perception among voters that there is little to choose between left and right may be factors in the declining levels of partisanship observed in many advanced industrial democracies, including France, where these conditions emerged in the 1980s. Drawing on both quantitative and qualitative data, this article analyzes changes in the actual and perceived level of convergence between the mainstream parties in France from 1981 to 2002. It finds evidence of increasing policy convergence over the period as a result of a combination of endogenous and exogenous factors. It concludes that left-right ideological labels are still important to voters, even though they too have moved to the center, and that many of them want to see a clear dividing-line between the parties. The blurring of the boundaries between left and right and the “reversibility” of the mainstream parties has also enhanced the appeal of alternative and extremist parties.

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Sergio Rizzo and Gian Antonio Stella

In this chapter, the efforts of the Italian ruling class to cut the costs of politics during 2012 are analyzed. An informal division of labor was established between Monti's executive, which was to take care of budgetary problems, and the Parliament, which was supposed to tackle the frequent scandals of corruption and public money mismanagement. The results of the latter's efforts were amply (and predictably) disappointing, justifying once more the low levels of trust that citizens display toward politicians. In particular, we consider five points: the expenditure cuts by the constitutional bodies, the failure to reduce the number of MPs, the effort to cut back on the public funding of political parties, the “anarchy” of regional expenditures, and the inability to decide about the abolition of provincial government.

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Gianfranco Pasquino and Marco Valbruzzi

This chapter analyzes the processes of candidate selection in Italy for the main political parties facing the 2013 general election. In particular, the authors investigate and evaluate the primary elections organized, in November–December 2012, by the center-left coalition (composed of the Democratic Party, Left Ecology and Freedom, and the Italian Socialist Party) for the selection of the candidate to the office of president of the Council of Ministers. The chapter explores in detail the main issues at the center of the electoral campaign, the candidates involved in the process of selection, the socio-demographic profile of the “selectorate,” the electoral results of the primary elections, and their consequences for the consolidation of the Italian party system.

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Hans Mommsen

The role of Konrad Adenauer in the proceedings of the Parliamentary Council in Bonn and his decision after his election as first federal chancellor not to form a coalition government with the Social Democratic Party paved the way to a fundamental transformation of the traditional German democratic paradigm versus the Anglo-Saxon concept of interaction between government and parliamentary opposition. The inherited pattern of constitutional democracy that had contributed to the structural weaknesses of Weimar parliamentarism was replaced by the concept of an interaction between government and opposition. Political parties took on the primary tasks of securing stable parliamentary majorities and providing sufficient electoral support for the chancellor. Adenauer's resolved political leadership, therefore, was an indispensable contribution to the reorientation of West German political culture from the former distrust of unrestricted parliamentary sovereignty toward Western democratic traditions.

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Louise K. Davidson-Schmich

This article examines the candidates for the 2009 Bundestag election and asks three questions. First, did German political parties comply with their voluntarily-adopted gender quotas for their electoral lists—both in terms of the numbers of women nominated and their placement on the party list? Second, did parties without gender quotas place female candidates in promising list places? In other words, did quotas exert a “contagion effect“ and spur political groups without quotas to promote women's political careers? Third, what propensity did all parties have to nominate female candidates for direct mandate seats? Did the quotas used for the second vote have a spillover effect onto the first vote, improving women's odds of being nominated for constituency seats? I find that while the German parties generally complied with the gender quotas for their electoral lists, these quotas have had only limited contagion effects on other parties and on the plurality half of the ballot. Gender quotas in their current form have reached their limits in increasing women's representation to the Bundestag. To achieve gender parity, a change in candidate selection procedures, especially for direct mandates, would be required.

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Acronyms of political parties

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Frank Decker and Jared Sonnicksen

The recent Bundestag election in Germany warrants consideration for a number of reasons, not the least of which is that the results are indicative of several trends developing since unification and that will continue to play an important, if not ever increasing role in German politics. These developments include the intensifying fragmentation of the German party system and German voters' growing electoral volatility, both of which are hampering the parties' ability to form government coalitions. In the following article, we distill five fundamental aspects of the election. Building upon this analysis, we explore their meaning as well as potential impact on the German party system and partisan competition, as well as coalition patterns. At the same time, we address the overarching question of whether—and if so, to what extent—German politics is experiencing a trend toward bipolarity between a center-right and left camp and whether such an antagonistic model will be a passing phase or is indicative of a more established five-party system in Germany.

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Charles Lees

The article draws upon the formal coalition literature to demonstrate that party system change over the last thirty years means that the Volksparteien enjoy more coalition options and greater ideological leverage within coalitions that form than was the case in the past. The Free Democrats have lost their kingmaker status and the distribution of party weights over recent elections allows no other small party to act in this manner. By contrast, the numerical and ideological resources possessed by the two Volksparteien means that they remain the only parties within the German party system that can act as formateur in the coalition game and are less vulnerable to threats of a decisive defection by small parties to alternative coalitions than they were in the past.

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Russell J. Dalton and Willy Jou

Few aspects of politics have been as variable as partisan politics in the two decades since German unification. In the East, citizens had to learn about democratic electoral politics and the party system from an almost completely fresh start. In the West, voters experienced a changing partisan landscape and the shifting policy positions of the established parties as they confronted the challenges of unification. This article raises the question of whether there is one party system or two in the Federal Republic. We first describe the voting results since 1990, and examine the evolving links between social milieu and the parties. Then we consider whether citizens are developing affective party ties that reflect the institutionalization of a party system and voter choice. Although there are broad similarities between electoral politics in West and East, the differences have not substantially narrowed in the past two decades.