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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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Simon Tormey and Jean-Paul Gagnon

In reinterrogating core concepts from his 2015 book, The End of Representative Politics, Simon Tormey explains the nature of emergent, evanescent, and contrarian forms of political practice. He sheds light on what is driving the political disruption transpiring now through a series of engaging comments from the field on well-known initiatives like Occupy, #15M, and Zapatistas and also lesser-known experiments such as the creation of new political parties like Castelló en Moviment, among others. Postrepresentative representation, it is argued, is not an oxymoron; it, like the term antipolitical politics, is rather a provocative concept designed to capture the radically new swarming politics underway in countries like Spain, Italy, Greece, Portugal, and Iceland. Citizens are tooling up with ICTs, and this has led to resonant political movements like #15M in Spain or Occupy more broadly. Key takeaways from this interview include the double-edged nature of representation and the fact that new forms of political representation are breaking the mould.

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Frédéric Sawicki

Why is the Socialist Party (Parti socialiste, PS) the first political party in France to implement a systematic and “scientific” door-to-door canvassing for the 2012 presidential campaign? What internal changes led the PS to adopt this practice? This innovation is not just technical; it is profoundly transforming the roles and activities of party members. As Rémi Lefebvre has pointed out, “rationalized canvassing prioritizes electoral efficiency. In the traditional partisan culture of the PS, campaigns were mostly about conviction and political conflict. Canvassing was a way for members to assert their identity and ‘fight’ together. It was mostly about belonging to a group of party members. Rather, scientific door-to-door canvassing is oriented by an electoral rationality.”

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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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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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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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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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Alexandra Hennessy

How do political parties respond to a major economic shock? This article studies this question in the context of the eurozone crisis. Specifically, I analyze the partisan appeals made by German politicians in the run-up to the 2013 federal election in Germany. Contrary to existing models of party responsiveness, I argue that enacting quick crisis resolution mechanisms is not always the main concern of reelection-seeking politicians. Instead, officials may have incentives to deliberately withhold emergency measures in an effort to win a mandate for more comprehensive policy solutions later. The findings have implications for notions of democratic accountability.

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Nadia Urbinati

This article addresses a question that sits at the heart of democracy studies today: What do we mean when we speak about a “crisis of democracy”? The article opens with introductory clarifications on the meanings of the concept of crisis—namely its root in medicine, and on three contemporary perspectives of democracy—trilateral, deliberative, and crisis. These perspectives are analyzed using monoarchic and diarchic distinctions. Next, the article lists the main discourses about crisis in recent political theory literature. In conclusion, the article proposes an answer to the question of what we mean by crisis of democracy by arguing that it is not democracy in general but one form of democracy in particular that is in crisis—a parliamentary democracy based on the centrality of suffrage and political parties.

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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.