A European Perspective
Crisis in party politics: new aspects of the old problem
Pedagogical University in Cracow, Poland
Political parties seem to have been in crisis for several decades now. One can easily point out to many publications, which diagnose, describe or at least mention this problem. The most often mentioned phenomena in this context are: the growing distance between parties and their voters, weakening ties with social groups, which is empirically manifested by declining party membership, fading party identification, low electoral turnout and increasing volatility (see for example Poguntke 2004; Daalder 2002; Linz 2002). Although those problems have been observed for quite a long time now, they seem to still influence party politics, not only in “old” or established European democracies, but also in new ones, which emerged after 1989 (Markowski 2007).
Problems experienced by parties may be also seen in a wider context of growing dissatisfaction with the functioning of representative democracy as such. As Ralph Dahrendorf wrote: “representative government is no longer as compelling a proposition as it once was. Instead, a search for new institutional forms to express conflicts of interest has begun” (Cain et al. 2003, p. 21). Thus the above mentioned crisis of political parties may be seen not only as a part but as a symptom of wider crisis of representative government, particularly if we remember that political parties play one of the most important roles in this system.
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