Party Systems and Structures of Competition

Peter Mair

in Party System Change

Published in print October 1998 | ISBN: 9780198295495
Published online November 2003 | e-ISBN: 9780191599804 | DOI:
 Party Systems and Structures of Competition

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This is the third of three chapters on political party systems and structures of competition, and presents an overall review. In the first section, Approaches to the Classification of Party Systems: A Review it looks at the principal existing approaches to the classification of party systems, pointing to both their limits and possibilities when applied within comparative analysis. It then goes on in the second section, Party Systems and the Competition for Government, to underline the importance of understanding the structure of competition in any given party system, since in many ways the whole notion of a party system is centred on the assumption that there exists a stable structure of competition. Structures of competition can be seen to be either closed (and predictable) or open (and unpredictable), depending on the patterns of alternation in government, the degree of innovation or persistence in processes of government formation, and the range of parties gaining access to government. The emphasis in the third section, Party Systems and Electoral Outcomes, is on the need to distinguish between processes of electoral change on the one hand, and changes in party systems and the structures of competition on the other, a distinction which also allows the possibility of situations in which electoral change is the consequence rather than the cause of party system change.

Keywords: changes in party systems; classification of party systems; closed competition; competition for government; electoral change; electoral outcomes; open competition; party competition; party systems; political parties; stability; structures of competition

Chapter.  10168 words. 

Subjects: Comparative Politics

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