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Article

Philip G. Roeder

National secession seeks to create a new sovereign state for a nation residing on its homeland that is currently located inside another sovereign state. This goal distinguishes national secession from regional secession, autonomy, and decolonization and shapes the strategies, operational objectives, and tactical choices of the leaders of national-secession campaigns. Explanations for the success of some campaigns—particularly, success at getting on the global agenda—have focused on the identities, grievances, or greed of their members. Explanations for why some campaigns have turned to protracted intense violence have focused on these motivations and on tactical-logistical opportunities. The existing literature suffers from its failure to agree on theoretical and conceptual fundamentals. As a consequence, empirical studies focus on very different universes of cases and operationalize key variables in diverging ways. The existing literature frequently does not consider how the goal of national secession constrains the strategies, operations, and tactics of such campaigns. And so, it often fails to consider whether studies with another dependent variable can be extended to the study of national secession. Explanations stress indeterminate or substitutable causes and remote constraints on most national-secession campaigns—causes and constraints taken “off the shelf” from theories about conflicts operating under very different strategic and operational constraints. Missing from these explanations is the authenticity and realism of the programs for national secession in the assessments of the populations that each program presents as a nation with a right to a sovereign state of its own. Explanations and recommendations for responses by common-state governments, their allies, and the international community often fail to understand the centrality of the war of programs between national secessionists and common-state governments and the ways this constrains what compromises are possible and what responses are most likely to lead to domestic and international peace in such conflicts.

Article

Why did the Netherlands take part in the process of European integration from the beginning? How did that happen, and what consequences did it have? At present, questions like these linger immediately beneath the polished surface of the official narratives of economic rationalism and idealistic instrumentalism that dominate narratives about the Netherlands’ role as founding member of European integration. The clear no-vote in the 2005 referendum on the constitutional treaty for the EU and the outbreak of the Euro-crisis in 2010 have pulled the veil away from these underlying issues. As one of the founders of today’s European Union, the Netherlands has been a key player in the process of European integration. The Dutch like to think of themselves as shapers of European integration—matching their image in historiography—but the history of their participation in the European project often tells a very different story. Yes, as founders of the EU, the Dutch actively co-shaped European integration, but often in ways not unveiled in the official and rather consistent post facto narratives. In the past decades, governments in The Hague often steered an erratic course in European integration, trying to reconcile high hopes for instrumental free trade arrangements and transatlantic community with a deep-seated anxiety over the potential emergence of a small, continental, and politicized “fortress Europe.” This is a story that is both less known to the public and less prominent in the existing historiography.

Article

Nicaragua was among the last countries in Latin America to become democratic, and among the first to regress to authoritarian practices. It has thus been a fertile testing ground for theories of democratic development, addressing hypotheses about whether leftist revolutions can produce democracy, the difficulties inherent in wartime transitions to democracy, and the roles that foreign actors play in constraining and fostering democratic governance. After achieving independence from Spain in 1823, Nicaragua fell under the hegemony of the expansionist United States and endured a lengthy US occupation. The US-supported Somoza dictatorship was overthrown in 1979 by a revolution that brought to power the socialist Sandinista National Liberation Front (FSLN). The FSLN initially implemented a progressive authoritarian regime under an appointed junta, while fostering widespread political participation channeled through mass organizations associated with the party. Policies that centered on improving equality for the majority at the expense of traditional elites and the private sector drew US hostility. For a decade, US-sponsored counterrevolutionary forces made war on Nicaragua in an attempt to unseat the Sandinista government, and a US trade and financial embargo deeply damaged the economy. During that time, Nicaragua put in place a presidential system, permitted the development of opposition political parties, held partially competitive elections in 1984, and in 1987 inaugurated a constitution that mixed socialist and liberal principles. The 1984 elections were boycotted by right-wing opponents but shifted the basis of legitimate governance from winning the revolution to winning at the ballot box. In 1990, Nicaragua held competitive and internationally observed elections convened as one element of a regionwide Central American peace process. The FSLN lost in an upset that yielded an alteration in power signaling the advent of democracy. After negotiating to depoliticize the armed forces, President Violeta Chamorro took office and signed peace agreements with the counterrevolutionaries. For a decade, democracy prevailed and was deepened via a constitutional reform that transferred budgetary power to the legislature, shortened the presidential term, and prohibited immediate re-election to the presidency. In opposition, the FSLN employed both social mobilization tactics and parliamentary procedure to defend their constituents. Liberal remnants from the Somoza era regrouped and won the presidency in 1996. Democratic consolidation proved elusive, however, and instead the caudillo leaders of the FSLN and liberal parties, former President Daniel Ortega and then-President Arnoldo Alemán, reached a pact through which they radically reduced the political space available to smaller parties and assumed exclusive joint control of state institutions. The liberals again won election in 2001, but after their party split in 2006, Ortega was re-elected to the presidency. The new FSLN government introduced progressive policies that reduced poverty, but the quality of elections declined, and presidential term limits were abolished, introducing a competitive authoritarian regime. The FSLN then eliminated rival parties from serious contention and used legal reforms to consolidate a one-party-dominant system lacking horizontal and vertical accountability and marked by old political patterns of caudillo rule, elite pacts, and personalist rule centered on a single family.

Article

John Erik Fossum

Norway has applied for membership of the European Union (EU) four times but is not a member. The two first applications were aborted because of de Gaulle’s veto against the U.K.’s application. The two latter were turned down by Norwegian citizens in popular referenda (1972 and 1994). Why did a majority of Norwegian citizens reject EU membership? A survey of the literature identifies a range of historical, cultural, political, and socioeconomic factors. In addition, it cannot be discounted that there were specific features about the referendums and the referendum campaigns that help account for the decisions to reject EU membership, given that all Nordic states except Iceland have held EU membership referendums. Nevertheless, despite the fact that Norway is not an EU member, it has opted for as close an EU association as is possible for a nonmember. In order to understand Norway’s EU relationship, the following paradox must be addressed: whereas the question of EU membership has long been a highly controversial and divisive issue, Norway’s comprehensive incorporation in the EU through the EEA Agreement and a whole host of other arrangements has profound constitutional democratic implications and yet has sparked surprisingly little controversy. What then are the distinctive features of the “Norway model,” in other words, Norway’s EU affiliation? In order to clarify this, it is necessary to compare and contrast Norway’s affiliation with other relevant types of affiliation that nonmembers have to the EU. Thereafter, the distinctive features of Norway’s EU affiliation can be outlined: the internal market through the EEA Agreement; justice and home affairs through the Schengen and Dublin conventions; as well as defense cooperation and the institutional apparatus regulating Norway’s relationship with the EU. A distinctive feature of the Norway model is its comprehensiveness: Norway’s various EU affiliations amount to it incorporating roughly 75% of all EU laws and regulations. What are the domestic mechanisms and arrangements that enable Norway to adapt so closely to the EU when the EU membership issue continues to be so controversial? There is public support for the present arrangement, but how robust and resilient that is can be questioned. The arrangement depends on specific mechanisms that ensure that Norway’s EU affiliation remains depoliticized. In explicating these mechanisms, a clearer conception emerges of how Norway balances the challenges associated with global economic integration, national sovereignty, and democracy.

Article

Persons with disabilities, the world’s largest minority group, have experienced oppression and have been excluded from participating in public affairs for most of human history. The United Nations Ad Hoc Committee on a Comprehensive and Integral International Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Rights and Dignity of Persons with Disabilities arguably represents a turning point in the voice persons with disabilities have in the formation and implementation of international and domestic laws and policies. The Ad Hoc Committee realized the clarion call “nothing about us without us” both during the debates and in the formation of a convention that continues the voice of persons with disabilities and their representative bodies in the early 21st century.

Article

Maja Kluger Dionigi and Anne Rasmussen

The ordinary legislative procedure (OLP), previously known as co-decision, has marked a significant milestone in the development of the European Union (EU) and transformed the way its institutions interact. What was initially seen as a cumbersome decision-making procedure subject to considerable criticism ended up being quite successful. The workings of the OLP have gradually developed, including both informal and formal rule changes to ensure a smoother functioning of the procedure. While the EU Council is still seen as the strongest body in the interinstitutional balance, the European Parliament (EP) is a co-legislator in most policy areas. After introducing the option to conclude legislation at first reading, so-called early agreements have become the norm in the OLP. The increase in early agreements by means of trilogues has speeded up decision-making but has not come without costs. Concerns have been raised about the transparency of trilogues and the accountability of the actors involved. Not surprisingly, these concerns have led to a shift in the research of the OLP from an emphasis on the powers of the different EU institutions to early agreements and their consequences for democratic legitimacy. Our careful review of the EU institutions’ own rules and practices governing trilogue negotiations shows that the rules and procedures for the conduct of negotiations have been adapted significantly over time. While there is a continued need for the EU to keep enforcing openness in its procedures, OLP interinstitutional bargaining does not operate in a rule-free environment. Yet most democratic scrutiny has been directed at the internal decision-making processes in the EP rather than at maximizing openness on the Council side or with respect to input from interest groups in the negotiation processes.

Article

Before Papua New Guinea’s independence in 1975, its military consisted of a Pacific Island Regiment under the Australian Army’s Northern Command. In preparation for independence, there was considerable debate over whether the independent country should have a military force. Provision was made for the Papua New Guinea Defence Force (PNGDF) in the constitution, with a strong emphasis on the supremacy of the civilian authority. In the first decade of independence, the PNGDF was called out to assist police in internal security operations, but the priority of its role in internal security was not officially recognized until 1991. The deployment of the PNGDF to Bougainville to assist police in operations against what became the separatist Bougainville Revolutionary Army involved a heavy commitment of troops to a long-running conflict and was marked by a number of confrontations between the military and political leaders. This culminated in the Sandline affair, in which the PNGDF commander stepped in to terminate a contract between the government and the military consultants Sandline International and called on the prime minister to resign (but did not attempt to take over the government). After the Sandline affair and with the Bougainville Peace Agreement, relations between government and military improved, but several incidents involving PNGDF personnel led Prime Minister Morauta to speak of a “culture of instability” within the PNGDF and to invite a review by a Commonwealth Eminent Persons Group. Confrontations between the military and government, however, have consistently stopped short of attempted coup. The most plausible explanation for this may lie in the localized, competitive, and fractious nature of political power in Papua New Guinea, the absence of a dominant ethnic group, and the difficulties that even a legitimate, elected government has in maintaining law and order and service delivery across the country.

Article

Paradiplomacy refers to the international politics of subnational governments, such as cities and states. Latin American subnational actors have been actively performing paradiplomacy actions since the 1990s, fostering a research agenda that is closely connected with the policy practice. In a context of democratization and regional integration, paradiplomacy tends to grow and expose challenges regarding legal and institutional settings within federalist countries while dialoguing with global dynamics.

Article

Research on the origin, evolution, and effects of parliaments on public policies is presented. Progress has been made, but unresolved questions remain. Both historical and contemporary rational choice–based research are discussed, although more attention is given to the latter than to the former.

Article

Wolfgang Wagner

Parliaments differ enormously in their foreign policy competences. This is best documented in the area of “war powers,” understood as decision-making on the use of force. In other issue areas, such as treaty-making, defense budgets, sanctions, or arms exports, differences across countries are far less researched. The available data, however, suggests that differences in those areas are no smaller than in the area of war powers. What is more, the data also show that parliamentary competences across issue areas within particular countries also differ a lot. Parliaments are not strong or weak across the full spectrum of foreign policy competences. Instead, parliamentary competences are country, as well as issue specific. A general trend toward a parliamentarization or deparliamentarization of foreign affairs is not discernible. Partly inspired by institutionalist versions of Democratic Peace Theory, numerous studies have examined whether parliamentary powers have any effect on countries’ propensity to use armed force. Case-study research tends to find that variation in parliamentary powers impacts on decision-making on the use of force but also emphasizes that the effects of institutional constraints need to be understood in conjunction with the preferences of the public, parliament, and government. Statistical studies have found some evidence for a “parliamentary peace,” but because of problematic indicators and a lack of controls, doubts remain as to robustness and significance of this effect. In any case, theories of legislative-executive relations in parliamentary systems suggest that open confrontations between parliament and government are exceptional. Instead of an institutional constraint in a system of checks and balances, parliamentary war powers can be understood as an additional reassurance against unpopular decisions to use force. Most studies of parliaments in foreign affairs are characterized by “methodological nationalism”—that is, the assumption that nation-states are the natural units of analysis. However, parliaments’ activities in foreign affairs are not exhausted by their monitoring and scrutiny of national executives. In addition, there is a long tradition of “parliamentary diplomacy” and engagement in interparliamentary institutions. The most powerful parliamentary actor beyond the nation-state is the European Parliament. Although its formal competences are limited, it has been very effective in using its powers to influence European foreign policy.

Article

The importance of political parties has been at the heart of the debate about regime and regime change. Parties are essential actors for democratic politics. They can trigger transitions from and to democracy, polarize making democracies vulnerable to breakdown, or manage conflict to protect democratic institutions. However, not all parties or party systems are equal. The levels of fragmentation, polarization, and institutionalization in any given party and/or party system are key to understanding the rise, fall, and survival of democracy. In Latin America, the literature has focused, mostly, on party and party system institutionalization. In general, scholars agree that institutionalization fosters democracy. The organizational strength and embeddedness of political parties in society and the extent to which they interact regularly in stable ways, they argue, is key to the survival of democratic politics. There are instances, however, that suggest that this relationship is more problematic than the literature assumes. In contexts of crisis, highly institutionalized parties and party systems can be slow to adjust to new groups or demands and stiffen party leaders’ ability to respond to new issues. When facing a polarizing potential autocrat, for instance, high levels of party and party system institutionalization could hurt more than help democracy. They can reduce the ability of politicians to attract moderate voters from opposing parties, hinder their capacity to counteract antisystemic trends in order to lead opposition efforts, or limit the extent to which they can reach across the aisle to build ideologically diverse prodemocratic coalitions.

Article

Jennifer Cyr and Nicolás Liendo

Political parties are not what they used to be. They evolve, often in response to external motivations, but also as a function of the historical time period in which they emerge. There are several determinants of party change and adaptation in Latin America. Most importantly, multiple exogenous forces, including a shift in the economic model, the adoption of decentralization policies, and the growing political voice of minoritized groups, have challenged parties to adapt for survival. While not all parties have successfully endured, some have employed diverse strategies to do so. To be sure, new parties also emerge as a function of exogenous challenges and opportunities. In Latin America, new parties have differed in form and in function from their predecessors. The emergence of new parties represents a second type of party change that must be contemplated. Overall, parties in the 21st century look quite different from their 20th-century counterpoints. Additionally, empirical measures suggest that the dynamics of party change vary across the region and also within countries across time. A novel concept, party survival, has been elaborated to address adaptation strategies that neither lead to continued electoral success at the national level nor end in full party collapse. Indeed, several countries in the region have faced at least one crisis of representation, wherein voters defected from existing parties to vote for new parties and politicians. A new research agenda, which examines the role of resources in provoking successful party emergence and adaptation over time, provides one fruitful explanation for why parties can survive a sudden and dramatic loss of national votes. Overall, knowledge of party change and adaptation has accumulated over time. It has also evolved with respect to nuance and sophistication. Still, there is much left to be learned about party change and adaptation, including the impact new parties will have on representation, governance, and democracy more generally.

Article

Kathleen Bruhn

Modern representative democracy cannot function without political parties, however rudimentary. Parties in turn cannot function without money. The subject of party finance is therefore central to the construction of contemporary democracies. Latin American countries have attempted to meet the challenges of preserving democracy while providing for political parties across three main areas of financial regulation: provision of public finance, regulation of private finance, and limiting campaign spending. In all three areas, transparency (reporting), oversight, and enforcement of existing legal regulations remain important problems for the health of the political system. In the late 20th century, Latin American countries increasingly turned to public finance as a way of supplementing existing systems of private contributions. This trend seems to have been inspired both by a desire to reduce the inequalities inherent in Latin America’s socioeconomic structure and by efforts to contain and prevent episodes of scandal and undue influence generated by private contributors. Public finance particularly benefits small parties and parties with fewer connections to the wealthy sectors that tend to dominate private contributions. Public finance may contribute to the institutionalization of both party organizations and party systems, but it may also weaken the dependence of parties on their members and supporters in ways that undermine representation. Private finance in Latin America remains largely obscure. We know that relatively few private donors account for the lion’s share of party donations, but it is unclear in many cases exactly who donates, or what their money buys. It is therefore difficult for voters (and analysts) to determine the structure of party obligations to donors and to hold parties accountable. Partly as a result, drug money is believed to have penetrated the political systems of many Latin American countries, especially but not exclusively at the local level. Campaign spending limits, including limits on the duration of campaigns and campaign advertising, have been employed in some cases to try to contain costs and thus reduce the incentives of parties to seek out private donations, especially of questionable origin. Lax enforcement, however, limits the impact of these initiatives.

Article

Mildred A. Schwartz

Party movements are organizations that have attributes of both political parties and social movements. Like parties, they desire a voice in the decisions of legislative bodies. Like social movements, they challenge existing power and advocate change, often using non-institutionalized means for expressing their message. They appear in the space left open by the failure of existing political parties and social movements to adequately represent their interests and achieve their goals. They may become independent parties or work within existing parties. Party movements can be found in most political systems. Their impact is felt whenever they are able to introduce new issues onto the political agenda, force traditional political parties to take account of their grievances, or change the contours of the party system.

Article

Partisan organizations are the set of structured patterns of interaction among political cadres and members alike that are prescribed either by formal rules of procedure or by traditions and unwritten rules. Scholars of Latin America have generally described local partisan organizations as weak but have also devoted significant attention to the study of informal party structures, whose robustness and complexity have tended to contrast with the general fragility of their formal counterparts. Although important data-related challenges have precluded more systematic and generalizable analyses of the causes and consequences of party organizations, meticulous theoretical works and case studies have explored the questions of what organizations look like, how they operate, how they were built, and what outcomes they result in. This literature has identified ideational and tangible resources as the primary predictors of organizational strength. Strong and easily identifiable party brands provide both politicians and partisans with incentives to join and remain in a political party even in times of bad electoral performance and limited selective benefits. Material resources are shaped by countries’ institutional frameworks and structure politicians’ priorities in terms of their career ambitions and their relationships to voters and partisans. In turn, robust organizations have been associated with longer party survival and a narrower margin of action of the party leaderships. The presence of an extended network of party members and sympathizers make parties more resilient to short-term challenges, which is no small feat in a region marked by relatively high electoral volatility and many institutions of fleeting existence. The recent release of several important data sets and the proliferation of knowledge of how parties work create exciting avenues for future research.

Article

Contrary to popular belief, Northern Irish politics is not an entirely religious affair. The widespread and longstanding use of the labels “Catholic” and “Protestant” to denote political allegiance undoubtedly contributes to such an impression. The relationship between religion and politics in Northern Ireland is, however, more complex than these convenient labels suggest. Indeed the question of whether and to what extent religion possesses any political significance in the region has generated considerable academic debate. Organizationally, there is a clear separation of church and party in Northern Ireland. The main political parties have eschewed formal ties with churches, and faith leaders have largely confined themselves to involvement in “small p” politics. The one exception to this general rule has been the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP). Its close ties with the Free Presbyterian Church has long rendered it a unique case in the British and Irish context. The historical relationship between the main unionist parties and the Orange Order, a quasi-religious organization, further blurs the lines between religion and party politics in Northern Ireland. Since the signing of the Belfast or Good Friday Agreement in 1998, alternative or non-ethnonational political issues have become increasingly salient in Northern Ireland. More specifically, touchstone moral issues have taken center stage on several occasions. Abortion rights and marriage equality, for example, remain high on the contemporary political agenda, with clear party differences observable on each issue. The staunch moral conservatism of the DUP, derived from its commitment to a fundamentalist Protestant doctrine, again sets it apart. The continued exceptionalism of Northern Ireland on these issues, compared with the rest of the United Kingdom and, increasingly, Ireland, serves to reinforce the importance of understanding the role religion plays in shaping party policy programs and party competition in the region.

Article

From one point of view, Latin America’s party systems are in a constant state of change, with high levels of electoral volatility, recurrent episodes of personalism, and a generally low level of predictability. From a deeper analytic perspective, however, there are clear differences between periods of massive, essentially region-wide party-system change, as at the birth of mass politics in the first half of the 20th century and during the neoliberal era, and periods of relative stability, such as the period of the Cold War. Latin American party politics is thus characterized by a rhythm of (sometimes long) periods of continuity interrupted by episodes of crisis and change. Episodes of change occur when the foundations of political competition are revised: at the dawn of mass politics in the early 20th century, for example, or during the period of political and economic reform that marked the end of the Cold War. A distinctly Latin American puzzle for the study of party systems emerges from taking the long view of these periods of stability and disruption. For the most part, party systems in the region are distinctly central to politics and electoral in origin, in contrast to many other developing countries where parties are noncentral, volatile, or oriented toward nonelectoral forms of governance. Yet, these same party systems are largely unable to adjust their appeals when faced with fundamental transformations to the social, political, or economic landscape—in contrast to the party systems of much of North America and Western Europe, where many parties and party systems have successfully navigated multiple such transformations with the identities of key parties intact.

Article

Matthias Basedau

Political party systems are an important element of political systems in Africa and elsewhere. They form the central intermediate institution between the general population and the government. Party systems represent and aggregate diverse political views and group interests, and they form coalitions that then form governments with potentially important consequences of democracy and political stability. Unlike the case in the period directly after independence, African party systems have been overwhelmingly multiparty since the 1990s. As a result, the literature has grown significantly, although most works focus on political parties rather than party systems. Many efforts have been devoted to classification, referring to the legal context as well as, more specifically, the number of relevant parties, the levels of institutionalization, and, less often, the degree of ideological or other polarization. While levels of institutionalization and ideological differences are generally not pronounced, more than half of African party systems have been one-party dominant, of which most are authoritarian. In contrast, two-party and pluralist-party systems, which make up approximately one half of all multiparty systems, are generally more democratic. Besides determining classifications, most analytical work focuses on the determinants of African party systems using quantitative and qualitative as well as macro- and micro-level methodologies. Three determinants are debated: first, ethnicity, which has been cited as the main social cleavage behind African party systems; however, while ethnicity matters, its effects vary and are limited; second, political institutions, especially electoral systems for legislative elections, which only partly explain fragmentation or other features; third, the performance of political parties and rationalist approaches. Scholars largely agree that all of these elements need to be taken into account. While certain functions of party systems may facilitate democratization and political stability or other outcomes, little empirical work exists on the consequences of party systems. Some evidence suggests that highly institutionalized, moderately fragmented, and polarized systems promote democracy. Future research faces many challenges, in particular the development of integrated theory and more fine-grained data, as well as an increased focus on the consequences of party systems.

Article

Laura Wills-Otero

Since the beginning of the third wave of democratization in the late 1970s, Latin American party systems have confronted several challenges, and they have frequently been transformed. There have been various types of changes. While some systems collapsed in the 1990s (e.g., Venezuela and Peru), others realigned (Colombia, Chile, and Uruguay), or expanded (Argentina and Mexico), or were able to become consolidated and ensure their stability over time (e.g., Brazil). What factors explain the transformations in party systems during the past three decades, and how can Latin American party systems be classified according to their attributes? In trying to answer these questions, scholars of Latin America have undertaken studies that are both theoretically and empirically rich. Their work has increased our knowledge of the party systems and representative democracies in the region. Different factors have been highlighted in order to explain the changes these systems have undergone since the third wave of democratization. Some works emphasize the importance of institutional reforms introduced by politicians or by constitutional assemblies. The questions they address are the following: What political reforms have been introduced into Latin American political systems, and what effects have they had on the party systems in different countries? The researchers do not limit their attention to reforms of electoral systems. For example, some of them also study decentralization processes and their effects on party systems. From a different perspective, other authors focus on changes in electoral preferences and their effects on the configuration of political power, exploring how regional economic, political, and social changes have affected voter preferences and the political configuration of party systems. Still others consider the crises of democratic representation in these countries, underlining the decline in the programmatic character of parties as an explanatory variable for the crises and noting that the level of institutionalization of a party system declines when parties abandon this distinctive feature and become clientelistic or personalistic instead. On the other hand, in order to describe party systems and to observe the changes they have undergone, academics have proposed a set of concepts and measurements that make it possible to identify their levels of institutionalization (i.e., stability vs. volatility), nationalization, and programmatic structuration, among other aspects. The operationalization of these concepts has provided researchers with useful data for describing, comparing, and analyzing the party systems of the region transversely over time. Understanding the transformation and characteristics of Latin American party systems over time sheds light on both the progress democratic regimes have made and the setbacks they have suffered within specific countries and in the region at large.

Article

Zsolt Enyedi and Fernando Casal Bértoa

The study of political parties and party systems is intimately linked to the development of modern political science. The configuration of party competition varies across time and across polities. In order to capture this variance, one needs to go beyond the analysis of individual parties and to focus on their numbers (i.e. fragmentation), their interactions (i.e. closure), the prevailing ideological patterns (i.e. polarization), and the stability of the balance of power (i.e. volatility) in all spheres of competition, including the electoral, parliamentary, and governmental arenas. Together, these factors constitute the core informal institution of modern politics: a party system. The relevant scholarship relates the stability of party systems to the degree of the institutionalization of individual parties, to various institutional factors such as electoral systems, to sociologically anchored structures such as cleavages, to economic characteristics of the polity (primarily growth), to historical legacies (for example, the type of dictatorship that preceded competitive politics) and to the length of democratic experience and to the characteristics of the time when democracy was established. The predictability of party relations has been found to influence both the stability of governments and the quality of democracy. However, still a lot is to be learned about party systems in Africa or Asia, the pre-WWII era or in regional and/or local contexts. Similarly, more research is needed regarding the role of colonialism or how party system stability affects policy-making. As far as temporal change is concerned, we are witnessing a trend towards the destabilization of party systems, but the different indicators show different dynamics. It is therefore crucial to acknowledge that party systems are complex, multifaceted phenomena.