Book Review: “Presidentialization of Parties” on …

Party Politics (by Vít Hloušek, Masaryk University, Czech Republic)

ppqa_23_5-coverOnly a few scholars would question the thesis concerning the recent increasing importance of the key members of the executive in democracies, a phenomenon related to the centralization of both executive power and the organization of political parties. Many scholars would, however, oppose or dispute the concept of the ‘presidentialization’ of politics that has been developed since the early 1990s to capture such a development. The recent volume edited by Gianluca Passarelli sheds new light on the concept and its analytical potential to unravel the processes of transformation of the organizational patterns of contemporary political parties. The volume covers the conceptual debate as well as 11 country studies. The opening chapter, written by the editor, offers an interesting conceptual introduction which not only provides the framework for the country studies but, above all, increases the analytical potential of the very concept of party presidentialization. Here the full article in PDF

Book Review: Presidentialization of Parties on …

Government and Opposition (by Marina Costa Lobo,  Instituto de Ciéncias Sociais, Lisbon)

government_and-oppositionIn January 2017 Donald Trump was inaugurated as the forty-fifth president of the United States. Trump’s ability to win the Republican Party nomination, against the will of the party grandees, went against the received political science wisdom, which placed party elites in charge of the choice of presidential candidates in the US (Cohen et al. 2009). His subsequent victory against Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton further challenged the idea that the two parties controlled
access to American institutions. Trumpism is a clear sign of the decline of political parties as institutional gatekeepers and is symptomatic of the rise of the media-driven, outsider leader. Yet is this a specifically
American phenomenon, or has it spread to other countries?
In Italy, the rise of Silvio Berlusconi as leader of Forza Italia and the longest-serving prime minister of Italy is perhaps the closest parallel to Trump. Berlusconi was also an outsider – a media and construction billionaire – who stormed Italian politics. He was elected as MP in 1994 and went on to serve on three different occasions as
prime minister of Italy (1994–5, 2001–6 and 2009–11). Berlusconi, unlike Trump, created his own party, at a time when the party system in Italy was imploding (Bartolini et al. 2004) under the weight of tangentopoli. Despite being dogged by the judiciary for most of his mandates, he dominated politics in Italy for more than a decade.
Another Italian politician, Beppe Grillo, the leader of the Movimento 5 Stelle (5 Star Movement – M5S) is also a clear example of a mediatized personality, in this case using the internet to gain visibility. His party has been described as belonging to a personal party model (Diamanti 2014). He illustrates the importance that new
media may have in the process of the personalization of politics which has been recurrent in Italy. Founded in 2009, M5S won 25 per cent of the vote in the 2013 legislative elections and 109 seats in the Italian parliament, becoming the second largest party in Italy. The election of Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa as president of Portugal
can also be counted as one of the more recent cases of the extreme mediatization of politics. Despite not being the head of government, the president of Portugal holds important prerogatives both in terms of veto power and in relation to the dissolution of the Assembly, which can be crucial when governments are weak (Amorim Neto and
Lobo 2009). Although Rebelo de Sousa has been a centre-right party member for most of his active life, and was even leader of the Partido Social Democrata (PSD) between 1996 and 1999, Marcelo – as he is known to the Portuguese – became a household name from 2000 because of his weekly political commentary shown on open access television networks. Marcelo is, to a large extent, a product of the media, where he carefully crafted an image of a likable politician over the course of 15 years. In 2015 he decided to run for the presidency against the wishes of the PSD leader, Pedro Passos Coelho, who saw him as an outsider. He persevered nonetheless, running a campaign with little funding and winning the presidential election on the first round in January 2016 with 52 per cent of the vote. HERE THE FULL ARTICLE (pdf)

Preferential Voting in Italy

article published on REPRESENTATION
Preferential Voting in Italy. General Lessons from a Crucial Case

unnamedThe Italian case can be considered one of the most seminal political systems that has adopted open-list proportional representation. We have tested the hypotheses related to the determinants of preference voting. In order to measure the consequences on the voting behaviour, different variables have been considered. Findings coherent with the literature on the topic have confirmed the effects of sociopolitical variables on electoral behaviour. A degree of counter-intuitive and innovative data is also presented, especially concerning the determinants of preference voting. Data vindicate some impressionistic interpretations of Italian political and electoral paths. Party size, social capital, and district magnitude among others predict a big share of variation in preference voting.

Here you can download the PDF

NEW Book Review: The Presidentialization of Political Parties

on Political Studies Review (by Maximilien Cogels, University of Louvaine)

leadershipWhile the study of presidentialisation is often combined with the concept of personalisation, Gianluca Passarelli decides to make a clear conceptual distinction between the two, focussing on the already highly debated study of the presidentialisation of politics. By starting with the premise that under certain circumstances presidentialisation is also possible in non-presidential systems (this is highly contested between scholars), this book takes a closer look at the presidentialisation of political parties in the world, advocating that the presidentialisation of politics stems from the behaviour of political parties. This collaborative book considers that political parties are the driving force behind the phenomenon. The authors study in this book the constitutional structures (opportunities and constraints) that affect presidentialisation while including party genetics (and their organisational changes over time) as an intervening factor. This is an original approach given the fact that these two dimensions are often studied separately. Indeed, the book is innovative in regard to two crucial points, the first being the study of these two dimensions together, and the second being its method of bringing together all types of democratic regimesContinua a leggere

Book Review: The Presidentialization of Political Parties

Book Review on Italian Political Science (by Luca Verzichelli, University of Siena)

leaders_inspire_1200x627This volume is an important contribution to the field of comparative political institutions because it focuses on the growing role of party leaders who assume a relevant institutional power in many advanced democracies.  The notion of “presidentialization” is at the core of the volume’s theoretical framework. However, in contrast to other pieces of empirical research emphasizing the impact of institutional changes on the development of party structures, the volume endeavors to explore the phenomenon of the increasing importance of party leadership independently from the evolution of the institutional setting. This is, as noted by the editor in the introduction, the “missing link” in the study of presidentialization. More precisely, Passarelli aims to explain the varying intensities of “party presidentialization” one can observe by comparing certain countries using a simplified framework built on two separate dimensions: institutional presidentialization and party genetic presidentialization.

Continua a leggere

Macron Président! ça change tout?

imagesLe elezioni presidenziali francesi del 2017 non si sono concluse il 7 maggio, con il ballottaggio tra Emmanuel Macron e Marine Le Pen. Il risultato politico completo si avrà dopo il secondo turno delle elezioni politiche. È un dato affrontato poco e soprattutto male, specialmente in Italia. Lo sguardo breve, i commenti spacciati per analisi spesso hanno tralasciato alcuni elementi sostanziali. Utilizzando alcuni dati base, sosterrò che la tornata elettorale del 2017 rappresenta un elemento di innovazione per alcuni aspetti, a fronte di continuità e di potenziale cambiamento misurabile solo dopo lo svolgimento delle elezioni politiche. L’enfasi sui quattro atti elettorali è cresciuta dal 2000 (riforma costituzionale che ha ridotto il mandato presidenziale da 7 a 5 anni e limite di due mandati consecutivi, rendendo politicamente “responsabile” il capo dello Stato), e dalla successiva inversione del calendrier électoral nel 2002 che fece tenere prima le presidenziali e poi le politiche. La vittoria di Macron rappresenta dunque, ad oggi, una innovazione solo nella misura in cui il partito presidenziale sarà in grado di vincere la maggioranza dei seggi all’Assemblée nationale (il Senato non conferisce la fiducia, sebbene non sia un’Aula silente). Per farlo Macron dovrà mettere in campo una straordinaria azione di rinnovamento degli schemi e della competizione partitica che abbiano conosciuto sino ad ora. La legge elettorale prevede collegi uninominali, con secondo turno eventuale. Se nessun candidato ottiene la maggioranza dei voti espressi, si tiene una seconda competizione cui accedono i candidati che abbiano ottenuto almeno il 12,5% degli aventi diritto (in passato era del 5%, poi del 10%), il che significa che la soglia implicita al netto dell’astensione media, è pari al 20% circa (altro che diritto di tribuna!), ossia un limite assai elevato per l’accesso alla rappresentanza, a meno che non si tratti di partiti nazionali e forti, ovvero di forze con una solida base elettorale concentrata geograficamente. Inoltre, il doppio turno di collegio innesca, o meglio accompagna, una dinamica bipolare e, stante talune condizioni, bipartitica. La competizione bipartitica è sostenuta dal traino presidenziale, almeno fino al 2012. Senza la sfida per l’Eliseo il potere negoziale a livello di collegio aumenterebbe la forza di coalizione anche di formazioni relativamente piccole, almeno per le prime tornate in cui elettori e partiti acquisissero informazioni e sviluppassero strategie. Voto sincero, o meglio espressivo (della identità politica dell’elettore), al primo turno, e voto utile, o meglio strategico (l’elettore sostiene il candidato meno inviso), al secondo. Il “rischio” paventato per il neo presidente francese è la cohabitation. Al netto della discutibilità, da fondare empiricamente, sulle difficoltà scaturenti da un’eventuale presenza di maggioranze politiche avverse tra Matignon e Eliseo (posto che il sistema semi-presidenziale è flessibile e consente in tal caso il governo delPrimo ministro), la conquista di una maggioranza parlamentare coerente rappresenta la sfida presidenziale. Macron dispone però di alcuni strumenti non trascurabili. Al di là delle doti di intuito politico-elettorale di cui ha dato ampia dimostrazione negli ultimi tre anni almeno, il neo presidente francese può fare affidamento su alcuni elementi di contesto, da non sottovalutare. Il primo è l’honeymoon effect. Gli studi politologici comparati indicano un periodo di grazia elettorale per il capo di governo neo-eletto che beneficia di una cospicua dose di benevolenza da parte dei propri concittadini, inclini a conferirgli maggiore fiducia nelle prime settimane post elezioni.  Molti elettori potrebbero saltare sul carro del vincitore (band wagon), completando la scelta effettuata il 7 maggio. Del resto i precedenti elettorali successivi al 2002 indicano chiaramente che una quota rilevante di elettori tende a premiare il Presidente della Repubblica (PdR), ritenuto vero responsabile dell’azione di governo. Fino al 2000-2002 il PdR era percepito prevalentemente come “padre della patria”, arbitro abbastanza neutrale e imparziale, che utilizzava il Primo ministro come fusible, da sostituire all’uopo per rinvigorire l’azione della maggioranza, nel caso di maggioranze omogenee (Fabius al posto di Mauroy nel 1984, Cresson nel 1991 e Bérégovoy nel 1992, o ancora Juppé nel 1995, fino al turnover durante le presidenze di Hollande e Sarkozy), ovvero di provare a sconfiggerlo, invocando e convocando elezioni anticipate (1988 e 1997, per esempio). Altri dati, spesso spacciati per “rivoluzionari”, sono importanti ma non eclatanti. Rappresentano cioè un elemento di contesto che potrebbe mutare significativamente se cambiasse il quadro partitico. L’astensione è cresciuta di 5 punti percentuali rispetto al 2012, ma è diminuita di 3 punti percentuali se confrontata con il dato del 2002. A meno di contorsioni concettuali, bisogna considerare il livello della sfida, della contendibilità percepita e degli attori in campo. La partita del 2017 si è chiusa al primo turno, come nel 2002, ma è mancato l’apporto di tutto l’arco costituzionale, se consideriamo che Jean-Luc Mélenchon ha sostanzialmente fatto appello al non voto, mentre nel 2002 la mobilitazione contro Jean-Marie Le Pen fu omogenea. Ergo non agitarsi troppo, la partecipazione è stata del 75 %, che in termini comparati (operazione che non fa mai male) rappresentano un dato rilevante… CONTINUA QUI

Building Blocs. How Parties Organize Society

Does society and its cleavages influence Parties, or rather the other way around? The book I have reviewed deals with this crucial research question in Political Sociology.

Building Blocs. How Parties Organize Society. Edited by Cedric de Leon, Manali Desai, and Cihan Tuǧal, Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2015. 242p. $24.95 cloth.

pid_24999The literature on political parties’ genesis and organization is well consolidated. Do exist brilliant books on comparative politics and in political sociology alike. On one side, the contributions of Max Weber, Stein Rokkan, Seymour Lipset and Hans Daalder have settled a clear perspective on the relevance of social cleavages and structures in shaping the born and the development of political parties, especially in western countries, and in Europe in particular. On the other side, the organizational perspective to analyze political parties is well robust alike. Since the seminal works of Moisey Ostrogorsky, Robert Michels, and then Maurice Duverger, David Epstein, Valdimer O. Key, Sigmund, Angelo Panebianco, Giovanni Sartori, Peter Mair, etc., the structure of political parties has been well analyzed. Do exist comparative researches that shed light on differences and similarities of different aspects of the political organizations, such as the leadership, the role of members and activists, and the funding.  Continua a leggere

The Italian Constitutional Referendum

The Italian Constitutional Referendum: Political and Institutional Consequences of a Striking “NO”

my article on Fruits&Votes blog
The electoral results of the constitutional referendum have led to the Prime Minister’s resignation. But let us consider what happened before.

48_referendumOn December 4th 2016, Italian voters expressed their vote on a referendum about constitutional reforms. This was the third referendum of its kind in Italy, with the other two held in 2001 and 2006. The two options presented to voters this time were related to the approval or rejection of the reform promoted by Matteo Renzi’s government and his centre-left parliamentary majority. However, several Democratic Party’s MPs decided not to support Renzi’s position, and used the ballot as a tool to oppose their leader due to different visions of the party, the government, policies, and the reform itself. The reform was approved earlier by an absolute majority in both houses of parliament, but the proposed changes required a two-thirds majority in parliament in order to be implemented without a referendum according to the Italian Constitution (art. 138.3). Since this threshold was not met in parliament, the referendum was called (by the Government) by collecting the required number of voter signatures, as stated by the art. 138.2, while the opponents to the reform were not able in getting the minimum number of required signatures (500.000).

The result of the referendum was both clear and decisive. Approximately 60% of voters cast a “NO” vote in opposition to the proposed reforms and only 40% voted in favor. Perhaps the most striking result was voter turnout. Nearly 70% of eligible voters cast a vote, a percentage that is similar to that reached in general elections in Italy (e.g., 75% in 2013). This figure also confirms that Italy remains a democracy with one of the highest electoral participation rates in the world. Despite this high turnout figure, one of the most notable features of the referendum is the persistent North-South divide in terms of turnout and the level of rejection of the reform. Rejection of the referendum was particularly high in southern regions, with peaks in Sicily, Sardinia, and Campania. Support for the referendum was limited and prevailed in only two regions (i.e., Tuscany and Emilia-Romagna), as well as in the province of Bolzano. Continua a leggere

The Five Star Movement: purely a matter of protest?

article on PARTY POLITICS (with D. Tuorto)

The success of the Italian party Five Star Movement (M5S) has been broadly attributed to its ability to occupy the space of radical protest against ‘‘old politics’’. Due to the party’s criticism, its charismatic leadership, and its aggressive electoral campaigns, the M5S has been labeled as a populist. The unexpected result of 2013 election raises crucial theoretical questions: To what extent does the M5S electorate reflect the characteristics of a protest vote? To what extent was it also a vote driven by values, by individual evaluations on a specific political issue?


The first part of the article aims to investigate the extent of negative political feelings among M5S’ voters. To disentangle the meaning and impact of protest, we distinguish two dimensions: the ‘‘system discontent’’ and the ‘‘e´lite discontent,’’ referring to both general and focalized images, sentiments toward and the representation of political institutions, voter power, and government performances. In the second part, we bring to the analysis a further explanation based on the theory of issue voting. The goal is to measure whether voters have chosen M5S purely because of their political resentment or also given that they shared a similar position on a number of crucial policies emphasized in the electoral campaign (view the full paper).

The Presidentialization of Political Parties on LSE blog

Edited by Gianluca Passarelli, new collection The Presidentialization of Political Parties: Organizations, Institutions and Leaders, explores why the level of party presidentialisation varies between countries, arguing that this is linked to both constitutional design and the genetic features of political parties. Although he finds that some of the country case studies provide stronger evidence for the book’s central argument than others, Raul Aldaz appraises this book as a valuable contribution to the field that will be of particular use to scholars of comparative politics.

The headlines on US politics, currently covering caucus elections, are filled with names – Clinton, Cruz, Rubio, Sanders, Trump – and their personal positions on a handful of policy issues, but they direct less attention to their parties or the ideological standpoints that Democrats and Republicans (should?) convey. Is modern politics therefore becoming a more person-centred phenomenon rather than party- or ideology-focused? And if so, why?

Presidential Podium

The increasing importance given to specific politicians and/or presidential candidates is part of a broader trend that goes well beyond the US: what we might term ‘the presidentialization of politics’. Part of this phenomenon is ‘the presidentialization of political parties’, which refers to the increasing influence that presidents have on the behaviour and organisation of their parties. This new book, edited by Gianluca Passarelli, consists of a collection of country cases that provide an in-depth analysis of the extent of this presidentialisation of political parties and two possible explanations for its occurrence. Continua a leggere