The Presidentialisation in the Western Balkans

My latest book has just been published (Palgrave)

This book examines the process of presidentialisation of political parties in the Western Balkans. The Western Balkan countries deserve to be analysed in a comparative perspective due to their distinctive features in terms of processes of democratization, forms of government and institutional assets, the presence of social cleavages (religious, linguistic, ethnic), and, of course, the nature of political parties which differs from other European cases, especially in terms of origins, organization and structure. However, Western Balkan political parties do show certain similarities with other West European cases where power is centralised and held by the parties’ leadership. The book ultimately attempts to test whether and to what extent the influence of institutional variables affects the level of presidentialisation of political parties, also considering the parties’ organization features.

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The meanings of party membership

published in Contemporary Italian Politics

crowdFor many years after World War Two, the mass party model dominated Italian politics. High rates of membership and activism were considered to be essential for optimising electoral performance, for optimising organisational resources, and for the legitimacy of the party itself.

However, since the 1970s, and in particular since 1989, party-membership linkages have begun to weaken. Taking its point of departure from the recent literature, this article offers a theoretical framework for the examination of three different meanings of membership, associated with changing models of party organisation. Data from national election surveys, and from qualitative research on party activists, support the proposed theoretical framework. The article focuses on three Italian parties – the Democratic Party, the Northern League and the Five-star Movement – discussing the similarities and differences, with implications for cross-national comparative studies.

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Presidentialisation: One term, Two Uses

my latest article, with R. Elgie on Political Studies Review  

Presidentialisation: One term, Two Uses – Between Deductive Exercise and Grand Historical Narrative. 

trainThis article examines the term ‘presidentialisation’. There is now a large body of work on this topic (Dowding, 2013a, 2013b, 2013c; Foley, 2000, 2004, 2013; Kefford, 2013a, 2013b; Mughan, 2000; Passarelli, 2015b; Poguntke and Webb, 2005b; Samuels and Shugart, 2010; Webb and Poguntke, 2013). Some of this work questions the very usefulness of the term. For example, Dowding argues that the term ‘prime ministerialisation’ should be preferred at least in empirical studies that deal with processes of change in parliamentary systems such as Australia and Britain. By contrast, Karvonen (2010) and Garzia (2014) argue that contemporary processes of change can better be captured by the idea of ‘personalisation’.
These critiques are well known, and we do not wish to rehearse them here. Instead, we focus on the book by Samuels and Shugart (2010) and the edited volume volume by Poguntke and Webb (2005b). We do so partly because both are very prominent contributions; the former having received nearly 400 Google Scholar citations and the latter nearly 1000. Primarily, though, we choose them because both are centrally concerned with the idea of ‘presidentialisation’. In that sense, they seem to be focusing on the same topic. However, we argue that each work employs the term in a very different way. Samuels and Shugart have a narrow focus on constitutional presidentialisation and party presidentialisation. They are engaged in an exercise in deductive political explanation that focuses on the effect of constitutional presidentialisation on party presidentialisation. By contrast, Poguntke and Webb refer to a more general idea of presidentialisation that results from a much broader process of social and political change. In effect, they are offering what amounts to a grand historical narrative. Thus, while both sets of authors are using the same term, they are referring to different meanings, outcomes and processes.

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Electoral Systems in Context: Italy

My chapter in The Oxford Handbook of Electoral Systems
Edited by Erik S. Herron, Robert J. Pekkanen, and Matthew S. Shugart

9780190258658Italy stands out among advanced industrialized democracies because of its frequency of major electoral reforms. In the postwar period, Italy has experienced four major electoral systems: the proportional representation (PR) system of the First Republic (1948–1992), mixed-member majoritarian (MMM, 1993–2005), and two varieties of PR with majority bonus (2005–2015, 2015–2017), plus a MMM in 2017. In addition, there have been many failed attempts at electoral reform through legislation or referendum. The frequency of electoral reform makes Italy an important case for investigating the causes and effects of electoral system change. However, the path to each change has been somewhat idiosyncratic: the major reform of 1993 came against the backdrop of revelations of massive corruption, while the 2005 reform can be understood as an attempt to engineer divided government by an incumbent coalition expecting losses in the next election. The effects of the electoral reforms have also not always been as expected.

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