Democracy in Europe: a history by Thomas Erskine May

By Thomas Erskine May

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One such example is the Democratic Party of Japan, which comprises previously fragmentary socialist and other elements, and which was victorious in the 2009 parliamentary elections in defeating the long-dominant Liberal Democratic Party. Another instance was the formation of the Conservative Party of Canada by the merger of two minor parties in 2003. It may be that such instances are becoming more common. THE PART Y BASE In comparison, a major party is defined here as one that has a competitive chance to become the governing party (or to lead a governing coalition) because it has both a substantial and durable base and the ability to persuade Parties and Party Systems 15 a large share of independent voters to support it in any given election.

17 In the major states of West Europe, catch-all parties of the left have been losing elections to political families of the center-right, a trend that shows signs of continuing for some time. Voters everywhere vote persistently in their own self-interests as they perceive them. One source of influence, especially in Italy and Latin America, is clientelism, which induces voters to make ballot choices on the basis of personal material benefits offered by a patron, rather than issues or ideology. Another is personalistic preference for a widely admired personality Parties and Party Systems 25 or that political figure’s party; the lingering admiration among certain American voters for Franklin Roosevelt’s party 65 years after his death, the enduring fondness of Argentines for the memory (and party) of Juan Perón, and of the French for that of Charles de Gaulle, are all examples.

Cuba and Venezuela), is centered on a single political leader. Mass parties developed as parties became nationalized and, in European countries, to fight for expanded suffrage for the working class. Often highly ideological, these parties viewed their purpose as the pursuit of Parties and Party Systems 35 electoral victory in order to alter public policy. Political organization thus preceded (and was the means to) the acquisition of power and changes in public policy. In this regard, they are the opposite of the elite model.

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