European political parties

Changing forms, increased vulnerability

Authored by: Steven B. Wolinetz

Routledge Handbook of European Politics

Print publication date:  January  2015
Online publication date:  December  2014

Print ISBN: 9780415626750
eBook ISBN: 9781315755830
Adobe ISBN: 9781317628361


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Political parties are central to European politics: by organizing parliaments they provide the building blocks on which cabinets rest, and by contesting elections they provide voters with choices of who will govern and what policies they will pursue. There is little doubt regarding the ability of parties to perform their governmental functions. Most parties in public office are sufficiently disciplined to sustain cabinets and provide them with the support that they need to govern. Parties’ links to society are another matter: rates of party membership are declining (van Biezen et al. 2012), and the proportion of the electorate identifying with parties has also declined (Dalton 2000: 25–9; Rohrschneider and Whitefield 2012: 25–7). Eurobarometer data show that Europeans – like their counterparts elsewhere – expressed lower confidence in parties and politicians than other actors or institutions (Dalton and Wattenberg 2000: 265).

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