Comparative Party System Analysis in Central and Eastern Europe: the Case of the Baltic States

Tõnis Saarts


The nature of the party systems in Central and Eastern Europe (CEE) has puzzled many scholars. High instability of the party systems and their specifi c evolution makes the application of theoretical models designed predominately for Western European party politics problematic. The paper puts forward the argument that we should further elaborate and specify the models for a small N comparative party system analysis in CEE countries and to incorporate some region specifi c components into the framework. The essential dimensions included into proposed comparative framework are as follows: (1) the stability of the party system, (2) party system fragmentation, (3) parties’ penetration into society, (4) the ideology and origins of the major parties, (5) the dominant cleavage constellations framing the party competition (6) the strength of the party organizations. The above-mentioned dimensions are expected to capture the most important aspects that make the diff erence between the party systems in general, and each dimension is complemented with the specifi c additional variables suitable for party system analysis in CEE in particular. The framework will be tested on the Baltic States, which party systems are often regarded to be very similar to each other. However, the analysis will demonstrate that based on the above-mentioned framework, very signifi cant and noteworthy diff erences will be revealed.


political parties; party systems; Baltic States; Central and Eastern Europe; comparative analysis

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