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Giuseppe Ieraci Dip. di Scienze Pol. e Soc. (DiSpeS) Universit di Trieste Piazzale Europa 1 34127 Trieste tel.

: ++390405583516 e-mail:

Alternation in Power and Party Politics in Europe from Myth to Reality. Comparative data in search of some explanations

Sintesi Partendo dalla definizione di democrazia come regime basato sulla competizione politica, secondo una tradizione che va da Schumpeter a Sartori, attraverso il contributo di Downs, si argomenta che la democrazia pu essere vista come un regime che istituzionalizza la responsabilit politica (political accountability). Questa ultima dipende anche dal ricambio della classe politica al potere, ovverosia dallalternanza, che pu essere vista tanto come una componente descrittiva della democrazia (in democrazia c' alternanza al potere) che prescrittiva (in democrazia dovrebbe esserci alternanza al potere). Ma in che misura le democrazie contemporanee funzionano in base all'alternanza e ottemperano a questo precetto? Per rispondere a questo quesito, si suggerisce una possibile misurazione mediante l'elaborazione di un indice di alternanza al governo, come ratio dato ciascun caso - tra il numero e lestensione dei ricambi nella composizione dei governi e il numero dei governi. L'indice di alternanza al governo calcolato sulle serie storiche delle democrazie europee contemporanee nel secondo dopoguerra. I dati a disposizione e i risultati forniti dall'indice evidenziano un legame non necessario tra competizione democratica e alternanza. Inoltre emerge una diversa disposizione dei casi (democrazie basate sull'alternanza contro democrazie basate su ricambi limitati della classe politica), che suggerisce di approfondire lanalisi di alcune propriet sistemiche della competizione democratica, quali la morfologia del sistemapartitico e la presenza di vincoli\opportunit istituzionali nel favorire o limitare l'alternanza al governo. Abstract According to an interpretation which based on the seminal works of Schumpeter, Downs and Sartori, a democracy can be defined as a regime which institutionalizes political accountability. Alternation in power is hence a fundamental compound of any democracy and it could be seen both as an empirical evidence (in democracy there is alternation in power) or as an ideal state of affairs (in democracy there should be alternation in power). However, to which extent do democracies work according to the principle of alternation in power? A Government Turnover Index (GTI) is provided to answer this question with respect to the European governments since World War II. As suggested by the data and by the GTI, there is no necessary link between democratic competition and alternation in power, although some democracies are more likely to work according to the principle of alternation than others. It is therefore necessary to direct the analysis towards some of the systemic factors (such as the party system structure and the institutional incentives) which may favour or hinder the alternation in power.

1. Introduction The idea that alternation in power is (and should be) the natural outcome of democratic competition is implicit in any definition of democracy, although it is questionable whether it should be considered at the same time the necessary and sufficient condition of the democratic process. As is generally agreed, the democratic process based on political competition may be eventually conducive to an alternation in power, but the lack of alternation does not necessary imply absence of democracy. Current democratic theory is more concerned with the conditions which favour the emergence of effective competition among fractions and parties, and in this perspective alternation in power may be regarded as a mere by-product of the political competition. Once free access to the electoral market and eligibility for the public offices are guaranteed as sufficient and necessary conditions of democracy, alternation in power may occasionally occur as a natural outcome. We owe to Joseph A. Schumpeter the foundation of a theory of democracy based on the recognition of the centrality of competition among political elites.1 Criticizing the classical doctrine of democracy, Schumpeter states that in democracy the link between the peoples will and the political decisions is provided by political institutions which confer the power to decide only to some. The democratic method, Schumpeter wrote in his famous definition, is the institutional arrangement for arriving at political decisions in which individuals acquire the power to decide by means of a competitive struggle for the people's vote [Schumpeter 1954]. In this definition, the mobilization of the electoral participation is a way of determining who will make public decisions and consequently in democracy any political election is a simple institutional arrangement for decision-making. In other words, electoral participation helps the selection of the power incumbents but it certainly does not bind them a priori to make certain decisions. Hence contrary to the classical doctrine, for Schumpeter democracy has relatively little to do with the expression of any general will or people's will but rather with the selection of the rulers. Moreover, Schumpeters definition establishes some new conceptual ties between the accountability of who governs and his/her responsiveness (what is decided). Allocating to someone the power to decide through the attribution of a public office, the office incumbent is made accountable for the exercise of power and the democratic method forces him/her to at least a minimum degree of response to the people. The level of response required may be limited to the mere satisfaction of some of social demands to generate the necessary amount of popular support (vote) to be re-elected for the next term. The responsiveness of a democratic regime is implied by the accountability of its political elites.

Sartori [1957] substantially adheres to Schumpeters perspective.

The general perception of the role of the alternation in power in the democratic process and of its effectiveness appears to be strongly conditioned by what I would not hesitate to call the founding myth of the modern conception of democracy. Such a myth provides us with an ideal description of the pattern according to which the relationship government-opposition should be shaped, and it is offered by the British case. There strong governments face strong oppositions and both are capable of acting with a high degree of cohesion and co-ordination, as we notice when we observe the current working of Westminster.2 In the contemporary British parliament the governmental action is not any more effectively limited by individual MPs (as in the representative assembly of the XIX Century), but rather by a cohesive opposition which is constantly challenging the government in the view of public opinion. In Britain, and any country where such an ideal pattern of democracy exists or is approximated, government and opposition are in fact involved in a permanent electoral struggle [Johnson 1975] and there is a general expectation that sooner or later they will be exchanging their relative positions: the government incumbents will be confined to the opposition, and the opposition members will take their places in office.3 If the myth of the permanent electoral struggle with its corollary of the necessary alternation in power between government and opposition is assumed, one would expect to detect a relatively high degree of rotation in power of the political parties among the more deeply consolidated democracies. At one extreme of a hypothetical continuum there would be found those democracies, i.e. Westminster models, based on an adversarial confrontation between two or relatively few parties or coalitions of parties, where the turnover in the government is continuous and favoured by the concentration of power in the executive. On the other end of the continuum would be the residual cases of democracies, i.e. Consensual models, working mainly on the principle of power sharing where parties and political fractions do not oppose each other sharply but instead have an accommodation for their conflict based on the mutual recognition of their interest and on the diffusion, rather the concentration, of power [Lijphart 1999]. But reality is somehow more complex. If one defines perfect alternation in power as an unbroken series of complete change (= 100%) of the power incumbents government by government (i.e., one party or coalition of parties substituting one another after a crisis or an election), this would result a rare event among contemporary

For a description of this ideal-type, cfr. Lijphart [1999]. See also Ieraci [2000] for an account of the evolution of this model from the XIX Century to the present time and of the relative transformation of the British parliamentary arena. 3 Some seminal works on the relation between government and parliament, such as Polsby [1975] or more recently Mller [2000], were affected by this founding myth. Polsbys dichotomy between transformative legislature and arena legislature distinguishes the legislatures where the cleavage government-opposition in blurred, and the legislative process is mainly transformative, from those legislatures where that cleavage is instead clearly established, and the legislature itself resembles an arena of sharp confrontation between government and opposition. The chain of delegation implies an indisputable identification of the two roles of government and opposition (parliament) and of their effectiveness in the decision-making process.

democracies. More often there can be seen a limited turnover in power defined as limited change (< 100%) of the power incumbents, government by government, in relatively stable structures of the party competition. If one is looking at the effective alternation in power among parties as a criteria of identification, the dichotomy between Westminster and Consensual democracies blurs. In this paper some evidence of this apparent paradox is drawn from a data set based on 524 governments in 22 European contemporary democracies from the end of World War II to the present time,4 and the presentation and discussion of this data collection is the main purpose. In section 2 some general remarks are introduced about the meaning of competition in democracy to underline the centrality of this concept in theory and in its prescriptive character. In section 3 the methodology employed to collect the data is illustrated, and a Government Turnover Index (GTI) is introduced to measure the effective degree of alternation in power among parties in the European contemporary democracies. In section 4 the data are presented in comparative perspective. Notwithstanding the difficulties in identifying a sharp contrast between democracies based on alternation and not, the data do reveal cases where competition approximates perfect alternation as opposed to cases where only limited turnover is to be found (see the above definitions). Having assumed alternation in power and its relative measures (GTI) as dependent variables, in sections 5 and 6 some causal links are sought for these differences. To summarize the findings, GTI results relatively high among the newly established democracies (i.e, the Eastern European countries) or where the post World War II party systems have gone through a radical process of realignment (i.e., Italy after 1994). Among the old European democracies GTI trends are less clear. In these democracies party systems and competition have stabilized through the decades. Nonetheless it is still possible to identify cases where government turnover is a relatively rare event, and perfect alternation proves more of a myth than a reality (i.e., Great Britain, Norway, Sweden, Spain, Greece), but it is perfect or complete when it happens (100% change of the power incumbents) as opposed to cases based on limited turnover. These two subsets of cases among the old democracies (cases of rare but complete change of the power incumbents versus cases of limited change) differ if the position of the government in the institutional framework is taken into account. Where turnover tends (occasionally) to be complete or perfect the government is the stronghold of the institutional framework (a strong Prime minister faces a weak Head of State) and it is highly integrated in the parliamentary arena: a vote of no

The data collection was started in the late 80s and it was employed by Ieraci [1996a, 1996b]. Subsequent updating has been part of various research projects fulfilled through the years at the Dipartimento di Science Politiche e Sociali (formerly Dipartimento di Scienze Politiche) in connection with CASIP (Centro Interdipartimentale di Analisi dei Simboli e delle Istituzioni Politiche), University of Trieste. The data are based on a variety of cross-checked sources ranging from Keesings Contemporary Archives Record of World events to the websites of central governments and parliaments, available through Inter-parliamentary Union (www.ipu/org) and Worldwide Government on the WWW (, and other secondary sources. The characteristics of the data set are illustrated in section 3.

confidence to the government is normally conducive to parliament dissolution, and the cabinet is the executive committee of the legislatures (Bagehot 1867). On these bases it is possible to formulate two hypotheses:

Hypothesis 1: in the aftermath of the fundamental democratization or of a drastic realignment of the party system, decidability of the electoral competition and vulnerability of the power incumbents5 are increased by the process of realignment of the party systems and by the weakness of the party identifications which are subsequent to the establishment of a new structure of cleavages or to its transformation. As a consequence the turnover of the power incumbents may prove high.

Hypothesis 2: when democracy is consolidated, decidability of the electoral competition and vulnerability of the power incumbents are hindered by the stabilization of the party systems and of the party identifications among the voters. As a consequence the turnover of the power incumbents may prove low, particularly where the institutional framework strengthens the position of the Prime minister with respect to the Head of State or any other apical institutional actors, and/or the government survival is firmly linked to the legislature survival.

In sections 5 and 6 data and cases will be displayed in a comparative manner to advance some preliminary evidence of the validity of these two hypotheses.

2. The Place of Competition for Power in the Democratic Theory. Some General Remarks

The positive democratic theory, which stems from the perspective of Schumpeter, has directed its attention to the study of the electoral market and of the competition for the people's vote. Even those authors who attributed a crucial importance to the way the socio-economic resources are distributed in different contexts to foster or impede democracy, for example Dahl [1956, 1971], still elect the competitiveness of a political regime as a key factor of true democratization. This line of research has led to the analysis of the general conditions of political competition, and particularly of party competition [Downs 1957; Sartori 1976] and of the electoral market [DAlimonte 1989; Bartolini 1999, 2000, 2002]. The competition among parties or fractions of political elites is the clear institutional arrangement - in Schumpeter's words - thanks to which it is possible to contest the power incumbents and eventually dismiss them. The expected working of a democracy is

Decidability and vulnerability, together with contestability and availability, are key dimensions of competition according to Bartolini [1999, 2000, 2002].

therefore associated with the alternation in power among parties or fractions of the political elites. Nonetheless democracy would work sometimes in conditions of imperfect competition, where the presence of a monopoly or of a quasi-monopoly by aparty or coalition of parties prevents or reduces the likelihood of alternation in power. We must, therefore, discuss this perspective, which distinguishes competitive democracies from non-competitive democracies [Lijphart 1999; Fabbrini 1998]. That a democracy may be subjected to risks of ineffectiveness, even though there seem to exist the optimal conditions for competition, had already been observed by Tocqueville when he pointed out that a democracy may sometimes convert into a tyranny of the majority [Tocqueville 1951]. Tocqueville, nevertheless, did not draw the conclusion that because of the risk of the tyranny of the majority the democratic method is fallacious. The fact that political elections always determine an identical winner does not reduce the competitive character of the democracy, as long as the access to the political market is open and a confrontation is possible. As long as it is possible to contest openly the power incumbents, democracy is at work even if it does not generate a dynamic of alternation in power. To settle this aspect it can be useful to recall Sartori's opinion: Alternation refers to an expectation []. Alternation is only about to say, then, that the gap between the two biggest parties is close enough, and that the likelihood that the opposition party substitutes the government party is believable [Sartori 1982, 75]. What makes a political regime a democracy is not the continuous alternation in power of the political elites, but it is rather the open opportunity of entering the political competition for the peoples vote which constitutes the substance of democracy. The main function of the electoral process in democracy is to create a government, but not necessarily a new one. Schumpeter was clearly aware of this implication, and he underlined that raising the production of a government as a function of the electoral body [] I intended to include [] also the function of evicting it [Schumpeter 1954]. The former function means only the acceptance of a leadership whilst the latter implies the withdrawal of this acceptance. As a consequence of this two-fold function of the electoral body (to produce and to evict a government), the influence of the electorate on the political elites is limited to accepting or refusing to elect some of them or to elect the parliamentary majorities supporting some of them. The question is then, why should the electorate evict a government and refuse to re-elect it? Apart from some random events, such as personal appeal of the leaders or the impact of certain events on the peoples feelings, or the effects of ideologies and of political identification, it could be assumed that the disposal of or the refusal to elect a leader and his/her supporters in parliament may be a consequence of an evaluation of their responsiveness. This is bound to be an ex post evaluation 6

of the decisions of the power incumbents, and an ex ante evaluation which is an expectation of the would be-decisions of their challengers. The logical structure of the voting act, according to Downs, rests on a comparison of one actual present utility income and one hypothetical present one [] i.e., the difference between the utility income [the voter] actually received in period t and the one he would have received if the opposition had been in power [Downs 1957, 40]. In democracy therefore the periodical elections offer an opportunity to some political challengers to make the actual power incumbents accountable for their past decisions. They do so by pressurising on the electoral body and by trying to move them to withdraw their support for the power incumbents. This inducement is not merely rhetoric but rather accompanied by the promise to offer in future new and more advantageous decisions, that is by the promise of a different quality of responsiveness. On these bases and after a careful consideration of the democratic method, we ought to conclude that it is because the political elites are eventually accountable for what they have done or promised to do that they are forced to be continually responsive to the demands of the citizens. In democracy the responsiveness is implied by the accountability, and the latter is the necessary and sufficient condition of the responsiveness, hence a democracy may be defined as regime of institutionalisation of the political accountability.6 Democracy as a regime which institutionalizes the political accountability of the elites implies a clear but potentially reversible distinction of roles between some winners who will be entitled to governmental power and some losers who will be confined in the opposition, and it implies two conditions. The first condition concerns the degree of actual political authority held by the winners. Some power effectiveness associated with the government has to be guaranteed, if the winners are to pursue their goals regardless of the opposition that they can arouse. If the winners can resort to a sufficient degree of political authority, they should be able to respond satisfactorily to the public at least enough to generate the political support they need to win again in future. The second condition of the institutionalisation of political accountability concerns the expectation and the future strategies of the losers and it is more directly related to our problem. If alternation in power is likely (or if its expectation is high), the intensity of the opposition of the losers may turn out moderate because the costs of their present exclusion from the exercise of power are balanced by their expected benefits (evicting the government incumbents and taking their place). This expectation may be reinforced by past experiences. The exclusion from the exercise of power

For the full extension of this argument, see Ieraci [2003]. According to Przeworski [1988; 1991, 12-14] democratization is the institutionalisation of uncertainty. Przeworski overemphasises the radical conflict between social and economic interests which characterises the establishment of a democracy, while the concept of institutionalisation of the accountability addresses the normal working of the democratic method.

may seem more acceptable if it is or is expected to be temporary. On the other hand, the expectation of an alternation in power moderates the action of the government incumbents forcing them to respond to as many social demands as possible, because of their fear of losing power by failing to do so. The government incumbents have to try to be as responsive as possible if they are aiming at being re-elected. If we accept this perspective and agree upon the relevance of the second condition of the institutionalization of the political accountability, the outcome of the party competition becomes a key dimension of analysis of the democratic process and of its consolidation. Alternation in power is obviously a sub-product of the competition for the power to make decisions among the various fractions of the political elites, according to Schumpeter [1954] as pointed out above. Indeed the classic theory of democracy, with its emphasis on participation and responsiveness, is completely dismissed by Schumpeter in favour of a theory of competitive leadership. Huntington [1991], who adheres to Schumpeters perspective on democracy, elects the test of the double turn-over as a criterion of democratic consolidation. The acceptance of the exclusion from the exercise of power and, as a reverse, the willingness to hand it over at the end of the forecast term is hence the challenging test for any newly established democracy. Competition in democracy simply means party competition and the main stream of positive democratic theory has addressed its attention to it. Although Downs did not explicitly tackle the problem of alternation in power, it is evident that the current party differential, derived by the voters before the election from a comparison between the utility generated by the government incumbents and what would be generated by their challengers [Downs 1957, 40], determines the voters choice and finally their swing from one party (or coalition of parties) to another. Sartori [1976, 1982] underlines some psychological aspects of the alternation in power, and he fruitfully links together the structure of the party systems and the pattern of party competition. Hence, twoparty systems and moderate pluralism are prone to generate alternation in power respectively between two parties and two coalitions of parties, whilst extreme or polarized party systems lack alternation and occasionally generate a dynamic of peripheral turn-over of some parties rotating around a dominant centre party pole [Sartori 1976]. More recently Bartolini [1999, 2000] has opposed collusion to competition as two different versions of the democratic process, a corrupted (collusion) and a virtuous version (competition). A competitive democracy in fact implies a relatively high degree of decidability between the offers in a free and open electoral market, and a relatively high degree of vulnerability of the government incumbents. Both these features of democratic competition suggest that an effective democracy would work according to the principle of alternation in power. It is evident that alternation in power can be seen at the same time as an 8

empirical property of democracy (in democracy there is alternation in power) or as an ideal state of affairs (in democracy there should be alternation in power). The former is the reality of democracy and it can be submitted to investigation, the latter is its mythical version which we can confidently abandon.

3. The Data Set. Methodology and Measures

Surprisingly enough there is not an abundance of empirical research making it possible to answer the following questions: Do contemporary democracies work according to the principle of alternation in power? To which extent do parties or coalitions of parties alternate in power in contemporary democracies? Finally, if they do so, what are the factors which help to account for the presence of alternation in power? In democracy alternation in power is very often taken for granted, because scholars tend to accept its myth rather than its reality. Researchers have mainly directed their attention towards the structure of party competition and the effects of the electoral system upon the former. Therefore, the lack of what has been above labelled perfect alternation in power in favour of some limited turnover (see section 1) has been mostly regarded as a pathology of the democratic process. Downs [1957, 117-122] assumed alternation as the normal outcome of party competition, unless the distribution of preferences among the voters proved radicalised and symmetrically polarized.7 Sartori [1976, 1982] admitted alternation as a potential event or as an expectation, and consequently distinguished between those party systems where alternation in power is a regular outcome of competition, or at least it is a realistic and believable expectation, and those party systems (polarized pluralism and atomized party systems) affected by some pathologies (high party system fractionalization, party competition dominated by centrifugal drives, ideological attitudes, presence of extreme or anti-system parties) where alternation is totally laching and only some limited turnover is experienced. The two-party dynamic described by Lijphart [1999] with regard to the Westminster model of democracy is clearly conducive to alternation in power while the Consensual democracy may not be. On these bases a general interpretation has become widespread according to which the absence, or a state of limited alternation in power constitute typical syndromes of badly working democracies or indicators of inefficient competition. The Italian case has been at the centre of researchers attention because of nearly fifty years of political stalemate (1946-1994) followed by a sudden switch to a

According to Downs [1957, 120], in a two-party system in which the two are at opposite extremes, the government policy will be highly unstable, and [] democracy is likely to produce chaos [] hence this situation may lead to revolution.

new pattern of adversarial politics (since 1994 elections to the present day).8 Fabbrini [1998] underlined the peculiarity of those democracies where alternation is at work, in comparison to the political stalemate of pre-1994 Italy. More recently Fabbrini and Vassallo [1999, 72-74], in some ways adopting Sartoris conceptualization, advanced one of the very few attempts to submit alternation in power to an empirical investigation and provided some data. Their distinction among alternation (100% change in party composition of the government or coalition government), peripheral turnover ( 50% change) and semi-turnover (< 50% change) is a useful tool and it will be here adopted. One limitation of Fabbrini and Vassallos classification could be that it does not make explicit the range of variation of the cases in each type. Moreover Fabbrini and Vassallo presented a list or an enumeration of the turnovers according to the various types and cases rather than measuring their ratio against the total number of governments in each given case. Finally, a comparative study of the alternation in power in Europe was provided by Mair [2006] but limited to the late 1990s. The Alternation in Government Index suggested by Mair [2006, 251] measures any change in the government composition with regard to the portfolio distribution. This solution overemphasises the changes in the government composition in those cases (e.g., Italy, Finland, Belgium) where there is a relatively high turnover of the portfolio distribution within a stable coalition structure. To avoid to these limitations, there can be here introduced a Governmental Turnover Index (GTI) which is employed in two suitable versions: GTI1, 2 = (p/P)/G-1
G=2 n

Given a temporal series of governments G1,..n, for each G in the series, p and P are respectively the number of new parties in government and the total number of parties in government (GTI1), while they are respectively the percentage of parliamentary seats controlled by the new parties in government and the total percentage of parliamentary seats controlled by the government (GTI2). Finally, G is the total number of government in each temporal series. Hence GTI1, 2 ranges from 0 (with regard to Gn-1, Gn exhibits no party changes at all, that is that neither perfect alternation in power nor limited turnover has occurred) to 1 (with regard to Gn-1, Gn is a totally renewed government, that is that perfect alternation in power has occurred), while for any of its

It is hardly possible to list all the recent publications on the post-1994 Italian party system without risking omissions. Therefore I could be excused if I only refer to Ieraci [2007, 2008]. Among the first to refer to the new pattern of alternation in power, see Pasquino [1995].


intermediate values GTI1, 2 signals limited turnovers in power. Starting from G2,9 GTI1, 2 can be disaggregated for each government in each given series, but there will be presented and discussed here only the aggregated average results. A third version of GTI (GTI3, see below Tab. 3 and Tab. 7) will be employed and discussed. For each country GTI3 is simply an average of GTI2 scores on all the recorded turnovers. Before introducing the results, the data set and the survey methodology will be presented.10 There is no sampling and GTI1, 2 is calculated on the universal set of 524 post-World War II governments in 22 European contemporary democracies.11 These have at least one institutional feature in common, which is that their governments need to receive a vote of confidence from the legislature, and a vote of no-confidence may imply although not necessarily their fall. Concerning the party composition of the governments and the relative party distribution of seats this study refers exclusively to the situation in the Lower Houses. 12 A new government is recorded when one of the following events occurs:13 1. Change of Prime Minister; 2. Formal resignation of the Government after the election and the appointment of a new Head of State, or after legislative elections and before the inauguration of a new legislature; 3. Changes in the party composition of the coalition government followed by formal resignation of the government. The events preceding a government fall or termination have been treated simply as conflict versus non-conflict, although the data set records the actual causes for termination.14 Finally, as anticipated above, changes in the government composition are classified as: a) complete turnovers if there is a 100% change of the government party composition; b) semi-turnovers if the change in the government party composition is 50%; c) partial-turnovers if the change in the government party composition is < 50%.

Obviously the first government assumed in the series (G 1) has no term of comparison. This is why in the formula the summary is calculated starting from G=2, and why GTI is a ratio of the party change over the total number of governments in the series with the exclusion of the very first (G-1). 10 The criteria of identification of each record (government composition, supporting majority, termination of the government and similar) have been for years objects of dispute. A critical review of the various solutions is provided by Lijphart [1984]. 11 The total number of governments in this data set amounts to 536, but the calculation of GTI could not be applied to 12 caretaker governments with no clear majority support in parliament. 12 In some cases, notably Italy, the investiture vote of confidence must be delivered by both the Parliamentary Houses, Camera dei Deputati and Senato. 13 The survey criteria adopted here are similar to those employed by the authors of Political Data 1945-1990 [EJPR 1993, 5] and by Mller-Rommel, Fettelschoss and Harfst [2004]. 14 The following have been considered conflict causes for termination: withdrawal of support from one or more parties in coalition; disagreement over policies conducive to the resignation of ministers; no confidence vote by parliament and/or defeat in parliament; dismissal by the Head of State or resignation because of disagreement with the Head of State. The following have been considered non-conflict causes for termination: formal resignation after new political election or after the election of the Head of State; voluntary resignation of the Prime Minister, change of the Prime minister because of health reasons, death or appointment to a different office. Cfr. Ieraci [1996b, 52-53].


4. A Comparative Sketch of Political Alternation in the European Democracies

This sample includes 22 European contemporary democracies where, regardless of other institutional features, the government takes in office after an investiture vote of confidence and\or after a vote of confidence to the leader (i.e., Prime Minister, Bundeskanzler, Presidente del Consiglio, Taoiseach, etc.) by the parliament. The data referring to France have been separated according to the well established distinction between IV Republic (1947-1958) and V Republic (1959-2010). The historical series of governments refer to the period 1945-2010, but obviously in some cases the data collection starts more recently and according to the country last democratization.15

[Tab. 1 about here]

In Tab.1 the cases and their relative data are ranked according to the number of governments in each set. The initial hypothesis that in democracy alternation in power is not the necessary outcome of competition is partially confirmed. Given 524 governments with clear parliamentary majorities formed in Europe during 1945-2010, 233 turnovers were recorded (44%). This is to say that in roughly every other government which took office some turnover happened and conversely 56% of the European governments did not undergo any change in party composition if compared with their predecessors. If the turnover percentages with respect to each country are considered, it is easy to verify how the distribution of the cases varies. Austria, Great Britain, Sweden, Spain, Italy, Denmark, Germany, Greece and Czech Republic rank equal or below the 40% of the turnover threshold, while Finland, Norway, Netherlands, Ireland, France IV Republic, Romania, Portugal, Slovakia, Bulgaria and Slovenia rank equal or above the 50% threshold. A second general remark concerns the overall distribution of the 233 recorded turnovers. In 100 cases (43%) complete turnovers occurred, but this percentage decreases to 19.1 as a ratio of the total number of governments. Complete turnover of the power incumbents, as in the mythical version of the democratic competition, is indeed a rare event. Semi- and partial turnovers occur respectively 83 times (36%, 15.9% against the universal set of governments) and 50 times (21%, 9.5% against the universal set of governments). However in some cases the quality of the turnover differs. In the cases of the old democracies of the Netherlands, Finland, Germany, Belgium, France IV Republic and Austria, the number of

Spain from 1977; Portugal from 1976; Greece from 1974; Slovakia, Czech Republic, and Slovenia from 1993; Bulgaria and Poland from 1991; Romania from 1992; Hungary from 1990.


complete turnovers as ratio of the total number of governments is negligible. On the other hand, there is a group of countries which experience almost exclusively complete turnovers, although they may be rare: Norway, Denmark, Great Britain, Spain, Greece and significantly all the post-1989 new democracies of Central and Eastern Europe. Finally, in other cases the picture is less clear. For instance, France V Republic displays a good record of complete turnovers (8) which equal the combined record of semi- and partial turnovers (8). Similarly, 5 complete turnovers against 4 semiturnovers were recorded in Sweden, 9 complete against 5 semi- in Ireland, 4 complete against 3 semi- and 1 partial in Portugal, and finally the 5 complete turnovers recorded in Italy are all to be dated after the post-1994 party system realignment.

[Tab. 2 about here]

Tab. 2 adds more general information about alternation in power in Europe. The 233 complete, semi- and partial government turnovers, excluding 25 cases labelled as Big coalitions (70% of parliamentary support),16 are classified according to their ideological swings, which is the ideological direction (left, centre or right) of the party turnovers in the next government coalitions. The 1st coalition or government in the series is recorded (column 2 in Tab. 2) and the complete turnovers are again treated separately from the semi- and partial turnovers. Countries are ranked according to the number of complete turnovers (column 6 in Tab. 2). In general, swings towards the left (44%) are well matched by swings towards the right (43%) with some limited trend towards the centre (13%). Nonetheless the cases are not homogeneous. At the top of Tab. 2 the virtuous democracies based on the alternation in power are to be found (Norway, Denmark, Ireland, France V Republic, and Great Britain). In these cases the ideological swing between left and right proves well balanced and it may reinforce the psychological expectation of a political turnover to which Sartori [1982] was referring. In the middle and bottom part of the table there are countries where complete turnovers are rarer events but they still obey the expected left-right alternation in power (Italy, Sweden, Portugal, Spain, and Belgium). The ideological swings are less linear in the cases of the new democracies of Central and Eastern Europe. In Poland, Bulgaria, Czech Republic and Slovakia the swings are not limited to the classic left-right alternation but they have involved the centre pole of the party system as well. Considering the 108 semi- or partial turnovers, the marginal position of the right parties is noticeable (17%) compared with the left (39%) and the centre parties (44%). From this point of view the Italian case (1948-1993) is the perfect example (13 turnovers


Big coalitions have been excluded because it can hardly be said that they create the conditions for government turnover, but they rather implode or break.


towards the left and 4 towards the centre) of a competition based on the peripheral rotations of some minor parties around a dominant centre [Sartori 1976].

[Tab. 3 about here]

The impression that alternation in power is not the normal way of working for the European contemporary democracies is strengthened once the average scores generated by GTI are introduced (see Tab. 3). It should be recalled that a pattern of perfect alternation in power would be signalled by value 1 of GTI, and conversely 0 signals absence of alternation. With the exception of Slovakia and Bulgaria, some cases score values of GTI1 around .50 (Ireland, Norway, Hungary, Poland, and Slovenia), most cases score values of GTI1 below .40, and some cases (Finland, Germany, France IV Republic, and Austria) score below .25.17 Apart from Ireland and Norway, the other European democracies based on a pattern of alternation (France V Republic, Denmark, Greece, Great Britain, Spain, and Sweden) score relatively low values. Finally Germany and Austrias rankings are remarkable, as they signal a very limited alternation in power, although their positioning deserves a better consideration later. Given a series of governments, GTI1 measures the turnover in power as a ratio of the number of new parties in office over the total number of governments considered. Therefore GTI1 may reduce the effective turnover in power because it does not measure the weight of the parties (parliamentary seats) involved in it.18 GTI2 and GTI3 were hence calculated in order to correct to a certain extent the original picture. Nonetheless, if we now address our attention to the weight of the parties involved in the turnovers (GTI2, column 3 in Tab. 3), only in 3 cases (Bulgaria, Slovenia, and Greece) does the average magnitude of the turnovers increase, while it generally decreases in all the other cases. Turnovers reveal to be even more limited in Germany (GTI2 = .18) and in Austria (GTI2 = .10) due to the particular structure of the party competition in those two cases, in which two small liberal parties (FDP in Germany and FP in Austria) occupy the centre of the political space and enter into coalition with the two major socialist parties (SPD in Germany and SP in Austria)


To make the point clearer it may be necessary to translate some of these threshold values of GTI 1 with concrete examples. Given a two-party system with party A and party B, GTI1 = 1 when the sequence of parties in power is A, B, A, B, , GTI1 = .5 when A, B, B, B, A, B, B, B, A, , and GTI 1 = .25 when A, B, B, B, B, B, B, B, A, . If one takes into consideration that alternation in power may be scheduled by the election timing (every 3, 4, or 5 years depending on the countrys constitutional provisions), the exceptionality of alternation in power should now be evident given the values of GTI1 displayed in Tab. 3. 18 Assuming a coalition government formed by parties A (25% of parliamentary seats), B (18%), C (11%), followed by a coalition government A, B, D (8%), and finally by a coalition government A, B, E (20%), then GTI1 = .33 in both turnovers, regardless to D and E different weights in terms of parliamentary seats.


and conservative parties (CDU/CSU in Germany and VP in Austria).19 Other cases characterized by limited turnover or by turnover of small parties are Italy (GTI2 = .14), Czech Republic (GTI2 = .28), France V Republic (GTI2 = .26), and Romania (GTI2 = .27). Finally GTI3 (fourth column in Tab. 3) pays some justice to the myth of alternation in power in democracy, measuring the average party turnovers according to the weights of the parties (% of parliamentary seats) as a ratio of the turnovers rather than of the total number of governments in the series.20 GTI3 increases the level of detected turnover in all the European democracies scrutinized. The measures provided by GTI3 are significant because they reveal that, although alternation in power may be a rare event when and where it happens, the turnover of the government incumbents is drastic. Indeed, for Great Britain, Spain, Hungary, and Poland GTI3 = 1, while for Norway GTI3 = .95, and for Greece GTI3 = .90. [Tab. 4 about here]

[Tab. 5 about here]

Tab. 4 and Tab. 5 add more details to the picture representing political turnovers in European democracies. Tab. 4 shows that 79 out of the 100 complete turnovers recorded have occurred after the political elections and hence at the inauguration of a new legislature. 21 The data are coherent from this point of view, with the notable exception of France V Republic, Norway and Ireland, where quite often complete turnovers of the government incumbents have taken place during the legislatures. However a great majority of 79% cases the of post-election turnovers reinforce the hypothesis that a high degree of decidability of the elections is a basic condition of effective alternation in power. On the other hand, the 108 semi- and partial turnovers (see Tab. 5) distribute quite equally between after elections (57 cases, 53%) and during the legislature (51 cases, 51%) apart from the two notable exceptions of Italy (1948-1993) and France IV Republic, which were indeed characterized by high government instability and by frequent government reshuffles and breakdowns during the legislatures. It is worth noticing that turnovers during the legislatures are also frequent in those cases (France V Republic, Finland, Portugal and Romania) where the


Germany and Austrias party systems resemble what Blondel [1968] called two-and-half party systems. See also Siaroff [2003]. 20 This implies that in all the three examples of n. 17 above it would be GTI3 = 1, because all turnovers are complete. 21 Electoral performance is nonetheless a rather poor predictor of getting into office [Mattila and Raunio 2004].


parliamentary governments and their leaderships face an elected Head of State who may resort to his/her constitutional powers to exercise influence over the parliamentary arena.22

[Tab. 6 about here]

A final feature of government turnovers in Europe is offered by Tab. 6. There is no clear evidence whether the reasons for the government turnovers are to be found in conflicts or disagreements, which may break out into the coalitions or in the parties, or in various natural causes although the latter are more often associated with government turnovers (116 cases, 53%, of no conflict preceding the turnovers).23 In Italy and France IV Republic the government turnovers are almost always the outcome of an intra-coalition conflict (respectively 90% and 83% of cases, see column 6 in Tab. 6) and these two cases stand opposite the cases of Great Britain and Spain, where all the turnovers have followed the parliamentary dissolution at the end of the constitutional parliamentary term and after new elections. In general (see columns 7-10 in Tab. 6), complete turnovers result from natural termination of the government life-span (59 cases, 67%, against 29 cases of conflict, 33%), whilst semi- and partial turnovers are more frequently the outcome of a coalition conflict, or of inter-party and institutional conflicts (58 cases, 55%, against 47 cases, 45%). Finally, Big coalitions have a record of termination after a conflict (16 cases, 62%, against 10 cases, 38%).

5. In Search of Some Explanations

Finding a coherent and consistent interpretation of these data is not simple, but there is some evidence that the hypotheses set at the end of section 1 are worth exploring. Before addressing this question, however the basic hypothesis which can be drawn from Schumpeters theory of democracy and from Sartoris suggestion that alternation refers to an expectation, which is the believable likelihood that the party (or parties) in opposition substitute the government party (or parties), can be submitted to statistical control. As was argued in section 1, Schumpeter attributes to the electoral competition the function of evicting the government incumbents and Sartori admits that the likelihood of such event is higher when the gap between the two biggest parties is close enough [Sartori 1982, 75].

[Fig. 1 about here]


These constitutionally guaranteed legislative powers of the elective Head of State do vary significantly from case to case. Cfr. Ieraci [2003, 2010]. 23 See n. 14 above.


One of the simplest ways of controlling this prediction is to measure the percentage difference in parliamentary seats between the parties in the coalition government and the parties in opposition, which we will refer to as Government-Opposition % Seats Differential (G-O). Basically one should expect that the higher G-O is, the less likely it is to have rapid alternation in power because the electoral win and the seat gain which the opposition needs to obtain in the next elections are unrealistic.24 In other words, if the majority supporting the government or the party in government is too strong there would be no believable expectation of a government turnover. If G-O is an ex ante measure, GTI will provide us with a reliable ex post measure, therefore when G-O decreases GTI should increase and Fig. 1 shows this hypothetical correlation.

[Tab. 7 about here] The statistical correlation between the average G-O and GTI is negative and coherent with this hypothesis but unfortunately rather weak (see column 2 in Tab. 7). The average G-O over the 524 governments recorded in the data base is 9.0 (see column 2 in Tab. 7) and the range of variation is very high (65.9, the lowest value being Denmark, -19.4, and the highest Austria, 46.5). Once the distinction is introduced between complete, semi- and partial turnovers, the average G-O drops respectively to .9 (column 6 in Tab. 7) and to .7 (column 7 in Tab. 7), but the ranges of variation are still high (complete turnovers: 75.4, lowest Finland, -46, highest Netherlands, 29.4; semi- and partial turnovers: 55.5, lowest Norway, -28, highest Germany 27.5). Moreover, GTI does not correlate in the expected way with G-O referring to the complete turnovers, as is showed by the positive values of (last three rows in column 7). Only GTI(3) shows a moderate negative correlation as expected, but not with G-O referring to the complete turnovers. It appears quite evident that G-O can not be the necessary and sufficient condition of the government turnovers. Firstly, G-O measures the gap between government and opposition as an initial (at the beginning of the legislature) status quo, while GTI depends on the next electoral results, that is on the attitudes of the electorates. The potential electoral party strength obviously may vary during the legislature term as a function of the party popularity among the electorate. Nonetheless, large gaps in term of parliamentary seats are not easy to be filled even when a very unpopular government is facing a rising opposition. Opinion polls are one thing, elections another.


This hypothesis is coherent with the classic model of party competition by Downs [1957], according to which two parties or two coalitions of parties try to reduce their ideological distance by moving towards the centre of the political space, as an attempt to reduce their potential differential in votes and seats.


[Fig. 2 about here] A second reason why G-O fails to explain the government turnover could depend on the impact of other and more relevant variables. Although party systems vary according to a plurality of parameters [Bardi and Mair 2008], it is still possible to identify five main patterns of competition in the European party systems if the distribution of parties on the political space is taken into account (see Fig. 2): 1. Bilateral Distribution (Two-Party System [Sartori 1976]), i.e. Great Britain until 2005, Scandinavian democracies, Ireland, Spain, Portugal, Greece, France V Republic since the 80s; 2. Polarized Bilateral Distribution (Polarized Bipolarism [Ieraci 2007]), i.e. Italy 1994-2010, Eastern and Central European countries; 3. Bilateral Distribution with Pivot (Two-and-a-Half Party System [Blondel 1968]), i.e. Austria and Germany, Great Britain since 2010; 4. Multilateral Distribution with Dominant Party (Polarized Pluralism [Sartori 1976]), i.e. Italy 1948-1992, France IV Republic. 5. Multilateral Distribution with no Dominant Party (Moderate Pluralism and Fragmented Party System [Sartori 1976]), i.e. Netherlands, Eastern and Central European countries. Type 1 corresponds to the well known Downs model of competition, in which two parties or two party poles compete over the metrical centre of the space and overlap to some extent. Great Britain had a bilateral distribution of parties until 2010, the Scandinavian democracies (namely Norway and Denmark), Ireland, Spain, Portugal, and Greece resemble this model. In France a similar pattern of competition has been established since the 1980s, when the Socialist party became the dominant force on the left wing of the political space and could challenge the Gaullists. Although GTI scores may prove low, complete government turnovers do occur over time in a bilateral distribution of parties (see Tab. 2 and Tab. 3 above). To knock down a government may turn out a difficult task because of the stabilization of the party system over time and the position of the government in the institutional setting, according to hypothesis 2 (see section 1), but on the other hand semi- or partial turnovers are rare events. Type 2 would seem similar to type 1 except that the party distribution is polarized and there is no overlapping between the two parts. Italy has moved towards this model since the 1994 party system realignment and some Eastern and Central European countries approach this situation. Party competition tends to be immoderate and the government turnover is very high because of the general instability of the distribution. For example, there have been 5 complete turnovers in Italy in the last 15 years, that is one in every legislature. According to hypothesis 1 (see section 1), this 18

distribution is quite often the outcome of some drastic realignment of the party system (Italy) and/or of the fundamental democratization of the country, which establishes new party identities and a new structure of cleavages. Type 3 corresponds to the German and Austrian two-and-a-half party systems, where a centre minor (half) party occupies a pivotal position in the political space. Complete government turnover is virtually absent in this model, as shown by the two above mentioned case, and the half party swings from one alliance (with the left wing) to the other (with the right wing), determining some partial government turnovers. However, these turnovers affect primarily the two major parties and consequently GTI1,2 low scores are balanced by GTI3 relatively high scores (.45 and .52 for Germany and Austria respectively; see above Tab. 3). Type 4 corresponds to the well known polarized pluralism model described by Sartori [1976] to interpret the Italian post World War II politics and France IV Republic. The measures of government turnovers, which are exclusively semi- and partial, are very low and the coalition politics is dominated by a large centre party (i.e., the Christian Democratic Party in Italy) or centre pole which leads the coalition governments in alliance with some minor parties from the moderate left and/or from the moderate right. In Italy during the period 1948-1994, only 5 governments out of a total of 46 were led by a non-Christian Democrat Presidente del Consiglio. Finally a multilateral distribution with no dominant party (Type 5) is to be found in the Netherlands, Belgium, and in some Eastern and Central European Countries. In Belgium and in the Netherlands there have been no dominant parties and the coalition governments have included over time parties that have come out of the confessional, ethnic-linguistic and socio-economic cleavages. The prevailing types of government turnovers are semi- and partial: in Belgium there have been two complete government turnovers and in the Netherlands only one (see Tab. 2 above). In Eastern and Central Europe, after the collapse of the Communist regimes, the new party systems which emerged from the democratic transition sometimes proved highly fragmented, exceeding the threshold of six parties established by Sartori [1976] to identify polarized systems and atomized systems.25 Moreover the newly born political parties lacked any clear ideological identity and they were appealing both to the left and right electorate, sometimes as a result of large electoral alliances. The Civic Democratic Party in Czech Republic combines progressive or liberal features with conservative ones, presenting itself as a no-party formation, similarly to the Aliana PSD-PC (Social democratic and Conservative) in Romania. Nonetheless, as stated in hypothesis 1 (see


From the left to the right of the political spectrum, 7 parties can be counted in Bulgaria, 6 in Czech Republic, 7 in Poland, 7 in Romania, 8 in Slovakia, 7 in Hungary. Cfr. Pisciotta [2007, 95-96], based on Lewis [2000] and Bozki and Ishiyama [2002]. Attention to the problem of measuring the number of parties is addressed by Dunleavy and Boucek [2003].


section 1 above), Eastern and Central European party systems have been since their appearance under the influence of fundamental democratization and their structure of cleavages has not yet frozen, contrary to the structure of cleavages in the Western European democracies which underwent a freezing process during the inter-war time (freezing proposition) [Lipset and Rokkan 1967]. Complete government turnovers are therefore possible in these countries, as shown in the cases of Bulgaria (2 complete turnovers), Slovakia (4), Romania (3), and Czech Republic (2) (see Tab. 2 above). But there is striking evidence that in some cases only complete government turnovers were recorded (Great Britain, Poland, Greece, Hungary, Spain, Italy 1994-2010) or the overwhelming majority of the total turnovers were complete (Norway, Denmark, Ireland), while in other cases the vast majority of the government turnovers were semi- or partial (Italy 1948-1992, France IV Republic, Finland, Netherlands, Belgium). Apart from the patterns of competition in the European party systems, are there other potential explanatory factors of these trends? Hypothesis 2 (see section 1 above) suggests looking at the institutional framework. Indeed, with the exception of the case of post-1994 Italy and Hungary, government and parliament are highly integrated [Ieraci 2003, 2010] in all the cases characterized by complete turnovers. The government firmly controls the parliamentary arena and above all it determines the electoral timing thanks to its constitutionally guaranteed power to dissolve the parliament. In other words, in these cases the government lifespan tends to coincide with the term of legislature, the government is not so vulnerable as long as it is protected by its parliamentary support and it may prove difficult to overthrow in the electoral arena. Conversely, where the government is weak or poorly integrated in the parliamentary arena (i.e., it does not control the legislative process, neither does it determine the electoral timing), complete turnovers are rare compared to semi- and partial turnovers.

[Tab. 8 about here]

Secondly, where complete turnovers are frequent, the position of the government in the parliamentary arena is not jeopardized by any external institutional factors, such as the presence of a Head of State which creates a dual executive. However, in some cases (France V Republic and Romania) the Head of State controls relevant constitutional power, including the power to dissolve the parliament, to dismiss the government, and to appoint new prime ministers, while in other cases (Finland, Portugal, Poland and Bulgaria) his/her legislative and executive powers are much more limited and merely symbolic. The former type, which is based on a strong Presidency, could be considered a semi-presidential form of government, while the latter, which is characterized by a 20

weaker Presidency, could be labelled a semi-parliamentary form of government.26 In Tab. 8 the interventions of the Head of State as causes for the government termination are divided into nonconflict (formal resignation of the Prime Minister after the election of the Head of State) and conflict (direct intervention of the Head of State on the government composition, resignation of the Prime minister), and the cases are distributed according to the form of government, either semi-presidential or semi-parliamentary. In the case of the French V Republic, out of 34 governments, the government resigned 13 times because of some intervention of the head of state, while in the case of Romania, out of 16 governments, 4 causes for termination due to similar interventions were recorded. To some extent conflicts between President and Government are traceable even among the semi-parliamentary forms of government, although they are less frequent and less conducive to parliamentary crises.

6. Conclusion

Alternation in power is the expected way of working of any democracy but it has not been a common event in the recent past of European democracies. It is not easy to knock down a government and to substitute the power incumbents with new political personnel. Alternation in power is more the myth than the reality of democracy. Through the elaboration and application of an index (GTI) to measure the extent of the turnover in power among parties in contemporary European democracies, some findings and hypotheses were illustrated: 1. semi- and partial turnovers are more frequent than complete turnovers of power incumbents; 2. semi- and partial turnovers between left and centre parties are more frequent than turnovers with right parties; 3. semi- and partial turnovers often occur during the legislature and they are frequently caused by conflicts among the parties or between the government and other institutional actors; 4. complete turnovers often occur after the elections and a natural termination of the legislature term; 5. the likelihood of government turnovers is not significantly correlated to the gap between government and opposition in terms of percentage of parliamentary seats (G-O); 6. in some cases (Norway, Great Britain, Spain, Ireland, and Denmark) the structure of the party competition favours complete turnovers of the power incumbents;


There is a third group of cases (Slovakia, Ireland, Austria and Slovenia) where the popularly elected Head of State does not control relevant legislative and executive powers. These are therefore apparent dual executives [Ieraci 2003, 2010].


7. in other cases (Italy 1994-2010 and the new Eastern and Central European democracies) the realignment of the party system, following systemic crises or fundamental democratization, may have favoured complete turnovers; 8. complete turnovers are more likely where the institutional position of the government in the parliamentary arena is relatively secure and strong, and the government does not suffer the challenge of another institutional actor competing with it over the control of the parliamentary arena and over the executive powers.



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TAB. 1: Government Turnovers in 22 European Contemporary Democracies (1945-2010) Governments Turnovers Countries Semi1\2 Partial<1\2 Tot. Tot. N. Caretaker Complete=1 ITALY 55 1 5 12 5 22 FINLAND 40 3 1 7 15 23 BELGIUM 39 0 2 12 3 17 DENMARK 35 0 10 1 2 13 FRANCE V REP. 34 0 8 5 3 16 NORWAY 30 0 14 1 0 15 SWEDEN 29 0 5 4 0 9 AUSTRIA 26 0 1 4 0 5 NETHERLANDS 25 0 1 10 5 16 IRELAND 24 0 9 5 0 14 GREAT BRITAIN 24 0 7 0 0 7 FRANCE IV REP. 22 0 0 0 12 12 GERMANY 21 0 1 6 1 8 GREECE 17 1 5 0 1 6 ROMANIA 16 0 3 3 2 8 PORTUGAL 16 4 4 3 1 8 POLAND 14 0 6 0 0 6 SPAIN 11 0 3 0 0 3 CZECH REP. 10 1 2 2 0 4 SLOVAKIA 9 0 4 2 0 6 BULGARIA 9 2 4 2 0 6 HUNGARY 9 0 4 0 0 4 SLOVENIA 9 0 1 4 0 5 Totals 524 12 100 83 50 233 % 98% 2% 43% (19.1) 36% (15.9) 21% (9.5) 100% 100%

40% 58% 44% 37% 47% 50% 31% 19% 64% 58% 29% 55% 38% 35% 50% 50% 43% 27% 40% 67% 67% 44% 56% 44%


TAB. 2: Government Turnovers in 22 European Contemporary Democracies (1945-2010). Ideological Swings

Governemnt Turnovers

Complete towards

Semi- and Partial towards Right Tot. Left Centre Right Tot. Big coalitions (70%) 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 0 0 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 6 8 2 2 4 0 0 25 11%


1st in series
Left Right Centre-left Big coalition Left Centre-right Right Centre Left Right Right Centre-right Right Left Right Centre-right Big coalition Big coalition Centre-right Big coalition Centre-left Centre-left Big coalition Totals %

Total turnovers 15 13 14 16 7 6 6 22 9 8 6 4 6 8 3 4 17 23 8 5 16 5 12 233 100%



7 5 4 3 3 2 3 2 2 2 1 2 1 1 2 1 1 0 1 0 0 1 0 44 44%

0 0 0 0 0 2 0 0 1 0 1 2 2 2 0 1 0 1 0 0 1 0 0 13 13%

7 5 5 5 4 2 2 3 2 2 2 0 1 0 1 0 1 0 0 1 0 0 0 43 43%

14 10 9 8 7 6 5 5 5 4 4 4 4 3 3 2 2 1 1 1 1 1 0 100 100%

0 1 2 2 0 0 0 13 1 1 0 0 0 1 0 0 4 6 1 1 5 0 4 42 39%

1 0 2 5 0 0 0 4 2 2 1 0 1 4 0 2 5 4 3 0 3 3 6 48 44%

0 2 1 1 0 0 0 0 1 0 0 0 1 0 0 0 0 4 1 1 3 1 2 18 17%

1 3 5 8 0 0 0 17 4 3 1 0 2 5 0 2 9 14 5 2 11 4 12 108 100%

TAB. 3: Government Turnover Index (GTI) in 22 European Contemporary Democracies (1945-2010). GTI Countries (1) (2) (3) Parties Aver. % Turn. % SLOVAKIA 0,71 0,65 0,76 BULGARIA 0,64 0,65 0,87 IRELAND 0,51 0,48 0,79 NORWAY 0,51 0,49 0,95 HUNGARY 0,50 0,50 1,00 POLAND 0,46 0,46 1,00 SLOVENIA 0,46 0,47 0,62 CZECH REP. 0,37 0,28 0,62 FRANCE V REP. 0,36 0,26 0,58 ROMANIA 0,36 0,27 0,59 DENMARK 0,33 0,31 0,80 GREECE 0,33 0,34 0,90 NETHERLANDS 0,32 0,26 0,40 PORTUGAL 0,31 0,27 0,63 GREAT BRITAIN 0,30 0,30 1,00 SPAIN 0,30 0,30 1,00 ITALY 0,26 0,14 0,36 BELGIUM 0,26 0,21 0,47 SWEDEN 0,26 0,22 0,70 FINLAND 0,22 0,20 0,36 GERMANY 0,21 0,18 0,45 FRANCE IV REP. 0,17 0,17 0,30 AUSTRIA 0,12 0,10 0,52 0,36 0,33 0,68 Averages

TAB. 4: Timing of Complete Turnovers in 22 European Contemporary Democracies (1945-2010). Countries N. Complete After % During Turnovers elections leg. NORWAY 14 7 50% 7 DENMARK 10 8 80% 2 IRELAND 9 3 33% 6 FRANCE V REP. 8 5 63% 3 GREAT BRITAIN 7 7 100% 0 POLAND 6 5 83% 1 GREECE 5 5 100% 0 ITALY (1994-2010) 5 5 100% 0 SWEDEN 5 5 100% 0 PORTUGAL 4 4 100% 0 BULGARIA 4 3 75% 1 HUNGARY 4 4 100% 0 SLOVAKIA 4 3 75% 1 ROMANIA 3 3 100% 0 SPAIN 3 3 100% 0 CZECH REPUBLIC 2 2 100% 0 BELGIUM 2 2 100% 0 FINLAND 1 1 100% 0 GERMANY 1 1 100% 0 AUSTRIA 1 1 100% 0 NETHERLANDS 1 1 100% 0 SLOVENIA 1 1 100% 0 100 79 79% 21 Totals

% 50% 20% 67% 38% 0% 17% 0% 0% 0% 0% 25% 0% 25% 0% 0% 0% 0% 0% 0% 0% 0% 0% 21%


TAB. 5: Timing of Semi- and Partial Turnovers in 22 European Contemporary Democracies (1945-2010). Semi- and After % During leg. % Partial (a) elections ITALY (1948-1993) 17 5 29% 12 71% FINLAND 14 8 57% 6 43% FRANCE IV REP. 12 2 17% 10 83% NETHERLANDS 11 9 82% 2 18% BELGIUM 9 6 67% 3 33% FRANCE V REP. 8 4 50% 4 50% IRELAND 5 4 80% 1 20% ROMANIA 5 2 40% 3 60% GERMANY 5 4 80% 1 20% SWEDEN 4 2 50% 2 50% SLOVENIA 4 3 75% 1 25% DENMARK 3 2 67% 1 33% PORTUGAL 3 1 33% 2 67% SLOVAKIA 2 1 50% 1 50% CZECH REPUBLIC 2 1 50% 1 50% AUSTRIA 2 2 100% 0 0% NORWAY 1 0 0% 1 100% BULGARIA 1 1 100% 0 0% 108 57 53% 51 47% Totals


TAB. 6: Government Turnovers in 22 European Contemporary Democracies (1945-2010). Causes for Termination of the Governments before Turnovers Government Turnovers Complete Semi- and Big coalitions partial (70%) Countries ITALY FRANCE IV REP. POLAND BELGIUM PORTUGAL DENMARK NETHERLANDS CZECH REP. FRANCE V REP. FINLAND IRELAND GREECE AUSTRIA HUNGARY ROMANIA NORWAY SLOVENIA SWEDEN BULGARIA GERMANY SLOVAKIA GREAT BRITAIN SPAIN Totals % Non-conflict (n.c.) 2 2 2 7 3 6 8 2 8 12 8 3 3 2 4 10 3 6 4 6 6 6 3 116 53% Conflict (c.) 19 10 3 10 4 7 8 2 7 10 6 2 2 1 2 5 1 2 1 1 0 0 0 103 47% Tot. 21 12 5 17 7 13 16 4 15 22 14 5 5 3 6 15 4 8 5 7 6 6 3 219 100% % n.c. 10% 17% 40% 41% 43% 46% 50% 50% 53% 55% 57% 60% 60% 67% 67% 67% 75% 75% 80% 86% 100% 100% 100% % c. 90% 83% 60% 59% 57% 54% 50% 50% 47% 45% 43% 40% 40% 33% 33% 33% 25% 25% 20% 14% 0% 0% 0% n.c. 0 0 2 1 3 5 1 1 7 0 5 3 0 2 2 8 0 3 2 1 4 6 3 59 67% c. 4 0 3 1 1 3 0 1 0 1 4 1 1 1 1 5 0 1 1 0 0 0 0 29 33% n.c. 2 2 0 4 0 1 6 1 1 9 3 0 2 0 2 2 3 3 1 3 2 0 0 47 45% c. 15 10 0 5 2 4 5 1 6 4 2 0 0 0 1 0 1 1 0 1 0 0 0 58 55% n.c. 0 0 0 2 0 0 1 0 0 3 0 0 1 0 0 0 0 0 1 2 0 0 0 10 38% c. 0 0 0 4 1 0 3 0 1 5 0 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 16 62% 31

F IG. 1: H ypothetical Correlation between the Government -Opposition % Seats Differential (GO) and Part y Turnover in Power (GTI)

Party Turnover in Power (GTI)

Government-Opposition % Seats Differential (GO)


TAB. 7: Government Turnovers in 22 European Contemporary Democracies (1945-2010). Correlations between GTI and Government-Opposition % Seats Differential ( G O ) (*) Average GTI GO G O SemiCountries GO Complete and Partial Parties Aver. % Turn. % Turnovers Turnovers (1) (2) (3) SLOVAKIA 8,8 0,71 0,65 0,76 10,7 1,3 BULGARIA 0,7 0,64 0,65 0,87 12,8 -12,4 IRELAND 6,6 0,51 0,48 0,79 6,5 11,2 NORWAY -7,4 0,51 0,49 0,95 -11,9 -28 HUNGARY 16,7 0,50 0,50 1,00 20,4 n.a. POLAND 1,4 0,46 0,46 1,00 -9,4 n.a. SLOVENIA 15,6 0,46 0,47 0,62 31 9,5 CZECH REPUBLIC -3,9 0,37 0,28 0,62 0 -22,5 ROMANIA 0,4 0,36 0,26 0,58 -11,4 -8,5 FRANCE V REP. 17,8 0,36 0,27 0,59 1,3 14,4 DENMARK -19,4 0,33 0,31 0,80 -28,3 -16,5 GREECE 21,8 0,33 0,34 0,90 6,3 15,2 NETHERLANDS 21,6 0,32 0,26 0,40 29,4 14,3 PORTUGAL 4,2 0,31 0,27 0,63 -1,9 -2,6 GREAT BRITAIN 10,1 0,30 0,30 1,00 7,1 n.a. SPAIN -0,3 0,30 0,30 1,00 -3,2 n.a. ITALY 5,1 0,26 0,14 0,36 13,7 -2,4 BELGIUM 25,0 0,26 0,21 0,47 3,3 18 SWEDEN -5,4 0,26 0,22 0,70 -16,3 -24,4 FINLAND 15,8 0,22 0,20 0,36 -46 6,6 GERMANY 17,4 0,21 0,18 0,45 2,6 27,5 FRANCE IV REP. 7,8 0,17 0,17 0,30 n.a. -0,2 AUSTRIA 46,5 0,12 0,10 0,52 3 13,7 9,0 0,36 0,33 0,68 0,9 0,7 Averages -0,33 0,31 -0,28 Correlation with GTI(1) -0,29 0,29 -0,25 Correlation with GTI(2) -0,35 0,03 -0,43 Correlation with GTI(3) n.a.: not available. (*) For each country G O is calculated on the current distribution of seats in the Lower House.


FIG. 2: Patterns of Competition in the European Party Systems

Bilateral Distribution (Two-Party System [Sartori 1976]), i.e. Great Britain until 2005, Spain, Norway, Sweden, France since the 80s

Polarized Bilateral Distribution (Polarized Bipolarism [Ieraci 2007]), i.e. Italy 1994-2010, Eastern and Central European countries

Bilateral Distribution with Pivot (Two-and-aHalf Party System [Blondel 1968]), i.e. Austria and Germany, Great Britain 2010

Multilateral Distribution with Dominant Party (Polarized Pluralism [Sartori 1976]), i.e. Italy 1948-1992, France IV Republic

Multilateral Distribution with no Dominant Party (Moderate Pluralism and Fragmented Party System [Sartori 1976]), i.e. Netherlands, Belgium, Eastern and Central European countries


TAB. 8: Interventions of the Head of State as Causes for Termination of the Government. Form of Government Country N. of gov. Causes for termination NonConflict conflict 8 5 2 6 1 1 2 0 1 0 Total (%)


France V R. Romania Finland Portugal Poland

34 16 43 20 14


13 (38%) 4 (25%) 6 (14%) 2 (10%) 1 (/%)


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