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How party systems Form: The Institutional, Historical and Strategic Foundations of the Post-War ... - page 9 / 42





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overlooks two important things. First, actors choose coordination strategies in response to election outcomes and institutional constraints. The latter influence the ability of politicians to change electoral rules, switch or form coalitions and these constraints vary a great across countries. Coordination strategies thus can have very different accelerator effects across countries. Second, coordination strategies also serve as breaks on market outcomes. Many times parties use coordination strategies to shelter themselves from strategic voting. Small parties, for example, form electoral coalitions or use their parliamentary swing votes to make electoral rules more proportional. In short, coordination strategies are influenced, but by no means pre-determined, by electoral market outcomes; they consequently cannot be reduced to some functional, natural selection process. They have to be analyzed as distinct causal mechanism shaping party systems; they can alter the number of parties or their electoral prospects to the point where the effective number of electoral parties (ENEC) that voters face in subsequent elections has little in common with ENPPt1 produced by the preceding election. Coordination strategies generate information about parties’ strength or create focal points around which voters’ expectations can converge. Cox notes that there are “many instrumentally rational agents in elections – candidates, activists, contributors – all of them may respond in ways that overwhelm or accentuate the strategic responses of voters.”3 (Cox 1997, 149, 255)

Coordination strategies especially matter in transitional party systems where electioneering strategies – the vote winning strategies most central in established party systems – oftentimes are limited in their effectiveness. Electioneering strategies include formulating policies, building personal reputations, manipulating issue dimensions, advertising or turning out voters. (Downs 1957, 77-114; Meguid 2001; Riker 1990) At the most basic level, they involve communicating with voters to either change their

3 The importance of political actors in the formation of party systems has long been highlighted in the older party literature. (Sartori 1969, 84; Schattschneider 1970) Gary Cox’s great contribution has been to use game theory to demonstrate the inherent instability of parties systems and show how its absence is contingent on the way politicians’ successful coordination strategies structure voter expectations. In emphasizing politicians, Cox also avoids the indeterminancy of earlier attempts to model Duverger’s law which focused to narrowly on equilibrium solutions generated exclusively through institutional incentives, strategic interaction of voters, and quadrennial, electoral updating of their expectations. (For a discussion of this point, see Schieman 2000).

Party Switching3/12/2007p.

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