Prescribing Democracy? Party Proscription and Party System Stability in Turkey, Germany and Spain

Angela Bourne, Fernando Casals Bertoa

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When democracies ban political parties, one of the central issues to usually emerge in both public and academic debate concerns the effects of proscription. Some argue that proscription may lead to radicalisation, a growth of militancy and readiness to use violence. Some also argue that, in the long-run, banning parties may damage the foundations of a democratic polity as the ban may be interpreted as a silent weakening of democratic rights in the state and, therefore, a failure of democracy itself. However, and notwithstanding its centrality for the conduct of democratic politics, the impact of party bans on party system development has remained mostly under-researched. Trying to address this lacuna, and employing a new dataset of banned parties in Europe between 1945 and 2015, we compare the effects of party ban regulation on party system stability in three different arenas: electoral, parliamentary and governmental. In particular, we examine the impact of party proscription on electoral volatility, fragmentation and closure in three different countries: Turkey, Germany and Spain. Using examples both at national and regional (e.g. Basque Country, Navarre, Saxony) level, and making use of survey data when available, we find that the banning of a relevant political party not only increases volatility and reduces fragmentation, but also alter the existing structure of competition at the time of government formation. Likewise, our empirical analysis also suggests a number of alternative hypotheses (i.e. organizational succession, electoral system, etc.) trying to explain why the outcomes of some cases within each country deviate from theoretical expectations. Finally, the article also examines the phenomenon of “non-banning” and how the failure of attempts to ban political parties might affect the development of a party system.
TidsskriftEuropean Journal of Political Research
Udgave nummer2
Sider (fra-til)440-465
Antal sider26
StatusUdgivet - 2 maj 2017


  • Closure
  • Electoral volatility
  • Europe 1945-2015
  • Fragmentation
  • Party banning
  • Party system stability

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