The EU Party System after Eastern Enlargement


Schmitt, Hermann and Thomassen, Jacques (2005) The EU Party System after Eastern Enlargement. [Report]

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Abstract:From 1953 on, a party system of the European Union has been build up with, at the end,
some 6 or 7 distinct and more or less cohesive parties acting in parliament and beyond. It
has been said that this party system was “ready for power” during the 5th legislature of the
directly elected European Parliament. In this article we ask whether and how Eastern
enlargement has changed this state of affairs. The result of the empirical analysis is
remarkably ambivalent: first, Eastern enlargement has increased the proportion of
“homeless” MEPs, i.e. the non-aligned, and has at the same time added to the strength of
the conservative majority of the house. Second, it did not significantly affect the format of the
party system nor the stature of its political groups, neither their distinctiveness nor their
cohesiveness. And third, the parties from the new Eastern member countries are not yet very
well “rooted” in their national electorates. This is why the diagnosis of this early examination
has to remain somewhat inconclusive – probably for some years to come.
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