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Title: 'Red Belts' anywhere? : the electoral geography of European radical left parties since 1990
Author: Bankov, Petar Nikolaev
ISNI:       0000 0004 8503 329X
Awarding Body: University of Glasgow
Current Institution: University of Glasgow
Date of Award: 2020
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European radical left parties (RLPs) are on the rise across Europe. Since 1990 they became an integral part of the party systems across the continent and enjoy an increased level of government participation and policy clout. The main source for this improved position is their increasing electoral support in the past three decades, underpinned by a diversity of electoral geographies. Understood as the patterns of territorial distribution of electoral support across electoral units, the electoral geographies are important, as they indicate the effects of the socio-economic and political changes in Europe on these parties. This thesis studies the sources of the electoral geographies of European RLPs since 1990. The existing literature on these parties highlighted the importance of their electoral geographies for understanding their electoral and governmental experiences. Yet, to this date, it lacks systematic research on these territorial distributions of electoral support in their own right. Such research is important also for the general literature on the spatial distribution of electoral performance. In particular, these works paid limited attention to the relevance of their theories for individual political parties, as they rather focused on party systems. This research tests three alternative explanations for the emergence of electoral geography. A literature review of the works on European RLPs, electoral geography, party and party system nationalisation, and territorial politics indicated that the electoral geographies of European RLPs could emerge from the differences in the socio-economic circumstances between electoral units, from the different effects of the institutional framework of a country across a territory, or from the differences in the organisational capabilities of a party across electoral units. The basis for assessing the relevance of these hypotheses was the comparison of the cases of the Communist Party of Bohemia and Moravia (KSČM, the Czech Republic), The Left (Die Linke, Germany), and the Socialist Party (SP, the Netherlands) in the timeframe between 1990 and 2017. The three parties were representative for the diversity of electoral geographies of European RLPs and for the ideological and organisational heterogeneity of the radical left party family in Europe in the past three decades. A qualitative analysis of series of semi-structured interviews with independent researchers, and with party officials from the three parties at local, regional, and national levels, supported by a rich amount of statistical data and secondary literature, led to two main conclusions. First, this thesis found evidence in support of all three alternative explanations. In particular, the differences in the historical legacies of mass mobilisation and in the contemporary socio-economic circumstances between electoral units, the influence of the party competition with a major centre-left opponent and of the system of regional governance, as well as the territorial outreach of the party organisation and the concentration of its members all make a significant contribution to the diverse electoral geographies of the three cases. Second, the process of the formation of electoral geography emerges from the interaction of these factors. In this context, the differences in the organisational capabilities of European RLPs between electoral units to build up and mobilise support rather filter the effects of the external political environment, represented by the diverse socio-economic circumstances across a country and its institutional framework. In doing so, this thesis revealed the importance of the party organisation for the electoral geographies of small and anti-political establishment parties. The theoretical implications of these findings are in the need to separate the effects of the ideological and programmatic offer of these parties from the role of their party organisation for their electoral performance.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
Keywords: JA Political science (General)