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Party Systems and Governments Observatory: A New Research Tool

By Fernando Casal Bértoa

Have you ever wondered who governs the countries of Europe? Would you like to know who governed your country more than a century ago? Are you not sure about the partisan affiliation of ministers in your neighboring states? Are you interested in discovering how has the (economic and financial) crisis affected the composition of European governments and party systems?

Now a quick answer to all these questions, and more, is possible thanks to a new research project at the University of Nottingham: namely, the Party Systems and Governments Observatory (PSGo), a new research interactive tool (whogoverns.eu)[1] where data on government formation and party system institutionalization in 48 European democratic states since 1848 can be found. European indicates those countries stretching from the Atlantic to the Urals. Democratic refers to those countries displaying (1) a score of 6 or higher in the Polity IV index, (2) universal suffrage elections (including universal male suffrage only, when historically appropriate), and (3) governments formed and/or relying on a parliamentary majority, rather than on the exclusive will of the head of state. States includes those countries recognized by either the United Nations or the Council of Nations.[2]

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The Greek government, EU policy constraints, and the tension between responsiveness and responsibility

By Kyriaki Nanou

In January 2015, after failure to agree on the nomination of a president, national elections were held in Greece – a country at the eye of the storm of the Eurozone crisis. The main opponents were New Democracy, the main party in the governing coalition arguing in favour of the necessity of the memorandum agreements and the continuation of the reforms as part of the external support package; and, on the other side, SYRIZA, arguing that there is a different way for Greece to exit the crisis – involving renegotiation of the the terms of the bailout agreements and not undertaking all of the reform measures. Together with its governing partners, New Democracy stressed ‘responsibility’ and argued that Greece had no other way out of this crisis but to implement all of the austerity measures, which it argued had already improved the state of the economy, and to satisfy external creditors and EU partners. Their campaign was focused on a rightist agenda underlying the dangers of deviating from the implementation of the painful reforms, which had the potential of upsetting the creditors, stopping the transfer of further payments and leading to a potential ‘Grexit’ from the euro. On the other hand, SYRIZA emphasised ‘responsiveness’ and argued that politicians should listen to the needs and concerns of Greek people, who were disillusioned with austerity politics. It had a leftist agenda that aimed to provide hope to the Greek electorate by promising measures that would ease the burden of austerity – by either not implementing planned reforms or by changing or reversing some of the reforms implemented by the previous government.

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Promises, promises in the Croatian Presidential Elections

By Mladen Pupavac and Vanessa Pupavac

“I won’t let anyone say that Croatia won’t become prosperous and rich. Croatia will be among the most developed countries of the EU and the world, I promise you here tonight”.

So promised Kolinda Grabar Kitarovic of the Croatian Democratic Union party (HDZ) after winning the 2014-15 Croatian presidential election and becoming the first female president of Croatia.

The electoral race was very close. Kitarovic won 50.74% and the previous president Ivo Josipovic of the Social Democratic Party (SDP) 49.26% of the popular vote. In absolute terms, the difference between the two candidates was only around 30,000 votes, with the number of spoiled ballots twice that number at around 60,000.

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Regulating European Party Politics: Causes and Consequences

By Fernando Casal Bértoa

The question of how political parties are, and ought to be, regulated, has assumed increased importance in recent years. The legitimacy crisis experienced by the parties themselves, and also their progressive codification in public law, including national constitutions or party finance laws, have raised important questions, ranging from the motivations inspiring specific regulations to their effect on the parties and the party systems, and the underlying conceptions of the role and place of political parties in modern democracies.

Interestingly enough, and notwithstanding the fact that, both in Europe and elsewhere, political parties have increasingly (see figure 1) been subject to regulations governing their external activities or determining the way in which their internal organisation may function, none of the abovementioned questions has received the necessary attention, neither from political scientists nor from constitutional lawyers. Indeed, the few works dealing with the subject are mostly descriptive and lack a comparative dimension.

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Corrupt politicians can only look on in horror as Mr Integrity takes Italian presidency

By Catherine Gegout

Italy has a new president in the form of Sergio Mattarella, a 73-year-old constitutional judge from Sicily. Mattarella was elected to the role in the wake of the retirement of Giorgio Napolitano, who had held the post for nearly a decade.

The president of Italy has limited powers: he or she guarantees that politics complies with the Italian constitution, but real political responsibility remains with the government. However, the election of Mattarella is important for both the centre-left prime minister Matteo Renzi and his Democratic Party. Mattarella represents integrity, and has made no secret of his contempt for the kind of politics that has bolstered the interests of former prime minister Silvio Berlusconi over the years.

In securing the job for Mattarella, who is a former Christian Democrat, Renzi has humiliated his main rival Silvio Berlusconi, the former prime minister who is still leader of Forza Italia.

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Malheureusement, nous ne sommes pas tous Charlie 2: Rules of Engagement

by David Stevens and Kieron O’Hara

Last week in this blog, we argued that goods such as belonging and commitment were the chief drivers of extremist groups, alongside a rejection of mainstream thinking. In a book which appears next month, The Devil’s Long Tail, we claim that suppressing ideological messages in the hope of preventing radicalisation is simply not effective, as they are not the chief motivators of such people, and furthermore that the emergence of the web hasn’t changed this calculation.

Nevertheless, this kind of thinking pervades the anti-extremist drive. In the UK, the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government has just written to over 1,000 Islamic leaders to suggest that “There is a need to lay out more clearly than ever before what being a British Muslim means today: proud of your faith and proud of your country.” One assumes that a would-be jihadi might struggle to assent to this proposition – and if he or she heard it from an Imam at the local mosque, then he or she might well assume that this message was mere government propaganda.

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No Borders

By Natasha King

In 2014 a photograph taken by activist Jose Palazón, a member of the migrant rights group Asociación Pro Derechos de la Infancia, went viral. It shows a number of African migrants stuck on razor wire at the top of the fence that marks the border between the Spanish enclave of Meillia and the rest of Africa. While the migrants are stranded atop the wire, some golfers continue their game on a manicured course below.

The message of the photo is blunt: there is a gaping inequality between those living in Europe and those – generally poor, generally non-white – who are excluded from entry. Put simply, border controls are among the most obvious means that relatively wealthy states have of maintaining inequality.

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The Enduring Relevance of Rosa Luxemburg

By Andreas Bieler 

The work of Rosa Luxemburg has received renewed attention in recent years. To celebrate the centenary anniversary of her seminal book The Accumulation of Capital in 2013, a collective of colleagues from within the Marxism Reading Group of the Centre for the Study of Social and Global Justice (CSSGJ) at Nottingham University have written the article ‘The Enduring Relevance of Rosa Luxemburg’s The Accumulation of Capital’, which has now been published online by the Journal of International Relations and Development. In this blog post, I will present some of the key findings of the article.

First published in 1913, The Accumulation of Capital represents Rosa Luxemburg’s quintessential contribution to Marxism and an exceptional, yet equally controversial, ‘modification’ to Marx’s original scheme of accumulation. Built on a cordial critique of Marx’s model of expanded reproduction, Luxemburg’s intervention offers not only a new framework to study capitalist economic development, but also a historical and political compass with which the expansion of capitalist social relations through colonialism and imperialism can be analysed.

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Rivers and swarms: how metaphor fuels anti-immigrant feeling

By Caryl Thompson 

In a recent interview with Sky News, the UK defence secretary, Michael Fallon, described British towns and communities as “swamped” by migrants, a controversial phrase he was later forced to retract. And while it’s easy enough to dismiss this as a sad glimpse into a politician’s personal views, Fallon’s language fits right into a rhetorical war that’s been waged on immigrants for decades.

The language used by politicians to depict migrants obviously influences public opinion – which, as surveys suggest, currently demonstrates high levels of opposition to immigration even though public perceptions of immigration figures are often inaccurate and exaggerated.

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Are Political Finance Regulations Helping to Combat Party Corruption in Europe and Latin America?

By Fernando Casal Bértoa

As has been repeatedly stated, money is the main fuel of politics. Without it political parties cannot function, elections cannot take place, and democracy – at least as we know it – cannot exist. It is for this reason, but not the only one, that most political systems in the world guarantee (at least some) political parties access to state resources either to finance their electoral campaigns or to keep their political organizations running, or both.

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