Comparing Party System Institutionalization in East Asia’s New Democracies
Author: Mark Weatherall
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This study explores the institutionalization of party systems in new democracies in East Asia and its relationship with late democratization. Following Samuel Huntington’s work on institutionalization, there have been numerous studies on party and party system institutionalization. However, these studies have been largely focused on Western countries as well as emerging democracies in Eastern Europe and Latin America; only a few studies have looked at party system institutionalization in East Asia. This study uses election data as well as survey data from the Asian Barometer Survey (ABS) to explore party system institutionalization in the region’s new democracies. The study finds that party systems in East Asia are increasingly stable and parties are surviving for longer. However, East Asians have low levels of trust in parties and do not believe that elections offer voters a genuine choice. In other words, although party systems in new democracies in the region are increasingly stable at the elite level, this development has not corresponded with a strengthening of links between parties and voters. Therefore, this study argues that the increasing stability of party systems in East Asia can only be described as “partial institutionalization.” How can we explain the increasing predictability of elections that is happening at the same time as the continued weakness of linkages between parties and voters? The five cases in this study suggest that late democratization can explain why parties have not developed strong linkages with voters. At the same time, the adoption of majoritarian electoral systems can explain declining electoral volatility despite the absence of strong party-voter linkages.