chapter  12
19 Pages

Stages of European development: Electoral Change and System Adaptation

It is beyond the scope of this discussion to examine all the ingredients of a possible general crisis, but the question of electoral and party system change is bound to be a central issue in any debate. One difficulty in making an assessment in this respect lies in finding a suitable perspective from which 'change' can be viewed. It is tempting to focus on the contemporary scene, since what is happening at present has immediate relevance to the idea of an impending crisis. Yet - and this is the argument to be developed in the following account -a snapshot of change at the present time is likely to be seriously misleading. One reason is that both the extent and rate of electoral and system change can easily be exaggerated; alterations are slow to come about and adjustments may prove to be marginal. But there is a more fundamental consideration involved: changing patterns, however basic they may be, may also be incomplete. This idea of 'incomplete change' as a feature of European development has the important consequence that a substantial 'overlayering' occurs; in other words, there is an incorporation of party characteristics acquired at successive stages.