chapter  1
INTRODUCTION
ByPAUL PENNINGS AND JAN-ERIK LANE
Pages 18

All over Europe, the prevailing mode of government is party based, meaning that the political parties are the main actors on the political scene. Understanding party systems is thus vital in getting to grips with modern democracy. This book provides an overview of comparative approaches to and empirical evidence of party system change. From the late 1980s onwards we have witnessed many examples of party system change, which have had far-reaching consequences for the way in which European democracies function. The collapse of the Berlin Wall-and the subsequent German unification-and the earthquake elections (where power-holding is reversed) in Italy are two evident examples of farreaching systemic change. But, as the contributions in this book will illustrate, there are many more examples of important recent changes in the functioning of European and nonEuropean systems.