chapter  31
10 Pages

The geometry of party competition

Parties and voters in the issue space
WithLorenzo De Sio

The idea of party competition lies at the heart of even minimal definitions of democracy. According to the classic work of Lipset and Rokkan, modern democratic states emerged in West European countries after a process of consolidation and reduction in the lines of political conflict. Despite the limitations of Downs' median voter theorem in terms of its restriction to a one-dimensional space, it did prove a formidable step in the development of a general theory of political equilibrium. A limited range of parties arrayed across a single dimension of conflict essentially makes a political equilibrium possible, thereby justifying the preservation of such procedures and competition patterns. The idea that a multiplicity of issues could be seen as a strategic resource, especially for parties attempting to escape an unfavorable competition context, presented a clear challenge to the Downsian state of political equilibrium.