The End of Hurricane Season?: Changing Patterns of Electoral Volatility in Poland
The collapse of incumbent parties in the early 2000s inaugurated a new period of electoral volatility across post-communist Europe. Though the emergence of broad democratic coalitions suggested that the party systems would gradually stabilize, with electoral volatility gradually decreasing to the moderate levels typical in Western Europe, the reliable power alteration of the mid-1990s gave way to the rapid rise--and equally rapid decline--of anti-elite, 'unorthodox' parties. However, the results of Poland's 2015 parliamentary elections indicate a changing pattern of electoral volatility. The success of Law and Justice, Poland's governing party from 2005 to 2007, suggests that the Polish party system may be moving once again towards consolidation, with the two dominant parties, Law and Justice and Civic Platform, developing a stable electoral base. This paper draws on existing studies of electoral volatility and party system consolidation to evaluate whether electoral volatility in Poland is decreasing, and the Polish party system is beginning to (re-)stabilize. After calculating the degree and type of volatility in Poland, I draw on studies of electoral volatility in Latin America and Western Europe to assess whether the observed changes in Poland's volatility patterns can be explained by theories of aggregate economic voting or the mobilization of sociopolitical cleavages. While finding a clear shift in the country's volatility pattern, I argue that neither aggregate economic voting theory nor the parties' ideological evolutions can account for the observed levels of electoral volatility, indicating a continued divergence from the volatility pattern found in Western European party systems.
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