A Map of the Southern European Party System

AlexA guest post from Dr. Alexandre Afonso (University of Leiden).

There has been a lot of discussion recently about the rise of left-wing Euroscepticism in Southern Europe in the midst of the Eurozone crisis, with parties like Syriza and Podemos conquering power (in the case of the former) or appearing as serious challengers to mainstream parties (in the case of the latter). In the graphs below I have used recent data from the last round of the Chapel Hill expert survey 2014 on parties’ ideological placements, combined with the latest poll results I could find as of August 2015. The horizontal axis shows the position of parties on the economic left-right dimension, and the vertical axis their position regarding European integration. The size of the bubbles corresponds to to the electoral strength of each party as measured by polls. Here’s how it looks:

In spite of the assumed similarity of party systems in Southern Europe, we can see some clear differences between them. There is nothing incredibly new here, but it visually represents things in a nice way. Greece and Portugal appear as somewhat opposite poles in terms of their fragmentation and their centre of gravity. The Greek party system is more fragmented and its centre of gravity has shifted to the lower left corner of the quadrant, that is, the Eurosceptic left. In contrast, the two major Portuguese parties are situated towards the upper right corner, or the pro-European right. The two Portuguese parties in the lower left, the Communists and the left bloc, have remained relatively weak compared to their Greek and Spanish counterparts. The Spanish party system is in-between these. Unlike PASOK, the PSOE has remained strong even if Podemos represents a new force on the Eurosceptic left. The Italian party system is clearly different from the others. It contains a number of significant political forces in the Eurosceptic economic right quadrant, a bit more like what you would probably see in Northern Europe.

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