Fernando Casal Bértoa is a Nottingham Research Fellow working on "The Institutionalization of European Party Systems: Explaining Party Competition in 48 democracies (1848-2013)" (3-years research project). Before he was a Post-doctoral Fellow at the University of Leiden where he participated in Prof. Ingrid van Biezen's led large-scale research project on the "Legal Regulation of Political Parties in Post-war Europe" (funded by the European Research Council - ERC). He studied Law (cum laude) at the University of Navarra (Pamplona, Spain) as well as Political Science (cum laude) at the University of Salamanca (Spain). After specializing in Eastern and Central European Studies (magna cum laude) at the Jagiellonian University (Cracow, Poland), he obtained his PhD at the European University Institute (Florence) with a dissertation titled The Institutionalization of Party Systems in East Central Europe: Explaining Variation. He is currently co-director of the Centre for Comparative Political Research, and co-chair of the Council for European Studies (CES) "Political Parties, Party Systems and Elections" Research Network. His work has been published (or is forthcoming) in Party Politics, Democratization, Government and Opposition, International Political Science Review, South European Society and Politics, or East European Politics.
The Institutionalization of European Party Systems: Explaining Party Competition in 48 Democracies (1848-2014)
Party system institutionalization has been traditionally considered to be a necessary, but not sufficient, condition for both the consolidation and healthy functioning of democracy (Mainwaring 1999, Morlino 1998). However, and in spite of the burgeoning interest in the consequences of systemic institutionalization, the issue of why party systems institutionalize (or not) in the first place still remains unclear.
Because a moderately institutionalized party system is essential for the good democratic quality of a polity, this research project aims at providing an answer to the question of how and why party systems institutionalize and/or de-institutionalize through a comparative analysis of 48 European democracies since the birth of "modern" democracy in the first half of the 19th century.
In particular, this project has three main objectives. First of all, to devise a new operationalization of party system institutionalization, which is both conceptually and empirically superior. Secondly, to examine how party systems have evolved from the moment of their formation. The main goal here is to understand how the process of institutionalization has affected the different party systems over time and, therefore, be able to classify those systems according to elections/periods on the basis of the various levels of institutionalization achieved. Thirdly, to determine the possible sources explaining the variance in the degree of institutionalization observed in European party systems across time.
In order to fulfill all the above-cited objectives, and after building a unique dataset containing information on the composition of European governments between 1848 and 2014 (http://whogoverns.eu), I will make use of a nested research design combining both quantitative and qualitative methods. The former will enable me to discover what factors have allowed party systems to institutionalize. The latter will help me to understand the causal mechanisms by which the different (relevant and significant) factors have affected the process of systemic institutionalization.