Parties and Populists

This is not a good time for political parties, especially those with traditional orientations. Gone are the times in the older democracies when one could count on two major parties – one social democratic, the other more to the right of center – dominating the political scene.

In the new democracies of the postcommunist world, such two-party systems never came into being. Nowadays the two largest parties can rarely hope to muster two-thirds of the popular vote. Not infrequently they have to form a “grand coalition.” The rest of the vote is split many ways – unless a political force emerges to cut right through the old party structures by arousing popular nationalist or socialist sentiments, or a combination of the two.

The decline of parties reflects the decline of class. The old proletariat and the old bourgeoisie are gone. Instead we see what has sometimes been called a “levelled-in middle-class society,” albeit one with an important elite of the super-rich at one end and an underclass at the other.