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Political party development in post-war societies: the institutionalization of parties and party systems in El Salvador and Cambodia

By de. Jeroen Zeeuw


This thesis argues that civil war has a significant, lasting impact on the formation, development and institutionalization of parties and party systems. Through in-depth examination of the cases of El Salvador and Cambodia it shows that dominant party systems and uneven institutionalization of individual political parties prevalent in post-war societies can to a not insignificant extent be attributed to war-related factors such as war-time origins of parties, the way in which war ended, the nature of the peace agreement, and post-war design of electoral, media and other public institutions.\ud Its focus on party and party system institutionalization is rooted in the Western-oriented party politics literature, which suggests that the nature of electoral competition, the impact of societal cleavages and the workings of formal political institutions are primary explanatory factors. By contrast, this thesis argues that in non-Western developing countries affected by civil war, war-related factors and post-war security, socio-economic and political conditions are equally if not more important for understanding post-war party development.\ud Through a structured focused comparison of party and party system institutionalization in El Salvador and Cambodia based on extensive interviews and field research, the thesis demonstrates that the war-time origins of the main Salvadoran and Cambodian parties have left a deep imprint on their organizational structures and leadership style, just as war-time political exclusion set the tone for unbalanced party competition after the war. Although El Salvador’s party system is more institutionalized than Cambodia’s and there are many other differences, there are also clear cross-national patterns of unequal individual party institutionalization and ruling party dominance that are a product of the war. Given that institutionalized parties and a competitive party system are important ingredients for a healthy democracy these findings are important for understanding the challenges and prospects of democratization in these and other post-war countries

Topics: F1201, DS, JF
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  1. (1998). El Salvador: Heridas Que No Cierran. Los Partidos Políticos en la Post-Guerra
  2. (2007). Polarización y Democracia. ¿Un Mal Necesario?”. In: Àlvaro Artiga-González, Carlos Dada,

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