All posts by instapartyproject

Instaparty inaugural workshop at the UCL School of Slavonic and East European Studies

Feeling inspired by our inaugural workshop with 20 eminent academics and parliamentary practitioners in London. A full day of stimulating exchanges of ideas on challenges to the study of party switching and various types of parliamentary party instability. Many thanks to all participants from the  Austria, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Norway, Switzerland, UK and the United States!

Understanding the Complexity of Party Instability in Parliaments

Download our paper prepared for the APSA 2022 Annual Meeting that proposes a new typology of parliamentary party switches.

Abstract. We propose a new typology of parliamentary party switches (switching events) that focuses on three dimensions: (1) the number of MPs and the degree of coordination, (2) the origin of switchers and (3) the destination of switchers – a parliamentary party group (PPG) or independent status. We further distinguish between switches with single and multiple destinations. Our approach sheds new light to party instability in various ways. We elucidate types of party instability to emphasize the complexity of party instability that have eluded the conceptual toolset available thus far. For example, “collective defection” (coordinated movement from one PPG to another), “collective exit” (MPs exiting their parliamentary group to become independent MPs) and “multi-PPG split” (coordinated moves from several PPGs to form a new PPG). Using preliminary data compiled for Instaparty (Party Instability in Parliaments) project from (mostly) Poland and Ireland, we find rich diversity in the forms of parliamentary party instability. While individual defections are much more common than group defections, they are clearly more dominant in Ireland than in Poland; furthermore, switches between PPGs (rather than between PPGs and independent status) have been more common in Poland. Our typology is illustrated by the analysis of the 8th Polish Sejm that provides examples of nearly all single-origin switching events and of most multi-origin ones. The new typology presents the first step of our inquiry into the patterns, causes and consequences of party switching in eight democracies (Estonia, Ireland, Italy, Lithuania, Norway, the Netherlands, Poland and Romania) from 1960s/1990s to early 2020s.

ITALY: a rupture in the Five Stars Movement

On June 21st, fifty deputies and ten senators announced their definitive rupture with the “Five Star Movement” (MoVimento 5 Stelle, M5S) and the launch of a new parliamentary group “Together for the future” (Insieme per il Futuro, IpF). The split led by Luigi di Maio, the current minister of foreign affairs and former M5S leader, was triggered by the recent disagreements on the party line regarding the government’s policies, particularly over the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Yet the tensions between di Maio and the current M5S leader Giuseppe Conte were high back in January when the two diverged on the candidate to support as the next Italian president.

As an immediate result of this fission, M5S lost its position as the largest parliamentary party group (PPG) in the lower chamber to the League (remaining the largest in the Senate, though) and a few Ministers in the current government. Seen in a longer perspective, however, the rupture may lead to the decline of the Five Stars Movement and possibly to the decay of the populist appeal in Italy.

Born as an anti-establishment, post-ideological civic movement in 2009, M5S disrupted the long-standing duopoly between centre-left and centre-right coalitions and has become one of the crucial actors in Italian politics. It was in opposition as the second largest party in the country following a striking success in the 2013 parliamentary elections with 25.6% of the vote, and entered the government after winning the largest number of seats as an individual party (32.7% of the vote) in the 2018 general contest. However, this identity shift from a protest to the mainstream (and ruling) party and incoherent programmatic offer have increasingly disappointed its voters, as reflected by the systematic drop in public support, further confirmed by M5S poor performance at the most recent local elections.

Although the most striking in terms of magnitude and consequences, the split of the Di Maio’s group is just the latest manifestation of the party’s internal turmoil. Since the beginning of the term in 2018, M5S has been affected by various instability events, which have cost it almost 50% of parliamentarians (162 out of 339 in both chambers). These include individual and collective exits to the Mixed Group (i.e. independents), defections to existing PPGs, and splits to new – more or less durable – breakaway PPGs (e.g., Alternativa in February 2021).

The creation of the “Together for the future” PPG results from a multi-party split. Besides fifty M5S deputies, its creation also involved one MP from the “Courage Italy” (Coraggio Italia, CI) PPG. His departure, preceded by an exit of another MP to the Mixed Group, led to the collapse of the CI group (as it fell below the twenty deputies required for a PPG to exist) and, eventually, to a rupture within the party. Among eighteen formally independent deputies, seven have remained party members and have established a componente politica (a subgroup within the Mixed Group composed of at least ten – or under certain circumstances three – deputies), while eleven MPs left the party and launched a separate subgroup, “Vinciamo Italia – Italia al Centro con Toti.” 

In the words of its political leadership, “Together for the future” is a ‘strictly parliamentary creature’ and, thus, will not participate in the upcoming parliamentary elections under its current name or in its current form. Instead, the defectors intend to build a party ‘on the ground’ relying on regional/local political structures, with a different name and an anti-populist identity. However, experts remain unconvinced of di Maio’s ability to launch a new party very shortly before the next general election (due no later than on June 1st, 2023) and attract voters, as the latest opinion poll indicated a drop in support for the IpF from around 2.5% to 0.7%. Therefore, at the moment, its prospects remain considerably worse than those of the Five Stars Movement.

Welcome to Instaparty: Lena Weltrich and Paulina Salek-Lipcean

Lena Weltrich and Paulina Salek-Lipcean have recently joined the Instaparty team.

Lena started as a PhD Research Fellow at the University of Bergen. While undertaking her bachelor’s and master’s degree in Germany, from the Universities of Düsseldorf and Cologne, she has spent lots of time abroad, which made her pay attention to democratic processes and party politics all over Europe.

Paulina joins the team as a Research Assistant at University College London. She holds a PhD in Political and Social Science from the European University Institute (EUI). In her research project, she investigated the trajectories of party and party system development in two post-Soviet republics, i.e. Georgia and Moldova, and the role of formal-legal factors in this process. Before starting her PhD, Paulina completed a BA and MA at the University for Foreigners in Perugia and earned a MA at the College of Europe. Her main research interests include post-communist party and electoral politics, state-building, institutional engineering and politics of transition from the communist rule.