Transition from authoritarian rule and democratic consolidation: The electoral nexus. An ecological study of the Spanish general elections 1977-2000
The research questions posed in the dissertation are related to our understanding of the role played by elections during processes of transition from authoritarianism and the subsequent consolidation of democratic rule. In this, the lessons drawn from the Spanish experience after the demise of the Franco dictatorship in 1975 are assessed. Various researchers have pointed to the fact that the political elites that forged the transition from authoritarianism, in addition to the immediate task of restoring democracy as such, more or less deliberately sought to institutionalise a set of societal divisions into manifest political cleavages through free and competitive elections in a particular sequential fashion. However, although the notion of an electoral sequence has been generally well argued at the level of political elites and political parties, it has been far less established in terms of the behaviour of the individual voters. Thus, the overarching assumption guiding the investigation in the dissertation is that there must somehow have been a nexus between the elite efforts to guide the process of turning pressing societal divisions into manifest cleavages and the structuring of electoral behaviour along these very same cleavages. Particular emphasis is put on the territorial dimension of Spanish politics. It is a long-established fact Spain has had to struggle with recurring tensions between the political Centre on the one hand and the economically advanced Basque and Catalan Peripheries on the other. In the wake of the transition, this was a pressing problem concerning the legitimacy of the very state. In fact, given the hard suppression suffered under the Franco regime, it was an open question whether the integrity of the Spanish state could be maintained when the voters after forty years of compulsory silence were given a say in politics. Another pressing issue was that of social reform and economic redistribution, for long left more or less left unattended by the Right-wing dictatorship. And, lastly, the impetus for neo-liberal reforms that took hold internationally in the 1980s had to be dealt with also in Spain. Thus, taking as point of departure the notion of an elite guided sequential transformation of societal divisions related to the issues of the political regime, the territorial structure of the state, the issue of economic redistribution, and, lastly, the impetus for neo-liberal reforms, all observed at the elite level, the dissertation probes into how and to what extent this alleged sequence was reflected in terms of the structuring of voter behaviour between 1977 and 2000. Thus, the overarching research question in the dissertation is stated as follows: How and to what extent may electoral participation and party choice in Spain between 1977 and 2000 be understood in relation to how the parties and voters handled the problems posed by the transition from authoritarianism and democratic consolidation, with particular reference to the sequence of translation of the societal divisions into manifest cleavages? Taking this question as point of departure, the theoretical foundations for what I have coined the electoral nexus in transitions from authoritarian rule and democratic consolidation are discussed. Derived from general theory on democratisation, party building, elections and cleavage formation, a set of overarching assumptions related to the loci of change and stability in newly enfranchised polities are presented. These assumptions serve as the basis for the elaboration of a conceptual framework for the study of the behaviour of the voters in terms of electoral mobilisation, stabilisation and competition. Then the Spanish case of a transition from a long-lasting authoritarian regime in a polity ridden by a profound territorial problem is presented. The alleged timing and the sequence of the attempts to transform a legacy of societal divisions into manifest cleavages are discussed. In terms of data and methodology, seven datasets for pairs of elections between 1977 and 2000 based on electoral returns from the more than 8.000 Spanish municipalities are elaborated. Then, the methods for estimating changes between elections in the proportions of voters tied to aggregate units are catered to and the LOGIT method for cross-level inference explained and discussed. Further, a conceptualisation of ‘Centre’ and ‘Peripheries’ in relation to the Spanish case is addressed and a so-called radial typology for the study of electoral behaviour along the territorial dimension elaborated. Then, a general overview of official electoral results and party systems are offered and the overarching assumptions on electoral behaviour presented earlier are specified into a set of ten hypotheses that are put to test in the empirical analyses: First, the macro level variation between pairs of elections in terms of aggregated correlations between proportions of the electorate at pairs of consecutive elections are assessed. Second, an analysis of the inferred behaviour of individual voters for the seven pairs of elections between 1977 and 2000 for Spain as a whole is conducted. In this, the specific role played by electoral abstention in Spain is addressed. The main focus, however, is on identifying trends and changes in the electoral profiles of the various components of the party system(s) in relation to their positions on the main political cleavages. Third, an analysis as to how electoral mobilisation and demobilisation have been structured along the main cleavages, with particular emphasis on the territorial dimension of Spanish politics is conducted. Fourth, the dynamics of electoral stabilisation in relation to the territorial dimension with particular reference to the notion of nationalisation of party voting in terms of differentiation between the Centre and the Peripheries is conducted. Fifth, the analysis of how and to what extent the electoral competition between the parties has been structured along the territorial dimension. Thus, briefly summarised, the conclusion is that electoral mobilisation and demobilisation has played a pivotal role in the formation of the party systems(s) in Spain, both in temporal and in territorial terms. The patterns of electoral mobilisation and demobilisation have to a substantial extent been structured according to the timing of the translation of societal divisions into manifest cleavages along the Left-Right axis and at the same time been structured in accord with the general theory on Centre and Peripheries. Second, the Centre-Periphery axis and the Left-Right axis have co-varied in line with the notion that the Spanish Left came to accept that the territorial restructuring of the state was paramount to the consolidation of democracy. Consequently, to the extent that the electoral participation and party choice in Spain between 1977 and 2000 can be understood in relation to how the parties and voters handled the problems posed by the transition from authoritarianism and democratic consolidation, the differentiation of the effect of the Centre-Periphery cleavage along the Left-Right axis is paramount to the understanding of the electoral nexus between the sequence of cleavage translation and the behaviour of the enfranchised citizenry in the modern Spanish democracy.
PublisherUniversitetet i Tromsø
University of Tromsø
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