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The Dynamics of Two-Party PoliticsParty Structures and the Management of Competition$
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Alan Ware

Print publication date: 2009

Print ISBN-13: 9780199564439

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: September 2009

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199564439.001.0001

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Why Major Parties Collapse

Why Major Parties Collapse

(p.23) 2 Why Major Parties Collapse
The Dynamics of Two-Party Politics

Alan Ware (Contributor Webpage)

Oxford University Press

This chapter and the next one examine why previously major parties might lose that status and become minor parties. It argues that Schelling's idea of a ‘focal arbiter’ is useful in explaining why major parties tend to have opposition channelled through them. After an analysis of party collapse in the Canadian provinces, the argument is developed that it is the ‘focal arbiter’ role and their ability to secure resources that accounts for party persistence. Four factors are identified as relevant in explaining the susceptibility of parties to collapse: (i) how much they channel political careers, (ii) the extent of partisan loyalty among voters, (iii) the resources required for contesting an election, and (iv) rewards available to party leaders. The argument that collapses are the result of electoral realignment is rejected, and instead it is argued that in nation states collapse has occurred when parties have been ‘fighting on two separate fronts’.

Keywords:   party collapse, focal arbiter, Canadian provinces, electoral realignment, British parties, American parties, party resources

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