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The Winner-Loser Divide?: A Comparative Analysis of Voting Behaviour and Cleavage Formation in Post-Communist Party Systems (WINLOSE)
Start date: Sep 1, 2013, End date: Aug 31, 2015 PROJECT  FINISHED 

The proposed project consists in a comparative analysis of the impact of the ‘transition winner/loser’ divide on political cleavages in four post-communist party systems: Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Hungary. It has two key purposes: (i) to identify whether winner/loser cleavages emerged in these countries over the first two decades of transition, and (ii) to explain these outcomes in comparative perspective. From the beginning of the post-communist transition, the notion of ‘winners’ and ‘losers’ was commonplace. Observers expected that the new inequalities introduced by the logic of the market society and the differentiated adjustment of social groups would deepen and crystallise social hierarchies, to the benefit of those individuals who possessed the capital to take advantage of new opportunities and the detriment of those who lacked such capital. Many also predicted that the winner/loser divide would form the basis of political divides in the emergent party systems, and that these divides would subsequently harden into lasting political cleavages.Although the winner/loser divide has been employed in a number of country studies, the literature on this topic is lacking in three respects: (i) no studies use a comprehensive theoretical approach that treats the divide as both objective and subjective in nature; (ii) there are currently no comparative, diachronic studies focusing directly on this cleavage that cover the whole of the transition period, and (iii) few studies to date have analysed the regional, aggregate-level dimension of this divide using appropriate methods. The proposed project will fill this research gap. Such research is particularly relevant at present in light of the potentially profound impact of the European economic crisis on the nature of party politics in the region, since the generation of new cohorts of ‘losers’ is likely to have significant implications for the development of the still-nascent party systems of the region.
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