Shifting parties, constant cleavage. Party system formation along the urban-rural cleavage in post-communist Lithuania
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When studying the party system formation in post-communist Lithuania, the Western European theoretical framework is a useful, although not sufficient tool to understand this process. Weak alignments between voters and parties and unstable party systems have made it difficult to apply the Western European theoretical framework because it prerequisites a high degree of party institutionalisation. In addition to unstable electoral support for the established parties, new parties successfully emerge, but disappear, then change name, splinter and merge with other parties. This thesis introduces the Reversed cleavage model, which is an attempt to study cleavages in a post-communist setting, exemplified with the urban-rural cleavage in Lithuania. Instead of focusing upon continuous representation of political parties, the Reversed cleavage model applies cleavage continuity as a point of departure. The unstable party system in Lithuania is thereby not related to voters’ missing perception of cleavages, but to the parties’ inability to establish long-lasting alignments with the electorate. Party system formation along the urbanrural cleavage in post-communist Lithuania, is explained by shifting parties and constant cleavage.