Innovation and adaptation in contemporary left-wing parties: Lessons from Southern Europe

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Left-wing parties in contemporary democracies have to face huge organizational and competitive dilemmas. This article aims at examining party change and adaptation of left-wing parties by focusing on Southern European countries. By re-examining three key areas of party change - the linkage between parties and civil society, the ideological and programmatic dimension and party organization - this research contributes to understand the trajectory and the characteristics of contemporary left-wing parties. Although there is an increasing convergence with regard to the three dimensions, left-wing parties in new democracies are able to respond to more flexibly to external challenges compared to the main Italian left-wing party. This process shows that left-wing parties are adopting a model based on personalized leadership, moderate stances and flexible roots with regard to civil society. The different outcome of these responses is a central element for explaining the institutional and governmental performances. Yet this study argues that the success is inevitably fragile because of the erosion of stable partisan links between left-wing parties and the electorate.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)60-79
Number of pages20
JournalPerspectives On European Politics And Society
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Apr 2010


  • Left-wing parties
  • Party change
  • Social democracy
  • Southern Europe


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