The Great Recession and Party System Change

PRUF Working Paper No. 2

  • Thomas Poguntke
  • Johannes Schmitt


This chapter will focus on the political fallout of the Great Recession of 2008/09 and the subsequent economic and financial crisis on a group of EU member states whose political fortunes became closer connected in the wake of the crisis than ever before. Therefore we analyse the emergence and success of new parties, their main programmatic features and their effect on established parties and, as a consequence, the functioning of these systems in Germany, Spain, Italy, Greece and Portugal. Following a brief overview of the economic and political developments during the crisis, this chapter will conceptualise party system change and formulate theoretical expectations concerning the effects of the Great Recession on party systems. In sum, we show that all countries except Portugal have experienced major party system upheaval and that the type of change differs markedly between the Southern countries and Germany. While the Southern party systems have primarily seen the rise of left-wing challengers, a right-wing, populist party with an (initially) neo-liberal economic programme emerged in Germany.