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Is government good for Greens? : Comparing the electoral effects of government participation in western and east-central europe

Rudig, Wolfgang (2006) Is government good for Greens? : Comparing the electoral effects of government participation in western and east-central europe. European Journal of Political Research, 45 (Supple). S127-S154. ISSN 0304-4130

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Examining the record of Green parties that have been involved in government at national level, two distinct pictures emerge. While the electoral fortunes of Green parties in East-Central Europe sharply declined after their stint in government, Green parties in Western Europe on the whole have not fared badly, with most experiencing gains in support. This article seeks to address the variety of factors that could account for different Green electoral fortunes. Among the approaches considered are economic voting, environmental issue salience, portfolio allocation, policy impact and strategic voting. While economic and environmental background factors clearly were important in the East-Central European cases, they are less useful in explaining variation between the West European experiences. The ability of Greens to improve their perceived policy competence and the profile of their leading politicians has helped them benefit from a period in office. Most crucially, Greens can benefit from strategic voting where a Green vote comes to represent support for the government as a whole. The main conclusion is that there are two paths to post-incumbency success: either Greens try to remain distant from taking full government responsibility, thus deflecting any electoral costs of incumbency, or they embrace government and the chance of demonstrating their competence fully to survive or fall with the government as a whole.