CSES: a short history and new challenges
The launch of the new Comparative Study of Electoral Systems (CSES) blog is a perfect occasion to reflect upon CSES’ 22 years history and its future challenges. CSES was a joint initiative of the established election studies in a number of European countries, since 1989 joined in ICORE, and the American National Election Studies. It was kicked off in a memorable conference in Berlin in 1994.
The pièce de résistance at this meeting was a stimulus paper written by representatives from the established election studies in Western Europe and the US. This paper focused on the effect of political institutions on political behavior and the mechanisms of representative democracy. This focus lead to a fierce debate. Representatives from developing democracies argued that the paper hardly took into account the specific problems new democracies were facing. They wanted to know what kind of political institutions would enhance people’s support for democracy. As a consequence the impact of political institutions on people’s support for democracy became a second main research topic.
Ever since its tumultuous start CSES has been a tremendous success, both from an organizational and substantive perspective. We have learned a lot more about the impact of electoral institutions both on political behavior and people’s assessment of the performance of democracy. But what we have learned might be a bit disappointing for whoever might have thought that CSES would find us the Holy Grail containing the toolbox to design the best possible political institutions for an effective and sustainable system of representative democracy. Continue reading “CSES: A Short History and New Challenges”