What conditions in post-communism affect the rise of competitive political parties capable of providing significant options to the electorate? The initial wisdom held that numerous weaknesses of political society in East Central Europe impeded the consolidation of a stable party system. More recently, two distinct schools emerged to present a more structured view of political space. One relies on a substantive evaluation of political cleavages, ideological posturing, and issue relevance to map party positions and voter placements in post-communist politics. This approach concentrates on emerging social and economic cleavages as the foundation of party systems. The second approach focuses on a process perspective that looks to political mechanisms such as elections and coalition formation that act as a funnel for the formation of new party systems. This article combines the substantive and process understandings of political choice to provide a comprehensive analysis of the transformation of party systems in post-communist states. The concentration is both on the demand side of the electoral process, i.e. the formation of cleavages among the electorate, and on the supply side, i.e. the channeling of political options through institutional mechanisms. Together, the process of party evolution and the substance of party differentiation help to define the hegemonic, polarized, fragmented, and pluralist phases in the consolidation of party systems in post-communism.

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