Analysing political party development and voter attitudes towards political regimes

We conduct in-depth studies of political party development, behaviour and strategies alongside large-scale analyses of voter behaviour and attitudes towards political regimes and societies. This program brings together comparative political scientists at Griffith University from Australia, Germany, Ireland, Italy and Spain who specialise in parties and elections.

Covering a wide range of countries, our work has been published in highly-ranked journals and we collaborate with colleagues from major universities across the globe. Our research currently includes projects funded by the Australian Research Council and the Swedish Research Council.

To further the study of elections and parties in Australia and beyond, we organise annual, invitation-only workshops on topics like the accountability and democracy in South East Asia and the relationship between populist and mainstream parties.


Duncan McDonnell and Annika Werner will host leading experts from Australia and around the world at a workshop on Populist and Mainstream Parties in Brisbane from 18-20 July 2018.

The event begins with a Keynote Address by Professor Tim Bale (Queen Mary University London), entitled 'Playing with fire can get you burnt: conventional politics and populism'.

The two-day workshop examines the relationships between populist and mainstream parties in democracies such as Australia, France, India, the Netherlands, and many more.

This is the second workshop of the ‘People, Elections & Parties’ group, based at the Centre for Governance and Public Policy. The first, on ‘South-East Asia’s Democratic Recession’ took place in November 2017.

Read more about the program here.  Information regarding the keynote address by Professor Tim Bale is available here.


In a recent article in the Journal of Contemporary Asia, Diego Fossati investigates the drivers of voting behaviour in Indonesian local elections by analysing three original surveys conducted in the cities of Medan, Samarinda and Surabaya.

Results suggests that many Indonesians vote based on their perceptions of local government performance, rewarding or punishing incumbent mayors for what they do in office. This finding suggests that forms of accountability different from clientelism are developing in this large and diverse country. However, the analysis further documents substantial variation both across individuals and across cities in patterns of voting behaviour.

Read article here


Dr Lee Morgenbesser was the recipient of the Australian Research Council Discovery Early Career Research Award (2018-2020).  He will undertake the project to investigate the persistence of authoritarian rule in Southeast Asia. Against the backdrop of a global democratic recession, the project seeks to identify how dictators and dominant parties have learnt to maintain power using increasingly sophisticated techniques. Using five original case studies and three qualitative methods, the expected outcome is an explanation for the survival of authoritarian regimes that is accessible and informative to the academic, policymaking and democracy promotion communities.

The knowledge gained from this project can be used to safeguard Australia’s interest in the preservation and growth of democracy abroad. The benefits will be risk reduction in terms of decision making and improved national security.


In a recent paper in Electoral Studies, Ferran Martinez i Coma and Alessandro Nai show the importance that ethnic diversity has for electoral turnout. Using data from over 650 parliamentary elections in more than half a century across 102 democracies, the authors analyse how the fractionalisation, polarisation and concentration of ethnic diversity impacts turnout.

They find that elections in countries with more fractionalised, more polarised and more concentrated ethnic groups have a significantly and substantially lower turnout.


Southeast Asia’s Democratic Recession: Understanding Causes And Consequences

Democracy continues to face major challenges in South East Asia. By the account of many observers of the region, the quality of democracy in most South East Asian countries has been deteriorating due to factors such as the rise of populist movements, a surge in religious sectarianism, illiberal sentiments, entrenchment of unaccountable political elites and the failure to attenuate deep-seated economic inequalities.

In the first of its annual workshops in December 2017, the People, Elections and Parties research group brings together internationally established academics to discuss recent developments and future perspectives for democratic accountability in the region. Drawing from the expertise of these prominent scholars in areas such as populism, political Islam, civil society, deliberative democracy, democratisation, political parties, social media and clientelism, this workshop aims to provide an opportunity for the participants to exchange ideas, disseminate their knowledge, network and identify areas for further collaboration.

Workshop Program can be viewed here.

External grants

Program participants have received external research funding


Europe’s Divided Right. Radical right populist parties in the European Parliament

This project investigates how and why Eurosceptic radical right populist parties have formed their current alliances in the 2014-19 European Parliament (EP), where they currently sit in three separate groups. The analysis is based on exclusive interviews with key figures from 14 parties in the ECR, EFDD and EFN parliamentary groups, conducted between 2014 and 2017, in addition to party position and EP voting behaviour as well as voter data.

Chief Investigators: Duncan McDonnell and Annika Werner

First article: "Respectable radicals” in Journal of European Public Policy 2017

Respectable Radicals and the Euro-Nationalist International

Professor Duncan McDonnell

Respectable Radicals and the Euro-Nationalist International

In October 2017, Duncan McDonnell presented work at University of California, Berkeley, from his ongoing project with Annika Werner on right-wing populist parties in the European Parliament (EP).   Starts at 03:39

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