x !
Arkistoitu opetusohjelma 2015–2016
Selaat vanhentunutta opetusohjelmaa. Voimassa olevan opetusohjelman löydät täältä.
POLVOA41/S28 The North European Centre Parties: centre parties with a small ‘c’? 5–10 ECTS
Period I Period II Period II Period IV
Language of instruction
Type or level of studies
Intermediate studies
Course unit descriptions in the curriculum
Politiikan tutkimuksen tutkinto-ohjelma
School of Management

General description


At the April 2015 general election the Finnish Centre Party became the largest party for the third time in the last four general elections, a remarkable achievement for a former farmers’ party in a post-modern, post-Nokia society. Indeed, the Finnish Centre has boasted no less than four prime ministers over the course of the first decade and a half of the new millennium. Elsewhere in Northern Europe there are Centre Parties with a capital ‘C’ in Estonia, Norway and Sweden. All the Nordic Centre parties originated as class-based agrarian parties that changed their name in response to social structural change (industrialization and urbanization) in the period 1957-1965. The Estonian Centre Party is a more recent post-communist-era phenomenon (growing out of the revolutionary Popular Front) which took its name from the Swedish Centre. All the North European Centre Parties (except the non-EU Norwegian) work together in the ALDE (The Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe) group in the European Parliament whilst the Nordic Centre Parties form part of the Centre Group in the inter-parliamentary consultative body, the Nordic Council.

Theoretical Focus

However, as Reuven Hazan has observed, “a Centre-label party need not be a centre or a middle party”. Accordingly, the course considers what sort of parties the North European Centre Parties are. How ‘central’ have these Centre Parties been – central in the sense of playing a central role in government-building, occupying a central position on the political spectrum and able to combine in coalition with parties both to the political left or right? The analytical starting point is the rather neglected notion of a ‘pivotal centre party’ (Keman 1994; 2010) and its close relative the ‘hinge centre party’. The literature (Abedi and Siaroff 2010) has tended the use these terms interchangeably but in this course it is argued that it is useful to retain a distinction between them. Other core course concepts include ‘party change’, the ‘catchall party’ and ‘legislative party system dynamics’.

The Empirical Body of the Course

Three measures of centrality are proposed: i) electoral dominance ii) ideological centrality iii) strategic coalitional centrality. These are then applied in turn to the four North European Centre Parties.

Lecture Schedule

19/1 Introduction. The Scandinavian Party System(s)

21/1 Analysing ‘party change’. From Farmyard to City Square

26/1 The Swedish Centre. From a policy-seeking to an office-seeking paty?

28/1 The Norwegian Centre. Forever a sing-interest party?

2/2 The Finnish Centre. A ‘genuine pivot party’?

4/2 Analysing ‘party system change’. Legislative party system realignment?

9/2 Are the Nordic Centre-label parties centrist parties?

11/2 Centre-label parties. A future?

Enrolment for University Studies

Email registration by 11 January essential

Enrolment for Open University Studies

Suoritusvaihtoehto 1: sähköinen kirjallinen tentti
Haku 13.8.2015 alkaen ympäri lukuvuoden

Suoritusvaihto 2: osallistuminen opetukseen
26.11.2015 alkaen

Pakolliset edeltävät opinnot: POLPOP02 Valtio-opin johdantokurssi


David Arter, Teacher responsible


19-Jan-2016 – 11-Feb-2016
Lectures 16 hours
Tue 19-Jan-2016 - 9-Feb-2016 weekly at 12-14, Linna K113
Thu 21-Jan-2016 - 11-Feb-2016 weekly at 10-12, Linna K113


Numeric 1-5.

Evaluation criteria

Compulsory course attendance  and student project.

Assessment essay (Finnish or English)

Deadline February 26

‘Out of the Nordic Centre-label parties, only the Finnish Party is a centrist party’ How far would you agree?

Study materials


Arter, David (2001) From farmyard to city square? (There are chapters on all the Nordic Agrarian Centre Parties)

Arter, David (2016) Scandinavian Politics Today Third Edition (Background material on the Scandinavian party system and the extent to which it has changed

Christensen, Dag Arne (1997) ‘Adaptation of Agrarian Parties in Norway and Sweden’ Party Politics (journal) 3, 3, 391-406

Hämäläinen, Unto ‘Vallankaappaus suomessa’ Helsingin Sanomat Kuukausiliite Maaliskuu 2015

Nieminen, Martta, ‘Keskusta törmää mielikuvamuurin’ Helsingin Sanomat 31.1.2015

Keman, Hans (1994) ‘The search for the centre: pivot parties in West European party systems’ West European Politics (journal) 17, 4, 124-148

Bakker, R.C. (2014) ‘Measuring party positions in Europe’ Party Politics 21, 1, 143-152

Worre, Torbjörn (1980) ‘Class parties and class voting in the Scandinavian countries’ Scandinavian Political Studies 3, 4, 299-320

Kääriäinen, Seppo (2002) Sitä Niittää Mitä Kylvää (Jyväskylä: Gummerus)