The geography of electoral volatility in Hungary: a core-periphery perspective

  • Zoltán Bertus Geographical Institute, Research Centre for Astronomy and Earth Sciences, Eötvös Loránd Research Network, Budapest, Hungary
  • Zoltán Kovács Geographical Institute, Research Centre for Astronomy and Earth Sciences, Eötvös Loránd Research Network, Budapest, Hungary ; Department of Economic and Social Geography, University of Szeged, Szeged, Hungary
Keywords: electoral geography, volatility, Pedersen Index, cleavages, party system, core-periphery, Hungary


Electoral volatility is understood in the literature as a sign of political instability, weakening social cohesion and the declining influences of existing political parties which threatens the healthy functioning of representative democracy. In this paper, using the Pedersen Index we measure electoral volatility in Hungary at the settlement level between the last three parliamentary elections (2010, 2014 and 2018), with special attention to the geographical aspects of the phenomenon. According to our preliminary assumptions those social groups switch their votes frequently who are marginalised, therefore, the level of volatility may reflect peripheriality. Our results show that high volatility can be detected in the two opposite sides of the settlement hierarchy in Hungary: in bigger cities and smaller villages, but for very different reasons. This study gives evidence that electoral volatility can also be considered as a possible indicator in the delimitation and classification of peripheral areas and settlements. The paper aimed to contribute to the understanding of cleavage formation at the regional level by adding a spatial perspective while connecting the socioeconomic profile of the voting population and electoral volatility.


Ágh, A. 2016. The decline of democracy in East-Central Europe. Problems of Post-Communism 63. (5-6): 277-287.

Ascher, W. and Tarrow, S. 1975. The stability of communist electorates: Evidence from a longitudinal analysis of French and Italian aggregate data. American Journal of Political Science 19. (3): 475-499.

Bakke, E. and Sitter, N. 2005. Patterns of stability party competition and strategy in Central Europe since 1989. Party Politics 11. (2): 243-263.

Bartolini, S. and Mair, P. 1990. Identity, Competition, and Electoral Availability: The Stabilisation of European Electorates 1885-1985. Cambridge, Cambridge University Press.

Bertus, Z. 2017. Investigating the background of radical right-wing mobilisation in Hungary with regional statistical methods. Regional Statistics 7. (2): 190-208.

Bértoa, F.C., Deegan-Krause, K. and Haughton, T. 2017. The volatility of volatility: Measuring change in party vote shares. Electoral Studies 50. (3): 142-156.

Bértoa, F.C. and Rama, J. 2020. Party decline or social transformation? Economic, institutional and sociological change and the rise of anti-political-establishment parties in Western Europe. European Political Science Review 12. (4): 503-523.

Birch, S. 2001. Electoral systems and party systems in Europe East and West. Perspectives on European Politics and Society 2. (3): 355-377.

Birch, S. 2003. Electoral Systems and Political Transformation in Post-Communist Europe. New York, Palgrave Macmillan.

Birnir, J.K. 2004. Stabilising party systems and excluding segments of society? The effects of formation costs on new party foundation in Latin America. Studies in Comparative International Development 39. (3): 3-27.

Birnir, J.K. 2006. Ethnic voting and party system stability. In Ethnicity and Electoral Politics. Author: Birnir, J.K., Cambridge, Cambridge University Press. 83-113.

Coppedge, M. 2018. Freezing in the Tropics: Explaining Party-System Volatility in Latin America. Available at

Crewe, I. and Denver, D. (eds.) 1985. Electoral Change in Western Democracies: Patterns and Sources of Electoral Volatility. New York, St. Martin's.

Daalder, H. and Mair, P. 1983. Western European Party Systems: Continuity and Change. London, Sage.

Dalton, R.J., Flanagan, S.C. and Beck, P.A. (eds.) 1984. Electoral Change in Advanced Industrial Democracies: Realignment or De-alignment? New Jersey, Princeton University Press.

Dalton, R.J. 1996. Political cleavages, issues, and electoral change. In Comparing Democracies: Elections and Voting in Global Perspective. Eds.: LeDuc, L., Niemi, R.G. and Norris, P., Thousand Oaks, CA, Sage, 319-342.

Diamond, L.J., Lipset, S.M. and Linz, J.J. 1989. Introduction: Politics, society, and democracy in Latin America. In Democracy in Developing Countries, Vol. IV. Latin America. Eds.: Diamond, L.J., Lipset, S.M. and Linz, J.J. Boulder and London, Lynne Rienner and Adamanture Press, 1-58.

Elster, J., Offe, C. and Preuss, U.K. 1998. Institutional Design in Post-Communist Societies. Cambridge, Cambridge University Press.

Emanuele, V., Chiaramonte, A. and Soare, S. 2020. Does the Iron Curtain still exist? The convergence in electoral volatility between Eastern and Western Europe. Government and Opposition 55. (2): 308-326.

Egedy, T., Kovács, Z. and Szabó, B. 2018. Changing geography of the creative economy in Hungary at the beginning of the 21st century. Hungarian Geographical Bulletin 67. (3): 275-291.

Enyedi, Z. 2016. Populist polarisation and party system institutionalisation. Problems of Post-Communism 63. (4): 210-220.

Fiorina, M.P. 1981. Retrospective Voting in American National Elections. New Haven, Yale University Press.

Franklin, M.N., Mackie, T.T. and Valen, H. (eds.) 1992. Electoral Change: Responses to Evolving Social and Attitudinal Structures in Western Countries. Cambridge, Cambridge University Press.

Gomez, R. 2015. People are running, but where are they heading? Disentangling the sources of electoral volatility. Comparative European Politics 16 (2): 171-197.

Goubin, S., Hooghe, M. and Okolikj, M. et al. 2020. Economic inequality and electoral accountability: inequality and differences in economic voting across Western democracies. Comparative European Politics 18. (26): 793-818.

Haggard, S. and Kaufman, R.R. 1995. The Political Economy of Democratic Transitions. New Jersey, Princeton University Press.

Haggard, S. and Kaufman R.R. 1996. The political economy of democratic transitions. Foreign Affairs 75. (2): 145-146.

Hruška, V., Czapiewski, K. and Kovács, Z. 2015. Rural economic development in the post-agricultural era: policy recommendations. Studia Obszarow Wiejskich / Rural Studies 39. 129-144.

Ilonszki, G. and Várnagy, R. 2016. Parliamentary elections in Hungary, 2014. Electoral Studies 43.169-172.

Inglehart, R. 1990. Culture Shift. New Jersey, Princeton University Press.

Inglehart, R. 2008. Changing Values among Western Publics from 1970-2006. West European Politics 31. (1-2): 130-146.

Johnston, R.J., O'Neill A.B. and Taylor, P.J. 1987. The geography of party support: comparative studies in electoral stability. In The Logic of Multiparty Systems. International Studies in Economics and Econometrics. Vol 17. Ed.: Holler, M.J., Dordrecht, Springer. 265-279.

Kern, A., Marien, S. and Hooghe, M. 2015. Economic crisis and levels of political participation in Europe (2002-2010): The role of resources and grievances. West European Politics 38. (3): 465-490.

Kevický, D. 2021. Themes, approaches, and methods in the geographical analysis of Czech and Slovak parliamentary elections: a systematic review. Acta Universitatis Carolinae, Geographica 56. (2): 248-261.

Kiewiet, D.R. 1983. Macroeconomics and Micropolitics: The Electoral Effects of Economic Issues. Chicago, University of Chicago Press.

Kinder, D.R. and Kiewiet, D.R. 1979. Economic discontent and political behavior: The role of personal grievances and collective economic judgements in congressional voting. American Journal of Political Science 23. 495-527.

Kitschelt, H. 1994. The Transformation of European Social Democracy. Cambridge, Cambridge University Press.

Kitschelt, H., Mansfeldova, Z., Markowski, R. and Toka, G. 1999. Post-Communist Party Systems: Competition, Representation and Inter-Party Cooperation. Cambridge, Cambridge University Press.

Kovalcsik, T., Szabó, B., Vida, Gy. and Boros, L. 2021. Area-based and dasymetric point allocation interpolation method for spatial modelling micro-scale voter turnout in Budapest. Geographia Technica 16. (1): 67-77.

Kovács, Z. and Vida, Gy. 2015. Geography of the new electoral system and changing voting patterns in Hungary. Acta Geobalcanica 1. (2): 55-64.

Kriesi, H. and Pappas, T. (eds.) 2015. European Populism in the Shadow of the Great Recession. Colchester, ECPR Press.

Lang, T. 2015. Socio-economic and political responses to regional polarisation and socio-spatial peripheralisation in Central and Eastern Europe: a research agenda. Hungarian Geographical Bulletin 64. (3): 171-185.

Lewis-Beck, M.S. and Rice, T.W. 1984. Forecasting presidential elections. A comparison of naive models. Political Behavior 6. 9-21.

Lewis-Beck, M.S. 1990. Economics and Elections: The Major Western Democracies. Ann Arbor, University of Michigan Press.

Lipset, S.M. and Rokkan, S. 1967. Cleavage structures, party systems, and voter alignments: An introduction. In Party Systems and Voter Alignments: Cross-National Perspectives. Eds.: Lipset, S.M. and Rokkan, S., New York, Free Press, 1-64.

Madrid, R. 2005. Ethnic cleavages and electoral volatility in Latin America. Comparative Politics 38. (1): 1-20.

Mainwaring, S. and Scully, T. 1995. Building Democratic Institutions: Party Systems in Latin America. Stanford, CA, Stanford University Press.

Mainwaring, S. and Zoco, E. 2007. Political sequences and the stabilisation of interparty competition: Electoral volatility in old and new democracies. Party Politics 13. (2): 155-178.

Markus, G.B. 1988. The impact of personal and national economic conditions on the presidential vote: A pooled cross sectional analysis. American Journal of Political Science 32. 137-54.

Ocana, F. 2007. An approximation problem in computing electoral volatility. Applied Mathematical Computing 192. (2): 299-310.

Pacek, A.C. 1994. Macroeconomic conditions and electoral politics in East Central Europe. American Journal of Political Science 38. 723-744.

Palonen, E. 2018. Performing the nation: The Janus-faced populist foundations of illiberalism in Hungary. Journal of Contemporary European Studies 26. (3): 308-321.

Papp, S., Nagy, Gy. and Boros, L. 2017. A kedvezményezett települések objektív életminőség alapján történő lehatárolási lehetőségei (Alternatives for the delimitation of the favoured settlements according to quality of life in Hungary). Területi Statisztika 57. (6): 639-664.

Pedersen, M.N. 1979. The dynamics of European party systems: Changing patterns of electoral volatility. European Journal of Political Research 7. (1): 1-26.

Pedersen, M.N. 1983. Changing patterns of electoral volatility in European party systems, 1948-1977: Explorations in explanation. In: West European Party Systems: Continuity and Change. Eds.: Daadler, H. and Mair, P., London, Sage, 29-66.

Pénzes, J. 2013. The dimensions of peripheral areas and their restructuring in Central Europe. Hungarian Geographical Bulletin 62. (4): 373-386.

Pénzes, J. and Demeter, G. 2021. Peripheral areas and their distinctive characteristics: The case of Hungary. Moravian Geographical Reports 29. (3): 217-230.

Piven, F.F. 1991. Labour Parties in Post-industrial Societies. Cambridge, Polity Press.

Pósfai, Z. and Nagy, G. 2017. Crisis and the reproduction of core-periphery relations on the Hungarian housing market. European Spatial Research and Policy 24. (2): 17-38.

Powell, G.B. and Whitten, G.D. 1993. A cross-national analysis of economic voting: Taking account of the political context. American Journal of Political Science 37. 391-414.

Powell, E. and Tucker, J. 2014. Revisiting electoral volatility in post-communist countries: new data, new results and new approaches. British Journal of Political Science 44. (1): 123-147.

Powell, E. and Tucker, J. 2017. Little is known about party system volatility in post-communist Europe, but we have interesting new methods and data for studying it. British Journal of Political Science 47. (1): 235-239.

Pridham, G. 1990. Securing Democracy: Political Parties and Democratic Consolidation in Southern Europe. London and New York, Routledge.

Remmer, K.L. 1991. The political impact of economic crisis in Latin America in the 1980s. American Political Science Review 85. (3): 777-800.

Roberts, M. and Wibbels, E. 1999. Party systems and electoral volatility in Latin America: A test of economic, institutional, and structural explanations. American Political Science Review 93. (3): 575-590.

Schaub, M. and Morisi, D. 2020. Voter mobilisation in the echo chamber: Broadband internet and the rise of populism in Europe. European Journal of Political Research 59. (4): 752-773.

Sikk, A. 2005. How unstable? Volatility and the genuinely new parties in Eastern Europe. European Journal of Political Research 44. (3): 391-412.

Szabó, B. and Tátrai, P. 2011. Területi különbségek a pártpreferenciákban Szlovákiában, 1992-2010 (Regional differences in party preferences in Slovakia, 1992-2010). Tér és Társadalom 25. (4): 61-80.

Szabó, B. 2013. Az új parlamenti pártok szavazóbázisának jellemzői Budapest példáján (Characteristics of the voter base of the new parliamentary parties in Budapest). Politikatudományi Szemle 22. (3): 93-116.

Szczerbiak, A. 2017. An anti-establishment backlash that shook up the party system? The October 2015 Polish parliamentary election, European Politics and Society 18. (4): 404-427.

Tavits, M. 2005. The development of stable party support: Electoral dynamics in post-communist Europe. American Journal of Political Science 49. (2): 283-298.

Tavits, M. 2008. On the linkage between electoral volatility and party system instability in Central and Eastern Europe. European Journal of Political Research 47. (4): 537-555.

Taylor, A., Tátrai, P. and Erőss, Á. 2018. Visible minorities in remote areas: a comparative study of Roma in Hungary and Indigenous people in Australia. Hungarian Geographical Bulletin 67. (1): 43-60.

Toka, G. 1995. Parties and electoral choices in East Central Europe. In Stabilising Fragile Democracies: Comparing New Party Systems in Southern and Eastern Europe. Eds.: Pridham, G. and Lewis, P.G., London-New York, Routledge, 100-125. Available at

Uzzoli, A., Egri, Z., Szilágyi, D. and Pál, V. 2020. Does better availability mean better accessibility? Spatial inequalities in the care of acute myocardial infarction in Hungary. Hungarian Geographical Bulletin 69. (4): 401-418.

Van Biezen, I. 2003. Political Parties in New Democracies: Party Organisation in Southern and East-Central Europe. New York, Palgrave.

Voda, P. and Svačinová, P. 2020. To be central or peripheral? What matters for political representation in amalgamated municipalities? Urban Affairs Review 56. (4): 1206-1236.

How to Cite
BertusZ., & KovácsZ. (2022). The geography of electoral volatility in Hungary: a core-periphery perspective. Hungarian Geographical Bulletin, 71(1), 67-81.