How party linkages shape austerity politics: clientelism and fiscal adjustment in Greece and Portugal during the eurozone crisis

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Colleges, School and Institutes

External organisations

  • Leiden University
  • University of Lausanne


Drawing on an analysis of austerity reforms in Greece and Portugal during the sovereign debt crisis from 2009 onwards, we show how the nature of the linkages between parties and citizens shapes party strategies of fiscal retrenchment. We argue that parties which rely to a greater extent on the selective distribution of state resources to mobilize electoral support (clientelistic linkages) are more reluctant to agree to fiscal retrenchment because their own electoral survival depends on their ability to control state budgets to reward clients. In Greece, where parties relied extensively on these clientelistic linkages, austerity reforms have been characterized by recurring conflicts and disagreements between the main parties, as well as a fundamental transformation of the party system. By contrast, in Portugal, where parties relied less on clientelistic strategies, austerity reforms have been more consensual because fiscal retrenchment challenged to a lesser extent the electoral base of the mainstream parties.


Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)315-334
Number of pages21
JournalJournal of European Public Policy
Issue number3
Early online date6 Oct 2014
Publication statusPublished - 12 Aug 2015


  • austerity, clientelism, Eurozone crisis, Greece, political parties, Portugal