Regulating Political Parties: European Democracies in Comparative Perspective

Regulating Political Parties
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Regulating Political Parties provides a novel and valuable contribution to the existing literature on political parties by discussing the various dimensions of party law and regulation, in Europe and other regions of the world. To what extent are political parties legitimate objects of state regulation?

What are the dilemmas of regulating political finance? To what extent are parties accorded a formal constitutional status? What are the consequences of legal bans on political parties? How do legal arrangements affect parties representing ethnic minorities?

With simple exploratory techniques correlations and tests of mean differences , some inferences are already possible even in this descriptive component. In the multilevel explanatory dimension, contextual factors region, duration of democracy, and socioeconomic control variables , as well as party-level variables origins and time of existence of each party , are included in multivariate models to explain the differences between parties in terms of membership, funding, and strength.

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In both components, we test three specific hypotheses that rely on previous findings about party membership, party finance, and organizational strength. As emphasized by Bartolini and Mair , p. As the ranks of long-term presidential democracies grow, it seems theoretically indefensible to exclude Latin American, Asian and African regimes from cross-national comparative studies of party organization. With those considerations in mind, the article proceeds as follows.

The next section briefly discusses the concepts and measures of party strength and the efforts for broad comparative research on party organizations as well as presents the hypotheses. The following section introduces the cases, data, and research design. In the final two sections, we evaluate the hypotheses and discuss the results. The findings show that parties in established democracies have less members and more money than those of newer democracies.

Among the newer democracies, mass mobilization partially compensates for the lack of money in Latin American parties. Overall, time proved to be a strong predictor of party strength, and more significant at the party than at the national systemic level. The findings challenge assumptions about the exceptional weakness of Latin American party organizations and open several avenues for further research.

Why should we care about party organizational strength? Strong parties are especially important for new democracies Van Biezen, ; Tavits, and for the institutionalization of party systems Mainwaring and Torcal, Strong parties are more resilient and adaptable to environmental challenges than weak parties, and they are better able to generate stability in the structure of competition: they offer information shortcuts to voters and are more efficient at attracting and sustaining their support over time.

Stronger parties are also more effective in formulating policy and are more accountable, since they facilitate the clarity of responsibility Tavits, , p.

The most recent survey data show that about a third of Latin American voters have party linkages—a surprising figure given the low levels of institutionalization of party systems in the region. Partisanship in the region is correlated with age, civic engagement, belief in the efficacy of political action, and access to information, which form a profile quite similar to that of advanced democracies Lupu, Party membership, party funding, and other objective dimensions of party organizations are still understudied subjects in the region Levitsky, One reason for that is the difficulty in gathering data.

Data on party membership in Latin America vary widely in terms of reliability, and countries with stronger and more independent electoral bodies such as the three cases presented here have better and more systematized information. Regarding party funding, the predominant model in the region is mixed: parties have access to both public and private resources. Latin American parties are, in general, strictly regulated by the state, and these regulations have expanded to the supervision of intraparty finances.

There is no consensus on the dimensions and indicators to measure party organizational strength Tavits, , p. The more specific and empirical-oriented literature on the subject took its first steps in the s, evaluating the impact of organizational strength on other variables such as electoral success and legislative behavior Gibson et al.

In a pioneering effort, Gibson et al. Subsequent cross-national analyses have listed some alternative dimensions to measure party strength and to test its impact over other political outcomes and processes see Janda, ; Janda and Colman, In analyzing the parties in four post-communist countries, Tavits , employs three dimensions to measure organizational strength: 1 professionalization of the central organization staff size ; 2 territorial extensiveness local presence ; and 3 membership size and activism.

She points out that the parties are not homogeneous in terms of the investment made in their organizations, even in the face of similar institutional and social settings Tavits, , p. The environment is relevant, but not determinant to understand the organizational capabilities—which confirms findings about advanced democracies Harmel and Janda, ; Gauja, ; Scarrow, Webb, and Poguntke, Stronger organizations achieve better electoral results and have a more cohesive legislative behavior Tavits, ; Challenging the recurring diagnosis about the general weakness of party organizations in new democracies, Tavits , concludes that this dimension is an important explanatory factor in their respective national contexts.

At the contextual level, a long period of stable and competitive democracy encourages party elites and party members to invest resources money, labor, time etc. Therefore, we should expect that duration of democracy and institutional stability to be important factors that strengthen party organizations Harmel and Janda, It takes time to stabilize procedures and routines, to build party attachments, to develop autonomous bureaucracies, and to expand the territorial presence of party organizations Dix, ; Van Biezen, ; Tavits, , p.

In Latin America, party age is also associated with higher levels of mass mobilization and stronger societal roots Mainwaring and Scully, , p. Nevertheless, the empirical connections between time and party strength have remained virtually unexplored until now Harmel and Janda, ; Dix, ; Harmel, Svasand, and Mjelde, The debate on party organizational strength has not always been linked to the broad collaborative efforts that have tried to gather cross-national data on party organizations. As noted by Janda ; , p. According to Janda , p.

The dominant tradition within comparative politics has been overly conservative. Students have been cautioned to limit their comparisons to "things that are similar" rather than to things that are "different. While detailed studies of "similar" parties capitalized on the researchers' expert knowledge of domestic politics in certain countries, the price paid for descriptive accuracy was narrowness of conceptualization. We must study parties where they are weak as well as where they are strong.

Ekaterina Rashkova-Gerbrands

Its main purpose is to compare party organizations based on middle-level theorizing and hypotheses, around three dimensions: 1 structures and distribution of internal influence; 2 human and financial resources; 3 representative strategies, linkages, and participation regarding groups and individuals. The project expands the coverage of this type of study towards recent democracies and follows a comparative and empirically oriented approach. Its main concepts recover dimensions of previous studies on party organizations.

However, there is no rigid or predefined interaction between those dimensions Scarrow and Webb, , p. In this sense, the dimensions encompass various types of parties, with different origins, rules, resources, internal practices, and environmental contexts. In addition, this cross-national research provides a specific indicator for measuring organizational strength. As is often the case in large-N comparative studies, the use of a relatively simple composite index—the Party Strength Index Webb and Keith, — inevitably entails some loss of particularities number of attributes ; however, it guarantees a significant improvement in extension, generalization, and explanatory power external validity.

Relying on previous findings about party membership, party finance, and organizational strength, in the next sections we test three hypotheses:. H1 - It takes time to develop strong party organizations. At the national level, we expect that parties in established democracies will be stronger than those in newer ones: the duration of the democratic regime expressed in years will have a positive impact on party organizations. H2 - Newer democracies are not homogeneously strong or weak in terms of party organizations.

At the regional level, we should find that parties are stronger in the three Latin American cases when compared to Eastern European cases due to the totalitarian legacy of post-communist countries, which prevent parties from recruiting large contingents of members Van Biezen, ; Ponce and Scarrow, 8.

H3 - At the party level, it is worth noting that there are new parties in old democracies, and old parties in recently democratized countries 9. After controlling for the duration of democracy and other contextual variables, we expect that the party age foundation and the party origin both expressed in years will have a positive impact on the party strength. In order to expand the dataset to Latin America, we included data about twenty parties from Brazil, Chile, and Mexico. Therefore, we gathered the data used here ourselves. The final dataset, with the inclusion of the Latin American parties, comprises parties in 22 countries.

Chile, Brazil, and Mexico are stable democracies with wide variation in terms of democratic trajectory and party system institutionalization since the early s. Chile was, and continues to be, one of the few cases of an institutionalized party system in the region. Brazil has experienced a gradual process of institutionalization since then, while Mexico only completed the regime transition as its party system became more open and institutionalized Mainwaring, Due to the efficiency of their electoral control bodies 11 , Brazil, Chile, and Mexico are the countries with the highest availability and reliability of data on party organizations in the region.

In order to undertake cross-national and cross-regional comparisons, expanding the coverage to Latin America, we followed the same research design used by the PPDB project Scarrow, Webb, and Poguntke, Considering the effective number of parliamentary parties 12 , we selected ten parties in Brazil, five in Mexico and five in Chile: these are the major parties in each country, based on the results in the last two general elections see the Appendix for a full list of parties by country. For the variable about the duration of current democratic regimes, we adapted the data from Cheibub, Gandhi, and Vreeland Both party membership and party income data are from the period the period covered by the PPDB , and we calculate the averages for each party and country which stabilizes the oscillations and minimizes the noise in the figures The party income is expressed in Euros.

As the z scores are calculated based upon the mean and standard deviation of the whole sample, we re-calculated the z scores for all parties. Thus, the PSI scores presented in this article are slightly different from those found in Webb and Keith see all the party scores on the Appendix, Table B. Besides the relations hypothesized above at the national H1 , regional H2 , and party levels H3 , we cannot ignore that some contextual variables can also have an impact on the two dimensions that form the PSI members and money.

In the next sections, these dimensions are always controlled for the polity size electorate , following the procedures of the PPDB Webb and Keith, Additionally, it is reasonable to expect that wealthier countries have richer parties, and that party organizations can be more dependent on labor-intensive activities in the less developed countries Norris, ; Tavits, One may still ask how much official data reported by parties to state organs are inflated and whether they can accurately indicate the participation of members within the parties.

In large-N comparative analyses, there are always problems with the data; however, they tend to be randomized, and should not impede one from finding patterns and associations between the variables. Questions can also arise about the importance of parties and party members in Latin America. As exposed in the previous section, the levels of partisanship in the region are significant, and the party attachment has influenced other political outcomes. Besides, the few studies on the subject have indicated that these are not fictitious members: there are active members in all the major parties of the region.

The country has a presidential and unitary state, with an asymmetric bicameralism. The Senate has strong legislative powers, but a reduced capacity to oversee the executive when compared to the lower house. As in other multiparty democracies, the distribution of cabinet positions among government parties is decisive in explaining the success of the executive branch.

Chile had a binomial electoral system until each district elected two senators and two deputies, and each citizen had only one vote. Parties or party coalitions could present lists with two candidates for each position Valenzuela, ; Angell, This arrangement was replaced by a proportional system in Compared to other Latin American countries, Chilean party system is usually described as highly institutionalized, with relevant social anchorage Valenzuela, ; Angell, ; Carreras, Seats in the lower house are distributed between parties or party coalitions, and the most voted candidates in each list are elected.

The coexistence of several consensual elements Lijphart, was considered problematic: the multiplication of veto players would lead the country to instability and institutional deadlocks Ames, Nevertheless, Brazil was governable until the presidential crisis, and the party system has developed a significant degree of stability over the period Mainwaring, As in Chile and Mexico, the president has extensive institutional mechanisms to induce cooperative behavior in the legislature.

Despite the extreme fragmentation of the party system in the legislature, a structure of competition organized around two blocs has been dominant in presidential races since The PMDB occupies a pivotal position in the system; along with other medium size right-wing parties, it forms a group that is willing to participate in any government coalition. The country currently adopts a mixed system: deputies are elected in uninominal districts, while are chosen in a closed list PR system. Contrary to Brazil and Chile, Mexican rules do not allow the reelection for presidency and state governors, which strengthens the political parties Palma, The Congress was a rubber stamp of the executive until The decline of PRI, the electoral reforms, and the wins of opposition parties increased the powers of parliament since then.

Nevertheless, the executive remains as the dominant actor in the system, as the president has wide legislative powers and also controls his party de facto Palma, ; Cheibub, Elkins and Ginsburg, The general elections may represent an inflection point in this scenario. Political parties are firmly regulated by state party laws in Chile, Mexico, and Brazil, and they are compelled to formalize their membership structures.

Why the left loses

In Brazil, only party members can become candidates; in Mexico and Chile, the requirements for party registration and functioning have been linked to a minimum threshold of membership Molenaar, The three countries adopted a mixed system for political funding for most of their current democratic periods. In Chile and Brazil until for the latter 16 , parties and candidates can raise private funds from companies and individuals, while in Mexico only individuals can donate.

In the three cases, the state guarantees parties and candidates free access to television and radio, through tax exemptions to broadcasting companies. This dependency on public funding varies widely across the three countries.


Even with electorally weak parties among the twenty cases e. Each Mexican party has almost two million members; each Brazilian party has around one million. The mean party membership tends to be higher in the eight newer democracies when compared to more traditional democracies.

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Title: Regulating Political Parties: European Democracies in Comparative Perspective. Author: Biezen, Ingrid van; Napel, Hans-Martien ten; Katz, Richard S . et. Regulating Political Parties: European Democracies in Comparative Perspective [Ingrid van Biezen, Hans-Martien ten Napel] on *FREE* shipping.

However, the new democracies can be divided in two groups: third-wave democracies Latin America, Portugal, and Spain and post-communist countries. As expected, party membership is below the average in the latter. Left-wing parties have a larger membership than conservative parties in the three Latin American cases—which is consistent with the traditions of party politics in the region Ames and Power, ; Levitsky et al. Table 2 presents data on party funding for all parties for which we have data. When we consider the mean party income relative to the polity size last column , it is clear that Chilean, Brazilian, and Mexican parties have less financing capacity than the PPDB round 1a parties: on average, only 19 cents of euros per registered voter per year in Brazil and Chile, and 44 cents in Mexico.

However, if we consider the size of national economies GDP , there is no difference: on average, each party receives annually 23, euros per billion euros of GDP, both in the Latin American cases and in other democracies.

Regulating political parties -European democracies in compar ative perspective

Social democratic parties are richer than center-right parties in Latin America. Table 2 also shows that parties in newer democracies are richer than those in more traditional democracies, when controlling for the national GDP. However, when controlling for the size of national electorates, parties in established democracies perform much better last column. This indicates that the two factors must be evaluated together, through the GDP per capita. The newer democracies are highlighted in black.

See all the party scores in the Appendix, Table B. When we look at the average per country Table 3 below , it is clear that Mexican parties are stronger than Chilean and Brazilian parties, and older democracies have parties with more resources. The average PSI among new democracies is - 0. With regard to party families in Latin America, social democrats and socialists nine parties are stronger than conservative parties 11 : the averages are 0. The variables analyzed so far were included in OLS regression models with party membership, party income, and party strength as dependent variables separate models for each dependent variable , with both country-level and party-level aggregations.

Due to the high levels of multicollinearity between some factors as the socioeconomic control variables , the tables present only the best model for each dependent variable. At the country level Table 4 , the HDI has the most significant effect on party membership: the most developed countries have less party members. The GDP per capita is the variable that best predicts the party funding and the overall party strength, with a positive impact on both indicators. On the other hand, the duration of democracy reference is has no significant effect, when controlled for the socioeconomic context.

Source : Calculated by the authors from PPDB round 1a data raw data, standardized by the authors and official records for Latin American countries. Standard errors in parentheses. Controlling for other variables, an additional decade of party origin means an increase of 0. In this case, both contextual and party variables have a significant impact, with the prevalence of the former: old parties in contexts of low HDI have more members.

The models on Table 6 include dummy variables to test the differences between Latin America and Eastern Europe three countries in each. When controlling for region and socioeconomic context, the duration of democracy is the main explanatory variable of party membership: the older the democracy, the lower the quantity of party members. However, this effect is not constant across the regions. Latin American parties have more members than parties in the other regions though not significant at the level 0.

As the most important finding, party origin remains as the main explanatory variable of both income and party strength, with strong and significant positive effects. The impact of party origin on the organizational strength remains almost the same when we include the regions in the model a decade brings an increase of 0. This means that the time component has a consistent effect on the organizational strength at the party level. The results presented in the previous section corroborate some of the expectations derived from the literature.

Regarding our first hypothesis, the tests of mean differences show that parties in established democracies are stronger than those of newer democracies, primarily because they are much richer. However, when controlling for the socioeconomic context GDP or HDI and the party-level variables party origin , this relationship become less pronounced.

This finding suggests that duration of democracy should not be the only factor to be considered when analyzing party strength and party institutionalization in a comparative perspective. The socioeconomic context matters Tavits, Overall, older democracies have less party members. However, as they are the wealthiest countries, the party income partially compensates for the difficulties in mass mobilization—which confirms previous findings Bartolini and Mair, ; Mair and Van Biezen, ; Scarrow, Webb, and Poguntke, Supporting the second hypothesis, the findings show that not all recently democratized countries perform in the same way.

Controlling for national GDP, party-level variables and size of the electorates, the parties in the three Latin American cases are stronger than the Eastern European parties, as the mass mobilization compensates for the lack of money only in the first group. While differences between countries and regions are relevant, party-level variables also need to be considered. A second key contribution concerns the role played by the historical party origin: the organizational legacy is an important factor in explaining party strength. This finding endorses the importance of infrastructure and brand inheritance in party strength and survival, a point highlighted in previous studies Van Biezen, ; see the authors in Levitsky et al.

Time is crucial for the consolidation of party organizations, mainly at the party level, which produces large within-country variations in both advanced and newer democracies Dix, ; Tavits, ; Gauja, In the multilevel analysis, the effects of the socioeconomic context and the duration of democracy are mediated by the differences at the party level. Overall, time proved to be more important at the party level than at the national level.

Therefore, the differences between new and old democracies can be explained, at least in part, by the differences in terms of party origin. Established democracies have many more older parties than newer democracies do: in the former, the averages are 70 years old for party origin and 60 years old for party age; in the latter, the averages are 44 and 26 years respectively.

The findings suggest that, in comparative perspective, old parties in new democracies can be stronger than new parties in old democracies. Finally, the data support the view about the bigger capacity and willingness of socialist and social-democratic parties to build strong organizations in Latin America Ames and Power, ; Levitsky et al. A systematic analysis about the influence of ideology and the patterns related to the party families can be a productive path for further research.

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In short, the historical party origin can be considered a crucial dimension for the analysis of party organizational development and institutionalization. Why does time matter? It takes time to develop societal attachments and organizational complexity and autonomy, as well as to adapt to the environment Panebianco, The particular conditions under which the parties develop should also matter. During the golden age of parties in the most traditional democracies s and s , parties that experienced the institutionalization process as opposition parties for a long time tended to build stronger organizations, when compared to parties in government Panebianco, , chapters 4—5.

However, access to government and to public resources is more important for organizational strengthening and survival in contemporary democracies, which may have reversed this equation Katz and Mair, The conditions of institutionalization and the microfoundations of the time effect on organizational change and strengthening Pierson, should be explored in future research, probably in case studies with more qualitative methods.

The same generational dilemmas seem to affect the parties founded in the late 20th century: organizations built by and for the party in public office face, with strong state regulation, in a social and technological environment that did not require the construction of extensive communication channels with the electorate. This generational pattern—mainly at the party level—seems to be more relevant than regional distinctions Van Biezen, In this sense, the article shows the viability and importance of adopting cross-regional perspectives in the study of party organizations in Latin America.

The major difference between the Latin American cases and the PPDB round 1a parties is about party finance—which is expected given the low per capita income in the region. However, Chilean, Brazilian, and Mexican parties are better able to recruit members than Eastern European parties, due to the totalitarian legacy of post-communist contexts Van Biezen, , p. Party members are still important: they may represent an alternative multidimensional resource to political parties in the poorest and most unequal democracies, where other resources money are limited Norris, ; Scarrow, Although highly discontinuous, parties in Latin America have historical trajectories that make the difference today.

The results for Eastern Europe, on the other side, suggest that the legacy of the past does not always bring positive effects. The differences between the two regions are also connected to the particularities of the democratic transitions. While left-wing parties gradually entered the party systems in several Latin American countries Levitsky et al.

When we consider that socialist and social democratic parties put more effort into building strong organizations everywhere Webb and Keith, , these particularities also influence the results in the cross-regional analysis. As in the majority of the established democracies, parties in most Latin American countries operate under rigid state regulations and have formal members, formal processes, and executive and deliberative organs with perennial functioning not only during elections , disposed in hierarchical structures Molenaar, Of course, the three countries analyzed here do not tell the full story of Latin American parties.

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Following the PPDB criteria, we selected the electorally strongest parties, from three party systems with relatively high levels of institutionalization. In this sense, a next step would be the inclusion of other countries in cross-regional comparative studies, particularly those with lower levels of party system institutionalization, such as Argentina and Peru Mainwaring, This article shows that time matters.

However, other factors should also be considered when analyzing the differences in terms of party strength. The presidential system—predominant in Latin America—does not seem to be a decisive factor in explaining the differences in terms of party strength in a cross-national perspective.

This does not mean that the separation of powers is irrelevant to party organizations.

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As we argued about the time effect, this impact has never been systematically tested to date. As noted by Key long ago, parties in presidential systems face governing dilemmas when their presidential candidates succeed. As the parliamentary group does not have the power to dismiss the president, these conflicts can be quite severe Besides the presidential system, other institutional factors e. At the party level, the conditions under which the party was founded authoritarian versus democratic contexts , the participation in the national government, the electoral performance, and strategic choices made by party elites can also be hypothesized in future studies.

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Comparative Political Studies , Presidential Campaigns, — Kalandrakis, T. European Journal Of Political Research , 55 3 , — Party Politics , 20 4 , — Google Scholar. Similar to the other countries surveyed, we found that Australian political parties have more robust online than offline data privacy policies.

As the general elections in Mexico and Brazil have demonstrated, organizational strength does not guarantee the stability of party systems or the maintenance of electoral bases of major parties. The advancement of anti-establishment, far-right movements and leaders in countries as different as Brazil, Germany, Italy, and Austria has challenged the traditional parties, breaking the expected association between organizational strength and other processes and outcomes. Nevertheless, strong party organizations remain important for new democracies Tavits, As highlighted by Dix in his initial diagnosis, political parties may still be important for the consolidation of democracy in contemporary Latin America.

Party strength index rankings in descending order, by party.