Parties and Interest Associations


How inclusive and open are the major parties in their internal decision-making processes?

The party allows all party members and supporters to participate in its decisions on the most important personnel and issues. Lists of candidates and agendas of issues are open.
There are two major parties, the Democratic and Republican parties, operating at the local, state and federal levels in nearly all areas of the country. Unlike in parties in parliamentary systems, individual office holders (for example, members of Congress) decide their own positions on policy issues, subject to informal influence from party leaders. Thus, party programs or platforms, amounting to collective statements of party policies, do not exist. A national party platform is written every fourth year at each party’s presidential nominating convention but is rarely referred to after the convention.

The occasion for intra-party democracy is therefore the nomination of party candidates for office. Party nominations are determined by primary elections and open caucuses conducted within each party in each state, thus putting these decisions directly in the hands of ordinary party members. The Trump nomination underscored the critical views of analysts about the dangers of relying on ordinary party members to select party nominees. Nevertheless, former supporters of Senator Bernie Sanders’ unsuccessful pursuit of the 2016 Democratic presidential nomination have successfully pressured the Democratic party to reduce the role of party leaders in the 2020 presidential nomination contest.
The party restricts decision-making to party members. In most cases, all party members have the opportunity to participate in decisions on the most important personnel and issues. Lists of candidates and issue agendas are rather open.
The political parties have a membership structure and are democratic organizations. Parties have annual meetings where policies are determined and leaders elected. They are open to the press and covered widely.

Four of the political parties represented in the Danish parliament – the Liberal Party, the Social Democratic Party, the Social Liberal Party and the Conservative Party – have existed for more than 100 years and have all regularly participate in government. Since they are either in power or have the prospect of being in the next government, they have a strong interest in proposing plausible and coherent policies, and it is fair to say that they do so. This is reinforced by the fact that most governments are minority governments and the country’s tradition of consensus-driven policies. There is a strong tradition of broad compromise and agreement, and daily politics is less partisan than in some other countries.
Newer parties (e.g., the second largest party currently in the parliament, the Danish People’s Party, or the Alternative) may be more tempted to propose popular, even populist, policies. However, parties that aspire to participate in future governments have to moderate their views. The Danish People’s Party provided the necessary parliamentary support for the previous liberal-conservative minority government (2009 to 2011) and the current three-party government, and has managed, in this way, to promote some of the party’s core issues (e.g., elderly and immigration policy). Similarly, the Socialist People’s Party participated in government for the first time in 2011, although it left the government in January 2014 because of internal disagreements over the policies pursued by the coalition.
Antal medlemmer i partigrupperne, (accessed 10 October 2015)

Jørgen Grønnegård Christensen and Jørgen Elklit (eds.), Det demokratiske system. 4. udg., Chapter 3. Hans Reitzels Forlag, 2016.

Websites of the Danish political parties currently represented in the parliament (Folketinget) in order of representation after the June 2015 election:
The Social Democratic Party:
The Danish People’s Party:
The Liberal Party:
The Unity List:
The Liberal Alliance:
The Alternative:
The Social Liberal Party:
The Socialist People’s Party:
The Conservative Party:
At the time of writing, three major parties hold seats in the Finnish parliament (Eduskunta). Although empirical research on intra-party democracy has so far mainly dealt with the Center Party (Kesk), there is little doubt that the findings of this research can be assumed to apply to the other major parties as well. Generally, the structure of internal decision-making systems within political parties has developed in two directions. While active party members operate in voluntary, subnational organizational units, national policy functions are decided by career politicians who constitute the party elite. This dualism places power in the hands of party elites, and most particularly the party chairs. This has led to a marginalization of party members from the executive functions within each party. As intra-party meetings are the highest decision-making institutions within political parties, the average party member participates in party meetings only indirectly by helping to elect delegates.
Karina Jutila, “Yksillä säännöillä, kaksilla korteilla”, Dissertation, University of Tampere, 2003; Rauli Mickelsson, “Suomen puolueet. Historia, muutos ja nykypäivä”, Tampere: Vastapaino, 2007; Vesa J. Koskimaa, Intra-Party Power: The Ascendancy of Parties’ Public “Face”, in Lauri Karvonen, Heikki Paloheimo and Tapio Raunio, eds. The Changing Balance of Political Power in Finland, Stockholm: Santérus Förlag.
In the 2013 parliamentary elections, four out of 15 parties gained more than 10% of the votes. These four parties constitute Iceland’s traditional four-party system. These four parties all hold their national conventions, which are the supreme decision-making forums for the parties, every second year. The conventions issue resolutions on major public policy issues, which oblige the members of parliament of the respective party to abide by these directives. Representatives from the regional and local party units of all parties have the right to participate in party conventions. The number of representatives attending is proportional to the number of party members in each unit. The nomination processes vary slightly among parties. Most parties have a tradition of primary elections in which only party members have the right to vote. For example, in the case of the Social Democrats, a signed declaration of support is required, rather than the stricter and more common requirement of party membership. The Progressive Party has different rules, under which most constituencies have a constituency board (Kjördæmisráð) that selects candidates to a constituency congress (Kjördæmisþing). The number of representatives of each local party unit is equal to the proportion of each unit’s membership to the total membership of all units. At these congresses, candidates are elected one by one. The recently established party Bright Future (Björt Framtíð), which won six seats in 2013, four in 2016 and zero in 2017, did not nominate candidates by primary elections before the 2016 election, but thereafter developed its procedures for internal decision-making. Regeneration (Viðreisn), a liberal party founded in 2016, also does not hold primary elections. The Pirate Party (Píratapartýið), which won three seats in 2013, 10 in 2016 and seven in 2017, was the largest party according to opinion polls from 2015 onward. The party held electronic primary elections in every constituency in autumn 2016. Further, the Pirate Party uses internet platforms to conduct open debates on many policy issues. Due to the limited time for election campaigning in 2016, the traditional parties skipped primary elections in some constituencies and used alternative nomination methods within the party organization. The time factor was even more important in the very sudden parliamentary elections held on 28 October 2017. After the cabinet coalition breakup of 15 September 2017, there was little time for selection procedures. Therefore, all parties except the Pirate Party used the most effective nomination method – to just propose lists and put the decisions in the hands of the constituency congresses. The People’s Party (Flokkur fólksins) and the Centre Party (Miðflokkurinn), two parties that gained parliamentary seats for the first time in October 2017, did not have any open selection procedures either. Meanwhile, the Pirate Party held electronic pre-elections countrywide.
Inner-party democracy has different levels of intensity within the four major political parties: Christian Social People’s (CSV), Democratic Party (DP), Luxembourg Socialist Workers’ Party (LSAP) and Déi Gréng. The CSV has used its current oppositional role to pursue an internal modernization process while remaining faithful to its core principles. The party is engaging in internal structural reforms, while seeking to integrate more individual members and opinions into the process. However, since the end of 2013, a small group of CSV politicians known as the “Dräikinneksgrupp” has demanded an even stronger reorientation. This group has focused on strengthening internal dialog and moving toward a grassroots democracy and has called for a new culture of participation. The CSV adopted new internal governance statutes in December 2015. After defeat in the October 2018 elections, the question of reform within the party was raised again. However, the party’s structures have probably since been further encrusted and intra-party reforms have not been sufficiently implemented.

The social democratic LSAP has expressed a clear determination to deepen its grassroots approach in the future. Internal party democracy for the liberal DP is limited by the power of a board of directors (“Comité directeur”), which makes most of the crucial decisions. Déi Gréng recently avowed a clear commitment to its grassroots movement, a principle it has followed since the party’s foundation. While CSV and DP tend to be top-down, the socialists and greens have adopted the opposite approach.
Stoldt, Jürgen: “Welche Zukunft für die Volksparteien?”, February 2015. Accessed 24 Oct 2018.

“Die Hoffnung stirbt zuletzt.” Letzebuerger Journal. 16 Oct. 2018. Accessed 24 Oct. 2018.

“Le CSV a mené « une campagne invisible et médiocre ».” Quotidien. 22 October 2018. Accessed 24 Oct. 2018.

“Die Luxemburger haben den großen Parteien einen Dämpfer verpasst – bis auf einer: Die Grünen konnten bei der Parlamentswahl am Sonntag zulegen.” Accessed 17 Dec. 2018.
All political parties give special preference to their members in terms of internal decision-making. Party manifestos are approved at annual party meetings, while regional party meetings nominate their constituency’s electoral candidates. Non-party members can be nominated as electoral candidates, but this is rare and happens mostly in small municipalities in local elections. In most parties, attempts are made to anchor major policy agendas in the views of party members and party representatives. Although there is some variation, membership in political parties has been in a decline for some time. In some instances, new initiatives were launched by party leaders without prior consultation with the party membership, but this is rather rare. Concerns have recently been raised about structural biases in nomination processes that favor active party members’ preferences over those of average voters who rarely have or take the time to become active in political nomination processes. Some political parties have therefore begun experimenting with new modes of nominating and picking candidates. Compared to many other European countries, political parties remain strong organizations in Norway and the threshold for establishing new political movements is rather high.
Politics in Sweden is party politics. The political parties shape public discourse on political issues and control public decision-making at all levels of the political system. All the major parties have developed extensive party organizations, in part supported by state subsidies. Party membership has historically been high but has declined over the last couple of decades. Elected delegates from all constituencies make decisions on party policy and programs at national conferences. These meetings are increasingly public events, used not only as forums to make decisions, but also to market the party politically. Beyond that, however, rank and file members are very rarely consulted or invited to voice their opinions on daily policy issues.

Candidate selection, too, is an internal party matter. Voters do have the opportunity to indicate support for specific candidates, however.

Over the past years, the internet has played a role in making the decision-making process within the major parties more open. The Social Democratic party, for instance, discussed some issues of the party’s platform in blogs and on its homepage. In such instances, even those who are not members of the party can join in the formulation of the party’s platform.
There are currently three major political parties at the federal level in Canada: the Liberals, the Conservatives and the New Democrats.

In April 2013, the Liberal Party of Canada elected Justin Trudeau as their new leader, through an open-voting process that included non-party members. The policy formation process is also relatively open, new ideas are gathered from Liberal members and supporters through local groups, then written up as policy resolutions that are voted on and prioritized first within provincial and territorial associations and then at the Liberal Party’s biannual conventions. All resolutions passed at the convention become official party policy. The Liberal Party currently forms the Canadian government and Prime Minster Justin Trudeau arguably has a more inclusive leadership style than his predecessor.

Until his resignation in the aftermath of the October 2015 election, the Conservative Party was tightly controlled by party leader and then Prime Minister Stephen Harper. Decisions on policy and electoral strategy were generally made by a small number of senior officials close to him. While grassroots views and resolutions passed at party conventions provide input into the decisions of the elite, they are not binding. For example, many Conservative Party members support restrictions on abortion, but this was not adopted as party policy for fear of alienating the general public. In May 2017, the Conservative Party of Canada chose Andrew Scheer, former Speaker of the House of Commons, as the new party leader in a tightly contested vote.

Unlike the Conservatives or the Liberals, the New Democratic Party is integrated with its provincial and territorial counterparts, except in Nunavut, the Northwest Territories and Quebec, making it difficult for members to support different parties at the federal and provincial levels. At the October 2017 convention, Jagmeet Singh was elected leader of the New Democrats. Singh is the first person of an ethnic minority background to be elected leader of a federal party. A wide range of views are expressed at New Democratic Party policy conferences, but all policy resolutions passed are non-binding on the party leadership.

Given their short time in office, it is too soon to evaluate either Scheer or Singh’s leadership styles. Time will tell if they deviate from current party practice.
The Basic Law stipulates intra-party democracy. Generally, party leaders of the coalition government were re-elected without facing major opposition for party leadership. No direct participation of party members regarding important policy decisions took place. The parties retained traditional hierarchical decision-making processes and candidate-election procedures. However, at the end of October 2018, Chancellor Angela Merkel announced that she would not run for re-election as CDU party chair. Breaking with traditional procedures, a plurality of candidates stood for election as party chair and ultimately three candidates openly competed for the party leadership. In an open and nationwide campaign, the candidates tried to attract the votes of party members. In December 2018, a party convention elected Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer as the new party chair. As a rule of thumb, the recent party leader will run for the chancellorship in the next national elections.

Particularly important policy challenges usually lead to fierce debates within the political parties. This was precisely the case for the SPD in the TTIP negotiations and the CDU/CSU concerning the refugee policy. However, party members have had little direct influence in these debates. Decision-making is limited to representatives at the party congresses and is firmly controlled by party elites.
The eleven parties with Knesset seats following the 2015 elections demonstrate varying levels of intra-party democracy. The Israel Democracy Institute (IDI) has issued a Party Democracy Index, a mechanism that allows voters to evaluate the degree of internal democracy practiced by political parties. In this assessment on the eve of 2015 elections, the long-standing rightist Likud party and the Labor party were ranked top. In fact, the three topmost parties, Likud, Labor and the Arab Joint List (AJL), showed above average of intra-party democracy. However, other parties demonstrated very low intra-party democracy, especially ultra-orthodox parties and right-wing parties. New parties, mostly centrist parties, such as Yesh Atid (YA), Kulanu and Hatnua displayed middling intra-party democracy scores. In 2018, the Parties Act of 1992 was amended to allow candidates in a given (and large enough) party’s primary elections to loan (and – in accordance with many conditions – to receive) funds from the state treasury for their campaign and to regulate how much a candidate can spend in a given campaign. The law also enforces supervision and oversight over a given party’s primary elections and party register by the State Comptroller in order to ensure the propriety of the overall procedure.

The Likud, the Labor and the Jewish Home (JH) parties all choose their candidates through primary elections. In this internal election process, registered party members are given the right to choose Knesset candidates. The parties that use this method require a minimum membership duration in order to vote in the primary. The Labor, Likud and JH parties also have elective representative institutions that take part in decision-making processes such as the selection of the parties’ representatives in the government, votes on whether their parties will join or leave a governing coalition, and debates over policy stances. In other parties such as the YA party, the Kulano party and the Israel Beytenu party, some consultation with party members is conducted, but important decisions are made by top ranking members. For example, according to the YA party’s regulations, the party’s leader and founder will remain leader until the end of the 20th Knesset. Moreover, in both parties, the regulations authorize the party’s leader to decide on most important personnel issues, such as the list of electoral candidates. These figures also hold considerable power within the party’s institutions, thus retaining significant influence over policy decisions.
The Knesset website: “Parliamentary groups of the Twentieth Knesset,”

Adameker, Yaki. “After Walla!News’ Exposure: Netanyahu Blocks the ‘Immunity Act.’” Walla!News. 2018: (Hebrew)

Adameker, Yaki. “First Publish: MK Zohar’s Bill to Prevent an Indictment Against Netanyahu.” In Walla!News. October 23rd, 2018 (Hebrew):

Adameker, Yaki. “‘This Is How the End Looks Like’: MK Cabel Assults the Labor’s Chairman Gabbay.” In Walla!News. June 22nd, 2018. (Hebrew):

Arlozorov, Meirav. “The Likud Behaves as a Monopoly.” In TheMarker website. February 22nd, 2018. (Hebrew).

Bender, Arik. “First Publish: Submission to the Likud Stopped Because of Fear from ‘the New Likudniks.’” In Ma’ariv Online website. August 14th, 2017. (Hebrew):

Bender, Arik. “New Initiative to Prevent Donations from Ministers Supporting ‘the New Likudniks.’” In Ma’ariv Online website. September 17th, 2017. (Hebrew).

Bender, Arik. “The Party Membership of 12 ‘New Likudniks’ Was Rescinded.” In Ma’ariv Online website. October 30th, 2017. (Hebrew).

Chay, Shachar. “MK Peretz: ‘Gabbay Changes the Character [or nature] of the Party.’” In Ynet. June 24th, 2018. (Hebrew).,7340,L-5295112,00.html.

Hecht, Ravit. “After Very Difficult Two Weeks, in the Likud People Are Being Torn between Loyalty to the Leader and Supporting the Law Enforcement Authorities.” In Ha’aretz website. March 1st, 2018. (Hebrew).

Kenig, Ofer and Shapira, Assaf, “Primary Season in Israel,” Israel Democracy Institute, 2012.
Khoury, Jack. “Israeli Arab Party Fails to Condemn Assad’s Gas Attack in Syria, Slams U.S. Strikes.” In Ha’aretz website. April 9th, 2017.

“Law Bill.” In the Knesset’s official website (regarding “Bill of the MKs’ Immunity, Rights and Duties Act (Amendment – Immunity from Criminal Judgement),” by Miki Zohar). Last seen: October 25th, 2018. (Hebrew).

Levinson, Chaim. “A Strike to Gabbay: The Court Cancelled the Labor Party’s Conference Planned for Today.” In Ha’aretz website. June 24th, 2018. (Hebrew).

Levinson, Chaim. “Between Going to Meretz and Joining Gantz: the Zionist Camp’s in Crisis, and MKs are Looking for a Way Out.” In Ha’aretz website. June 27th, 2018. (Hebrew).

“Likud’s Constitution,” Likud Website (Hebrew).

“Netanyahu Following Ma’ariv’s Exposure: ‘The New Likudniks – Old Leftists.’” In Ma’ariv Online website. August 24th, 2017. (Hebrew).

Nir, Shay. “Grenades in the APC: ‘The Ruling [lit. decision] Speaks for Itself.’” In FirstThing website. June 19th, 2018. (Hebrew).

“Our principles,” Habayit Hayehudi Party website, (Hebrew), (English).

“Provincial Judge on Avi Gabbay: ‘Behaviour [lit. management] that Reminds Dark Regimes.’” In Israel Today website. June 25th, 2018. (Hebrew).

Sawa’ed, Khader. “The Conflict in the Arab Society Surrounding the Civil War in Syria.” In the INSS official website. March, 2018. (Hebrew).

Shalev, Tal. “First Publish: Avi Gabbay Aims [lit. acts] to Cancel Elections to the Labor’s Conference.” In Walla!News. June 8th, 2018. (Hebrew).

Shalita, Chen. “With Drawn Swords: In the Likud People Already Prepare to the Day After Netanyahu.” In Globes website. December 16th, 2017. (Hebrew).

Solomon, Ido. “The New Likudniks’ Question: Who Are They Really?.” In Mako. August 25th, 2017. (Hebrew).

“The History of the Movement – The Likud Party.” In the Likud Party’s official website. Last seen: October 28th, 2018. (Hebrew).

“The Kulanu Party Regulation: Wide authority to the Chairman, Will decide on his own if to join the coalition.”
Haaretz Newspaper website: (Hebrew)

“The Likud Party’s Platform.” In Globes. February 22nd, 2015. (Hebrew).

“The New Likudniks | Agenda.” In the New Likudniks’ official website. Last seen: October 28th, 2018. (Hebrew).

“The New Likudniks | Blog.” In the New Likudniks’ official website (regarding the ideological emphasis on social-democratic elements and the roots in Jabotinsky’s ideology in the group’s agenda). January 31st, 2018. (Hebrew).

“The Party Democracy Index,” Israel Democracy Institute, 2015.

“The Party’s Institutions,” Labor website (Hebrew).

The Political Parties Act, 1992. (Hebrew). (Most specifically, chapter B, “Funding Primary Elections,” mark D, “Special Provisions as to the Issue of Granting Primary Elections” [lit. primary elections that grant]; the mark itself is amendment number 24 to this law, in force since 2018)

“The Recommendations Act Approved Officially [lit. finally] – The Bill Was Supported by 59 MKs and Opposed by 54.” In the Knesset’s official website (a press release). December 28th, 2017. (Hebrew).

Verter, Yossi. “Netanyahu is Isolated as Never Before, and the Doomsday Weapon is On his Desk.” In Ha’aretz website. November 10th, 2017. (Hebrew).

Verter, Yossi. “The Bluff Is Revealed: It Can’t Be Argued that Bitan and Amsalem Act Separately of the Mothership.” In Ha’aretz website. November 24th, 2017. (Hebrew).

“Yesh Atid Party’s Regulation,” Yesh Atid Website (Hebrew).

Zarhia, Zvi, “Financial Aid to Politicians” The Marker, 16.7.2017,
Lithuanian parties usually restrict decision-making to party members. Although in many cases, all party members can participate in important decisions, their capacity to influence the most critical party decisions is insufficient. Some political parties are more democratically structured than others: in 2007, the Social Democratic party of Lithuania, the Lithuanian Christian Democrats and the Homeland Union were found to be the most democratic in terms of internal decision-making. The latter two parties have since merged to form a party whose leader is directly elected by all party members. In 2018, this party selected its candidate for president (Ingrida Šimonytė) during primary elections, which were open to members of the public in addition to party members. In 2017, members of the Social Democratic party of Lithuania directly elected the party’s chair for the first time in the party’s history. Gintautas Paluckas, the young deputy mayor of Vilnius, won the party election and started the process of renewing the party elite. Between 2001 and 2015, the party was dominated by members over the age of 50. As a result of Paluckas’ victory, the party leadership decided to split from the ruling coalition led by the Lithuanian Farmers and Greens Union. Most of the party’s members of parliament continued to support the Skvernelis government after forming the parliamentary group of the Social Democratic and Labor party and establishing a new political party.

Some other political parties are primarily used as a platform for their leaders to express their own political interests. Following the success of non-party candidates in the 2015 municipal elections, the Lithuanian Farmers and Greens Union brought together a group of non-party candidates for the 2016 parliamentary elections. Many of these candidates, campaigning as a movement rather than a political party, won against candidates of established political parties. Many of Prime Minister Skvernelis’ parliamentary group and government ministers are not party members.
G. Žvaliauskas, Ar partijos Lietuvoje yra demokratiškos? Technologija, Kaunas, 2007.
G. Žvaliauskas, Lietuvos socialdemokratų partijos elito kaita 2001–2015 m. laikotarpiu, Viešoji politika ir administravimas, 2017, T. 16, Nr. 1, p. 52-67.
Spain’s political landscape now includes four major parties that draw more than 10% of the popular vote at the national level: the center-right party PP, the social-democratic PSOE, the left-wing party Podemos and the liberal Ciudadanos party.
The PP, traditionally characterized by opaque internal decision-making processes, introduced a primary vote in 2018 for decisions on its leadership. The process was marked by some controversies, since only 58,000 party members voted (5% of the supposedly registered members).
The PSOE is a less president-driven organization, in which internal debate on electoral programs is common and even public, frequently involving some of the regional branches (especially the powerful Andalusian and Catalonian sections, the latter of which is formally an independent party). The manner in which the PSOE selects its leader and main candidates is quite open. Pedro Sánchez (who became prime minister a year later) won an election to the party leadership in 2017 against the wishes of the party machine.
Finally, both Podemos and Ciudadanos present themselves as more internally democratic than either the PP or the PSOE, insofar as they formally allow all party members and supporters to participate in personnel, program and controversial decisions. However, despite the rhetoric in these two new parties, closed party leaderships were able to fully control the most important decisions, including the appointment of their charismatic leaders to serve as prime-ministerial candidates.
May 2018, El Pais, Podemos leaders win confidence vote,

June, 2018, El diario, En qué se diferencian las ‘primarias’ del PP de las de PSOE, Podemos y Ciudadanos,
The extending of powers to party members and their friends that originated in the 1990s has suffered a backslash in the last five to eight years. Attempts to reach “consensus” and other practices cancel or limit the exercise of these powers. In recent presidential and parliamentary elections, the leadership within parties decided important issues, in breach of party procedures on candidate selection and other issues. Thus, grassroots bodies and members were in practice deprived their powers.

The Democratic Rally (Δημοκρατικός Συναγερμός, DISY) sought in recent years “consensus” and the leadership proposed “strong” candidates, avoiding in some cases established rules of procedure. This was the case in both intra-party and public-office elections. The nomination of the presidential candidate for 2018 was merely the formal approval of the previously announced candidacy of the incumbent president. DISY’s electoral programs are drafted and approved at a high level, with issues and proposals formulated on the basis of opinion surveys and communications consultant advice. Amendments to the party’s statutes in 2018 increased the leader’s powers and his highly personal management approach.

The Progressive Party of the Working People (Ανορθωτικό Κόμμα Εργαζομένου Λαού, AKEL) adheres to the principle of democratic centralism. Party members and their friends have nomination and selection rights, in a process that lacks transparency. The party congress (1,200 cadres) elects the Central Committee (CC, 105 members), which in turn elect the secretary general. AKEL’s presidential candidate is selected by party cells, on proposals by the CC and a vote by an extraordinary congress. Electoral programs are approved by the party’s governing bodies.

The Democratic Party (Δημοκρατικό Κόμμα, DIKO) applies a direct vote for its leadership. However, the CC (150 members) nominates the presidential candidate, while regulations set the procedures for nomination of candidates to other offices. The CC also approves the electoral program.
Parties are usually both centralized and organized hierarchically. There are few registered fee-paying political activists. These are all serious limitations to the inclusiveness of citizens. Many politicians are not selected by a party; they are individuals who have made their breakthrough locally and impose themselves on the party apparatus. In the case of the Macron movement, the change is even more radical: candidates were selected from a pool of volunteers with most candidates lacking any prior political experience. In contrast, national politicians normally have a concrete and ground-based knowledge of people’s aspirations and claims based on local experience. Another factor is the popular election of the president. Candidates’ programs are inclusive; no policy sector is forgotten in their long to-do list. A third factor lies in recent changes in the selection of candidates for presidential elections. Primaries have taken place, first within the Socialist Party, then in the neo-Gaullist conservative Union for Popular Movement (UMP). In those cases, both registered activists and voters sympathetic to the party are eligible to participate. Actually, this “opening” of the process contributes to a further weakening of the parties which are already very feeble organizations. The strong participation in the primaries (up to 4.4 million in the case of the conservatives, a multiple of the number of registered members) is a form of citizen participation in a crucial political party decision, which can be seen as a positive sign for open and democratic legitimation of the party’s choice. However, in spite of this apparent success, the primaries in France have confirmed the American experience: they are the most efficient instruments for weakening and destroying political parties. The socialist and conservative primaries have been profitable to the most radical candidates in both cases, deserting the moderate political space and thus permitting the landslide success of the centrist Macron. As a result, the traditional parties of government are deeply divided and weakened. Five years will not be too much for these parties to attempt to reconstruct themselves. As for the movement of the new president, La République en Marche, it remains purely a product of and for Macron. It has not yet been able to transform itself into a political party capable of playing a proper role in decision-making and mediation between citizens and government in spite of being the largest political movement at present with 400,000 supporters (although most supporters are followers rather than activists).
With regard to intra-party democracy, Italy’s major parties differ significantly. At one end of the spectrum lies the Forza Italia party (previously called the People of Freedom Party’s or Popolo della Libertà), where decision-making and leadership selection are both fundamentally dominated by its leader, Silvio Berlusconi. Requests to adopt primaries to designate candidates for leading positions at national and subnational levels were recurrently aired but have always been stopped by Berlusconi. With the decline of Berlusconi, the party is largely in disarray. The situation is rather different in the main center-left party, the Democratic Party, where leadership has in past years been selected through primaries open not only to party members but to anyone willing to subscribe a declaration of support for the center-left coalition. A similar procedure was adopted for the selection of parliamentary candidates.

The Five Star Movement (Movimento Cinque Stelle) of Beppe Grillo has introduced new mechanisms of online direct consultations for decisions and for candidate selection. At the same time, behind the scenes (and sometimes openly), the leader of the movement has maintained for himself a very strong steering and veto role. Internal oppositions have found it very difficult to have a space for voicing their positions and cases of dissidents expelled from the party have been frequent.
Northern League party activists and members selected their current leader, Matteo Salvini, through primaries in 2017.
Overall intra-party democracy in Italy’s political system is not well established and shows a large degree of variation across parties. In particular, it seems difficult to balance an increasing personalization of leadership and the preservation of internal debate. Discussions about regulating the internal dynamics of political parties are recurrent, but have not been implemented.
Party decisions and party lists are formally produced at conventions of party members or delegates. A 1999 analysis of local party organizations found that Swiss parties – with the exception of the Green party – prioritized party leaders’ strategic capabilities over membership participation. This tendency has increased in recent years.

However, these oligarchic tendencies are arguably not the primary problem with regard to inclusion in Swiss parties. The decline in party membership and party identification – particularly in the case of the Radical and Christian Democratic parties – along with the low level of party resources, may be even greater problems since party decisions are being made by an increasingly shrinking active party membership base.
A distinction needs to be made for all major parties between the election of the leader, on which party members have a say, and the selection of other personnel or decisions over major issues, for which there are generally much more restrictive procedures. The selection of parliamentary and local council candidates usually involves local party members. Annual party conferences notionally have a major role in settling policy positions, but in practice it is party leaders that have the most significant role.

The Conservative Party restricts decision-making to party members. In most cases, a number of selected delegates participate in the most important personnel and issue decisions. Central party influence over candidate selection has varied in recent years. David Cameron introduced a “priority list” with at least 50% women and significant representation from ethnic minorities, from which all target seats and Conservative-held seats were supposed to be selected. In the run-up to the 2010 election and in the wake of the parliamentary expenses scandal, this requirement was relaxed. After the general election, selection rules reverted to the post-2005 procedure. The party leader is elected by a poll of all party members, who choose from a shortlist of two candidates nominated by Conservative Party members of parliament.

The Labour Party also restricts decision-making to party members, although trade union influence remains strong. In most cases, a number of selected delegates participate in important personnel and issue decisions. Central party influence over local candidate selection has varied. Since 1988, there has had to be at least one woman on every shortlist. Since 2001, candidates require the approval of the central party’s head office prior to selection by their respective constituency Labour Party. Some political allies of the current leader, Jeremy Corbyn, favor a return to mandatory reselection, which would increase the influence of the left-wing within the party and is therefore highly contested. The Labour Party’s selection process for party leader was changed prior to the election of Jeremy Corbyn. Previously the old electoral college voted for the party leader. The college consisted of the Parliamentary Labour Party, constituency Labour parties, and the trade unions and affiliated organizations. Each group had one-third of the total vote. Since the procedural change, the choice is now based on a “one member, one vote” system. In addition, “registered supporters” can pay £3 to be entitled to vote as well. The winning candidate must secure at least 50% of the vote. Consequently, the election process can take several rounds, as the candidate with the fewest votes after each round drops out, and their second preferences are redistributed to the remaining candidates, until the winning candidate has reached the required quorum. However, Corbyn won more than 50% of the vote in the first round. While the new procedure massively increased party membership and participation in the leadership election, the distribution of indicated preferences between party members, members of affiliated organizations and registered supporters varies considerably. Registered supporters appear to be much further to the left of party members or members of affiliated organizations. Furthermore, in the wake of the Brexit referendum result and accusations that Corbyn had not campaigned effectively enough for “remain,” Corbyn’s leadership of the Labour Party was challenged. Though in a repetition of the previous Labour Party leadership election, the election resulted in another clear victory for Corbyn. However, this raised questions about the representativeness of the newly enlarged membership and its effect on party leadership elections. Nevertheless, after Labour surprisingly managed to win 40% in the 2017 general election (only 2.4 percentage points less than the Conservatives) and thereby discredit the claim it had become widely unelectable after the change in leadership, Jeremy Corbyn has stabilized his control of the party.
The party restricts decision-making to party members. In most cases, a number of elected delegates participate in decisions on the most important personnel and issues. Lists of candidates and issue agendas are largely controlled by the party leadership.
Belgium maintains a multiparty political system, with more than a dozen parties that hold regular parliamentary representation. Party organizations also come in a broad variety of forms. Three parties obtained more than 10% of the national vote in the federal elections held in May 2014: the New Flemish Alliance (N-VA) obtained 20.3% of the vote; the French Socialists, whose then-leader Elio Di Rupo was the prime minister in the previous government, obtained 11.7% of the votes; and the Flemish Christian Democrats obtained 11.6% of the vote.

All the other parties obtained less than 10% of the vote at the national level. However, this observation must be qualified by the fact that each party runs only in its own district, mainly Flanders and Brussels for Flemish parties, or Wallonia and Brussels for French-speaking parties. Hence, the percentage totals in the relevant regions were much higher. This is evident in the vote totals for the regional parliaments, which were elected on the same day. In Wallonia, the left-wing socialists, the right-wing liberals and the Christian Democrats respectively obtained 31%, 27% and 15% of the vote. In Flanders, the New Flemish Alliance, the Christian Democrats, the Liberals and the Socialists respectively obtained 32%, 21%, 14% and 14% of the vote.

Concerning internal selection procedures, Bram Wauters (2013) writes that “…all Belgian parties represented in parliament give their members a direct say in the appointment of the party leader, be it at a party conference in which all members can participate and vote or via internal elections granting each member one vote (either by postal or electronic voting, or by arranging polling booths in local party sections). The exception is the Flemish extreme right party Vlaams Belang.”

The actual competitiveness of these internal elections varies widely on a case-by-case basis. In most internal elections, the winner is elected by a crushing majority, suggesting that challengers are simply acting figures destined to give an appearance of internal democracy – or, quite frequently, there is only one candidate. But it does happen that some internal elections are highly competitive, and lead to surprising results (among others, the Greens typically have competitive internal elections, and both the Christian Democrats and the Liberals have occasionally had tight contests). Overall, the process is thus mostly controlled by intermediate party elites.
Wauters, Bram (2013). “Democratising Party Leadership Selection in Belgium: Motivations and Decision Makers.” Political Studies 62/S1, 62-80, DOI: 10.1111/1467-9248.12002.
Decision-making processes are very similar among the main parties. Formally, each party member can propose issues, but in reality, inner circles of 15 to 20 elite party members make the most important decisions. All parties have an annual congress at which delegates elect the party leader and other governing bodies. One such body is the board, which votes on political decisions, issues statements, and submits proposals to the party’s parliamentary group and to the party’s members in the government. The board also nominates ministerial candidates when the party is part of a coalition government. Another important decision-making body is the council, which manages the party when the general assembly is not in session. The council is comprised of board members and elected representatives from the various regions. The council negotiates agreements with other parties in the parliament, including decisions on whether to enter a governing coalition. Like the board, the council can also submit proposals to the party’s parliamentary group and the party’s members in the government. As a rule, it is the council’s responsibility to compose and agree upon the lists of candidates for general and European Parliament elections. Local party organizations compose electoral lists for municipal elections.
Large parties (e.g., New Democracy and Syriza) continue to suffer from intense factionalism and party leadership’s heavy-handed control of candidate lists and agendas. Syriza’s party organs are regularly convened by the party leader (Prime Minister Tsipras) to discuss government policy since assuming power in 2015. New Democracy, under its new leader (Kyriakos Mitsotakis), has made some effort to encourage supporters to participate in defining the party’s agenda. Nevertheless, major decisions remain with the leader and a close group of advisers. These phenomena are even more pronounced in small parties, including in the traditional Communist Party (KKE) and also in Syriza’s government coalition partner, the nationalist far-right party of Independent Greeks (ANEL). In these parties, a very small circle around the party leader has the final word in decision-making.

In the period under review, though the parties of the center and the center-left (PASOK and Potami, along with smaller parties) had agreed to merge in November 2017, a period of estrangement between the two dominant parties followed. The revival of intra-party life proved to be short-lived.
The prime minister is elected by the lower house of the parliament and is usually the leader of the biggest party in parliament. The position of party leader is therefore of great significance.

In the 2016 general election, the vote shares received by the four largest parties were: Fine Gael 25.5%, Fianna Fáil 24.3%, Sinn Féin 13.8% and the Labour Party 6.6%. Smaller parties and independent candidates won around 30% of the votes.
Specific party procedures for selecting party leaders and presidential candidates are detailed below. However, all the main parties now use a one member one voting system, meaning that each party member can vote once for the party candidate in their constituency. As such, party members are important gatekeepers to the selection of parliamentary candidates. While most candidates are selected locally, they need to be approved by the party’s national executive, which reserves the right to veto any local choice or to add a new name to the ticket. Empirically, the national parties are more likely to add a name to the ticket than to veto someone selected locally. For example, for the 2016 general election, 15 of Fine Gael’s 89 candidates and 16 of Fianna Fáil’s 71 candidates were added to the ticket by the respective party’s national constituency committees (see Reidy 2016). The 2016 “gender quotas,” which threatens political parties with losing half of their state funding if the proportion of male or female nominated candidates falls below 30%, appears to have further strengthened the hands of the national party. Ready (2016, 71) states: “the requirement for parties to meet specific gender targets facilitated the party center exerting even more control over selection processes than at previous elections.”

Fine Gael:
The party leader is selected by an electoral college comprising: (1) the Fine Gael Parliamentary Party – weighting 65%, (2) ordinary Fine Gael members – 25% weighting, and (3) Fine Gael local representatives comprising city and county councilors and members of Udaras na Gaeltachta – weighting 10%. On 2 June 2017, Leo Varadkar beat Simon Coveney to become the new leader of Fine Gael. He was appointed taoiseach by President Higgins following a vote in Dáil Éireann on 14 June 2017.

Fianna Fáil:
The party has a pyramidal structure based on the local branches (cumainn). There are approximately 3,000 of these across the country. The party leader is elected by an electoral college comprising: ordinary members – weighting 45%, parliamentary deputies – 40% weighting, and other elected representatives – weighting 15%. Before the establishment of this electoral college, Micheal Martin was elected as leader of Fianna Fáil on 26 January 2011, in an election in which only members of parliament who were members of the Fianna Fáil party were eligible to vote.

Sinn Féin:
In February 2018, Mary Lou McDonald, after a special party conference in Dublin (Ard Fheis), succeeded Gerry Adams as leader of Sinn Féin. Since the party entered politics in 1986, no vote of confidence in the party leader has been tabled. The Ard Fheis (National Delegate Conference) is Sinn Féin’s ultimate policymaking body, where delegates – directly elected by members of local branches (cumainn) – vote on and adopt policies.

In autumn 2018, Michael D. Higgins, the president of Ireland, was re-elected by a considerable majority, obtaining a record 822,566 first preference votes, to serve for a second seven year term
Theresa Reidy (2016), ‘Candidate Selection and the Illusion of Grass Roots Democracy,’ in Michael Gallagher and Michael Marsh (eds) How Ireland Voted 2016. Palgrave.
The Law on Political Parties mandates that certain political-party decisions be made in the context of full-membership meetings or by elected officials of the parties. These include party officer elections as well as decisions on party governing statutes and party programs. Other decisions must be taken in accordance with party statutes, but are not subject to regulation. Regulations allow for little input by party members. By comparison, commercial law provides more rights to shareholders than rights accorded to party members in their own party.

The Harmony Party (Saskaņas centrs, SC) is an alliance of a number of parties. Decision-making processes are different for national and municipal (Riga) policies. Candidates for national or municipal elections are selected by the party leadership. Decision-making at both the national and municipal levels is opaque. The balance of power within the SC alliance parties varies between central and local governments.

Decision-making within the Unity Party (Vienotība, V) centers in the organization’s board of directors, which engages closely with its parliamentary faction leadership and government representatives. There is active internal debate on policy issues, as evidenced by press leaks detailing internal party correspondence and publicly visible debates on issues. Local chapters have considerable autonomy in personnel choices and in taking positions on local issues. There is also, however, evidence of party members’ initiatives being suppressed or ignored by the board of directors. In early 2017, a group of disgruntled Vienotība members of parliament left Vienotība and joined an effort to establish a new party in advance of the 2018 elections. Vienotība has experienced upheaval, with a change in party leadership, several high-ranking party leaders either quitting the party or being expelled.

The Union of Greens and Farmers (Zalo un Zemnieku Savienība, ZZS) is an alliance of two major parties and one minor one. The alliance parties operate together at the national level, but can pursue separate activities and agendas at the municipal level. Party decision-making resides with the board. ZZS is perceived to be beholden to one of Latvia’s oligarchs, and decisions on candidates and issues often reflect this. Prior to the 2014 elections there was public evidence of internal debate within the alliance about a suitable prime-ministerial candidate.

Two previously independent parties merged to form the National Union (Nacionālā Apvienība, NA). While decision-making resides with elected party officials, an internal diversity of opinion on important issues is visible to the public. The Union’s parliamentary faction plays the role of agenda-setter and parliamentarians sometimes pursue individual policy agendas despite official party positions.

Three new parties emerged in anticipation of the parliamentary election in 2018 and gained substantial support. These were the nationalist-conservative New Conservative Party (Jauna Konservativa Partija, JKP), the center-left-liberal Development/For! (Attīstībai/PAR, AP) and the populist “Who Owns the State?” (Kam pieder valsts?, KPV.LV). In their statutes, all three parties indicate a decision-making procedure in which power lies with the party’s general assembly and is directed by the board of the party. In the case of JKP, there is also an intermediate body of party council. It remains to be seen how these guidelines will operate now that the parties have been elected to parliament.
Political parties are increasingly coming under pressure to consult beyond party membership. This shift has been driven by voter volatility, with voters less constrained by party loyalties. Recently, the Nationalist Party (PN) decided to open to its members the second phase of voting for the party’s leaders. However, these members are only allowed to vote after party delegates have made an initial choice from among the contenders. The result has been the election of a new leader who does not have the support of a number of the old stalwarts of the party. The Labor Party is presently utilizing a top-down approach in the selection of its deputy leaders. In selecting their agenda, the parties do now consult more widely with civil society. This explains the Labor Party’s reference to itself as a movement, since it has succeeded in bringing together groups from various identities. This is an approach the Nationalist Party is also attempting to adopt. Party committees collaborate with party leaders to select candidates.
Are political parties becoming irrelevant? Malta Today 09/02/16
Replacing political parties. Times of Malta 01/01/18
In terms of candidate selection, it is normal for the presidential candidate of each of the major parties to participate in some kind of primary election. The selection of candidates in all parties for the 2018 elections was unusual. The Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) selected José Antonio Meade, a former finance minister, who was not a party member. The Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD) and the National Action Party (PAN) agreed to present a common candidate, Ricardo Anaya, following bitter internal debates because of the strange left-right-coalition. MORENA, a rather personalistic movement, selected former PRD-politician Andrés Manuel López Obrador.

Candidate nomination for other mandates vary from state to state and from municipality to municipality because of the federal system. PRI, the governing party, tends to be rather secretive, clientelist and hierarchical. Meanwhile, MORENA tends to be heavily reliant on the personality of its leader, AMLO. PAN is much more of a members’ party, with a degree of internal democracy, but an exclusionary attitude toward non-party members. The question of which party is in government is also crucial. Incumbent parties tend to be more internally authoritarian because of their greater patronage resources. In general, the PRI is probably the most controlled and authoritarian of the major parties.

In terms of candidates to both chambers of Congress, all parties are dominated by a leadership elite which makes all relevant decisions. They can operate in this exclusionary way because they are in control of the delegates’ votes. When the candidate lists are chosen, delegates will vote as their respective leaders indicate.
Greene, K./Sánchez-Talanquer, M (2018). Mexico’s Party System Under Stress. Journal of Democracy, 29, 4, October 2018: 31-42.
For the last decade, political parties have functioned under legislation that strictly defines the role of a political party and how parties are financed. Since most funding is public, the government mandates that parties themselves are governed by democratic principles. However, the reality is mixed, with some parties meeting democratic standards while others fall short.

In the 2015 parliamentary elections, only two parties – the governing Law and Justice Party (PiS) and the Civic Platform (PO) – received more than 10% of the votes. They differ strongly from one another in their internal decision-making processes.

The Law and Justice Party (PiS), led by Jarosław Kaczyński since 2003, is characterized by a hierarchical model of organization. Formal statutes and bodies notwithstanding, all important decisions are ultimately made directly or indirectly by Jarosław Kaczyński.

By contrast, the Civic Platform (PO), the second-biggest party in parliament, has experienced frequent intra-party tensions. Since January 2016 and the party’s reorganization following its defeat in the parliamentary elections of 2015, Grzegorz Schetyna, former foreign minister in the Kopacz government, has led the party. In order to stimulate internal discussions and to increase a network also outside party membership, PO launched so-called citizens’ clubs that convene all over Poland.
A total of seven parties, running in five lists, won seats in the parliamentary elections held on 4 October 2015. These included the Social Democratic Party (Partido Social Democrata, PSD) and Democratic and Social Center/Popular Party (CDS-Partido Popular, CDS-PP), which ran together as the Portugal Ahead (Portugal à Frente, PAF) alliance. This won 38.5% of the vote and 107 seats, of which 89 were allocated to the PSD and 18 to the CDS-PP. The Socialist Party (Partido Socialista, PS) received 32.4% of the vote, and 86 seats. The Left Bloc (Bloco de Esquerda, BE) won 10.2% and 19 seats. The Unitarian Democratic Coalition (Coligação Democrática Unitária, CDU), which included the Portuguese Communist Party (Partido Comunista Português, PCP) and the Ecologist Party (Partido Ecologista “Os Verdes,” PEV) took 8.3% of the vote and 17 seats, which resulted in 15 for the PCP and two for the PEV. Finally, the People-Animals-Nature party (Pessoas-Animais-Natureza, PAN) won 1.4% and one seat.

Of these seven parties, only three gained more than 10% of the vote in the 4 October 2015 legislative elections: the PSD, the PS and the BE.

Both the PS and PSD hold direct elections of their party leadership by party members and have congresses whose delegates are also elected by party members. However, regarding policy issues and candidates other than the party leader, the rank-and-file members have little say. Instead, decisions are largely made by the party leadership, which – depending on the internal balance of power – may have to negotiate with the leaders of opposing internal factions.

In January 2015, the PS approved new statutes that allow primary elections to choose political candidates and would let registered party sympathizers (not just members) to vote to choose the party leader. While current party leader António Costa gained the party leadership because of a primary election, this technique was not used to select candidates for the 2015 legislative elections, nor was it used for the 2016 and 2018 party leadership elections, which reverted to the direct election model previously noted.

The BE elects delegates that convene at the party’s national convention to elect an 80-member national committee called “Mesa Nacional,” which is elected proportionally. The Mesa Nacional then votes for the party’s 21-member Political Commission. In its tenth convention, held in June 2016, the party changed its statutes slightly, albeit the change does not significantly alter the degree of internal democracy. Due to this change, it is now up to the Political Commission to elect a seven-member Secretariat. Until the ninth party convention held in November 2014, the BE had two national coordinators within the permanent commission. After this convention, the party returned to the model of a single coordinator, in this case Catarina Martins, who retained her position in the 10th convention. The party will hold its 11th convention 10 – 11 November 2018 and several proposals to change the statutes have been submitted. Though these proposals do not appear to significantly alter the degree of internal democracy.

While only these three parties met the 10% criteria in recent legislative elections, two other parties are potentially relevant within Portugal’s political landscape: the Portuguese Communist Party (Partido Comunista Português, PCP) and the CDS-PP. These are also marked by a high degree of centralization in their national-level internal decision-making. The former abides by the rules of democratic centralism. The latter is characterized by a small rank-and-file base.
South Korea
There is almost universal agreement among political scientists, political observers, politicians and the general public that political parties are one of the weakest links in South Korean democracy. Parties are organized in a top-down fashion, and typically led by a few powerful individuals (who may or may not hold official party offices). Parties often disband, rename and regroup around these leaders without the comprehensive involvement of members. In general, ordinary party members have very little say outside the context of candidate-nomination processes. Organizing local party chapters remains illegal in Korea, making it almost impossible to build grassroots movements. Only some of the small parties not represented in the parliament, such as the Green Party, are organized in a bottom-up way. In 2015, both the governing and opposition parties decided to introduce an open-primary system to pick candidates for the parliamentary elections. This was expected to provide new challengers with a fairer and more transparent environment. However, in reality, “strategic” party nominations still played a strong role in both parties. For the nomination of presidential candidates different parties adopted different nomination processes, ranging from open primaries (Democratic Party), a mixture of opinion polls and party delegates (Liberty Party), a mixture of open primaries and opinion polls (People’s Party), and a direct vote by party members (Justice Party). In this sense, voters had the choice not just between different candidates, but also between different selection systems. While the selection of presidential candidates is becoming more democratic, issue-oriented participation by party members remains anemic, and party organizations remain weak.
Elected members and senators - but no other party members - are responsible for decision-making in both major parties. Decisions regarding who should hold positions within the party, such as ministerial positions for the party in government, have largely been at the discretion of the elected leader in coalition governments. Labor prime ministers cannot choose their ministers freely, but instead have to allocate portfolios among a set of candidates selected by the factions.

The Liberal-National coalition has traditionally had a more open and inclusive process for determining leadership than the Labor party, which is dominated by factions to which most members are beholden. These factions are regularly criticized for making opaque decisions and for contributing to a lack of decision-making transparency. In response, the process for selecting the Labor party leader was altered in 2013, giving 50% of the votes to the wider party membership, with the remaining 50% staying with elected members and senators.

With regard to the development of policy agendas, both parties have inclusive forums for developing policy platforms. However, in practice, a small leadership group in each party tightly controls decisions on major policies.
The Austrian party system is in an ongoing process of deconcentration. The traditionally dominant parties – the Social Democratic Party (Sozialdemokratische Partei Österreichs, SPÖ) and the conservative, Christian-democratic Austrian People’s Party (Österreichische Volkspartei, ÖVP) have experienced an almost uninterrupted decline since 1980. In 1979, the two parties were able to win a combined total of more than 90% of votes. In 2013, the parties were down to a combined total of about 50%. In 2017, the combined total of both parties again rose to more than 58%.

For decades, the right-wing (“populist”) Freedom Party (Freiheitliche Partei Österreichs, FPÖ), the center-left Greens, and the liberal New Austria and Liberal Forum (NEOS) as well as a variety of newer parties, sometimes with very short political life expectancies, have been the beneficiaries. In 2017, this changed significantly, as the Greens failed to cross the 4% threshold and the FPÖ won a substantial share of the vote (26%). A party led by some green dissidents (Liste Pilz) succeeded in getting into parliament.

In general, all parties have spent little time developing intra-party democracy, and have focused instead on appealing to specific groups considered necessary to win elections.

In preparation for the 2017 general elections, the ÖVP changed its traditional procedure for nominating candidates. The party has transferred all authority for the nomination process to one person, the party’s candidate for the Chancellor’s Office, Sebastian Kurz. This must be seen as a significant decline in intra-party democracy. In contrast to the ÖVP, the other parties have followed their traditional procedures, ensuring that the different intra-party interests continue to be represented.

After losing its primary position in parliament and now in opposition, the SPÖ has started to reform its internal decision-making procedures, which will give party members a stronger role. This was exemplified in the decision about the new mayor of Vienna, Michael Ludwig. For the federal level, new rules are still being discussed and the new party leader, Joy Pamela Rendi-Wagner, was chosen by the traditional process. Within the ÖVP, which changed its party procedures before the general elections of 2017, the centralized procedures implemented by Sebastian Kurz are still undisputed and probably will be accepted as long as the chancellor (and party chairman) enjoys an overall popularity.
In the 2017 parliamentary election, only two parties gained more than 10% of the popular vote – Prime Minister Borissov’s Citizens for European Development of Bulgaria (GERB) and the Bulgarian Socialist Party (BSP). The BSP traditionally campaigns in elections as part of a formal coalition of parties, although the BSP is by far the largest carrier of votes within the coalition. The Movement for Rights and Freedoms (DPS) was close with 9.2% of votes. The United Patriots coalition also obtained more than 9%, but consists of three parties that are relatively equal in terms of voter strength and cannot be considered as a single entity.

The BSP is a relatively democratic party with an authentic internal opposition, and clear opportunities for different factions to influence party discussions and agenda, even though the faction around the party chair usually prevails. The party has actually changed leadership three times since 2001. Electoral platforms and candidate lists are prepared in a relatively centralized manner, but local party organizations do have an input and the party has several factions that vie for influence over the party’s central decision-making institution.

GERB and DPS are leader-dominated parties, as are at least two of the three parties forming the United Patriots coalition. Regardless of the internal democratic mechanisms envisaged in their statutes, most decisions are concentrated in the hands of the party leader and a few members around the party leader. While in GERB the influence of different groups and constituencies can be effective, the specific characteristics of the DPS make its decision-making process opaque and highly concentrated in the hands one person – its one-time active leader and now honorary president.
Chile has a presidential governmental system. As the president determines the government’s policy agenda, presidential elections are much more relevant in terms of policy direction than are congressional ballots. Therefore, in campaigns for the presidency, government programs are presented by the presidential candidates and not by their coalitions or parties. These global program proposals tend to be limited to descriptions of policies’ intended public effects rather than technical details or any detailed discussion of content. The primary elections (primarias) for the 2013 and 2017 presidential elections demonstrated that candidate selection and issue agendas are largely controlled by the parties’ leaders.
Croatian parties are characterized by a rigid structure. The degree of intra-party democracy is generally low, members do not regularly participate in party activities and the party leadership maintains considerable control over selection procedures and debates. In the HDZ (Croatian Democratic Union), no internal elections took place until April 2016. While the party’s chairman has been elected directly by party members ever since, the latter have not had the chance to choose between different candidates. The SDP is somewhat more open to internal debates but does not tolerate the existence of open political blocs. Most-NL held its first intra-party elections in January 2017, more than one year after having been catapulted into parliament.
The 2017 parliamentary elections transformed the Czech political landscape. On both what could broadly be understood as the left and the right, established political parties were challenged by populists and anti-establishment forces. Babiš’s anti-establishment and populist Movement of Dissatisfied Citizens (ANO party), emerged as the strongest party (29.6% of the votes), attracting many voters of the Social Democrats (7.3%) and Communists (7.8%). The Pirate party (10.8%) drew young, educated left-leaning anti-establishment voters. On the right, the field is also fragmented, with the established Civic Democrats (Občanská demokratická strana, ODS, back up to 11.3%) alongside the conservative Christian Democrats (5.8%) and TOP09 (Tradice Odpovědnost Prosperita 09, TOP09, 5.3%) all having suffered losses, while the radical right Freedom and Direct Democracy (Svoboda a prima demokracie, SPD; new subject formed by Tomio Okamura, after disbanding his scandal-ridden Dawn of Direct Democracy, 10.6%) entered parliament.

The traditional parties had developed formal structures and means of participation in electing their leaders and voting at congresses on policies. In practice, active involvement by members was limited. This internal democracy was extended by the Social Democrats with their first-ever internal ballot of members over whether or not to join a coalition with ANO. The internal organization of the Pirate party is the most systematically inclusive as it enables both members and sympathizers to engage in agenda-setting and other activities, the majority of which take place online. The internal decision-making of the ANO party is the polar-opposite. The party is hierarchically organized, and its founder and leader, Andrej Babiš and a small group of his allies, dominate the decision-making process. The internal organization of SPD is even more restrictive, as the party leader Tomio Okamura controls both the decision-making and party finance in ways that involve intimidation and – according to investigative journalists – even extortion.
Kmenta, J. (2017): Boss Babiš. Nymburk: JKM – Jaroslav Kmenta.
Intra-party democracy has been a rarity in Hungary. Although regulations for electing party leaders and for establishing candidacies for national, regional and local elections are formally in place, they do not play a dominant role in intra-party democracy. Fidesz is completely controlled by its president. Among the left parties, Hungarian Socialist Party (MSZP) is democratically organized with a weak leadership, whereas Demokratikus Koalíció (DK) is dominated by former Prime Minister Ferenc Gyurcsány. The other opposition parties are in a state of complex chaos and disorganization after the April elections. Gábor Vona, the former president of Jobbik has left the party, his successor is a weak figure, and the party has gone through a painful split. Politics Can Be Different (LMP) is now subject to even greater chaos, both former co-presidents have gone, and the political profile of the party is unclear.
New Zealand
As of early 2019, there are five political parties in the parliament. The two major parties, National (56 seats) and Labour (46 seats) dominate the electoral map. The NZ First party and the Green party come next, with 9 and 8 seats respectively.

The organizational structure of the Labour party is complex, as it mainly consists of affiliated members, that is, those who are members of affiliated trade unions. Although the party refuses to disclose membership numbers (a policy shared by the National party), it is thought to have a current membership of approximately 7,000. Decisions with regard to personnel and policy are therefore not restricted to individual party members. However, at the same time, Labour uses a system of delegates. The selection process for candidates for parliamentary seats is based on a heavily formalized moderating procedure that takes criteria such as ethnic background, gender and region into regard. Following pressure from grassroots members to have a voice in the selection of the party leader, in 2011 the party took away the parliamentary caucus’s sole responsibility for choosing a party leader, replacing it with a combination of party membership (40%), the parliamentary caucus (40%) and the affiliated trade unions (20%).

National considerably increased the central leadership’s influence in an organizational reform in 2003. The newly created National Management Board, which includes the parliamentary leader, plays an especially influential role in pre-selecting parliamentary candidates for electorate seats (to a so-called Candidate’s Club), although these are still required to compete with other nominees, using the existing decentralized electorate selection process. The selection of candidates for list seats has been equally centralized at the expense of regional party organizations. The party leader is chosen by the members of the parliamentary caucus.

The Green party’s organizational structure is quite decentralized in comparison with the traditional larger parties. Decisions on policy and the selection of parliamentary candidates are made by the party membership, with less control exerted by the parliamentary caucus.
Constitution and Rules of the New Zealand National Party (Wellington: New Zealand National Party 2013).
Green Party: (accessed October 24, 2015).
NZ Electoral Commission (, 2017)
Candidate Selection and List Ranking Procedures 2014 (Wellington: Green Party of Aotearoa New Zealand 2014)
Labour Party: Constitution and Rules 2014 (Wellington: New Zealand Labour Party 2014).
Stephens, Gregory R. und John Leslie: Parties, organizational capacities and external change:
New Zealand’s National and Labour parties, candidate selection and the advent of MMP, Political Science 2011 (63): 205-218.
Slovenian party law leaves political parties with some organizational autonomy. Political parties are very heterogeneously organized, with some organized only on the micro level (i.e., in one or several of the 212 municipalities) and others organized only on the macro level. Access to decision-making processes is normally restricted to party members. Whereas party members have the formal right to participate in decisions, the party leadership controls the candidate lists and the policy agendas. The details of internal party decision-making are not widely known to the public, as most decisions are made behind doors that are firmly shut. In the 2018 parliamentary elections, only two political parties managed to win more than 10% of votes.
The dominant political view is that government interference in private organizations like political parties is incompatible with the role of the state in a liberal democracy. A law for internal party democracy is appropriate for countries with a history of non-democratic governance (e.g., Germany, some states in southern Europe, and in central and eastern Europe). However, in the Netherlands with its strong democratic tradition, many consider it superfluous. However, prominent political scientists believe that the culture and informal mode of operation of political parties ought to be modernized to guarantee a sustainable democracy. Several recent reports show the vulnerability of Dutch democracy to (international) manipulation through weak controls over and accountability for party finance, political campaigning and candidate selection.

Political party membership reached an all-time low of 285,851 in 2015, although this increased to 317,000 in 2018 (2.5% of the electorate), owing to an increase in young voters joining the Green Left and Forum for Democracy. Approximately 10% of party members are considered active. Frequently party activism is used as a launching pad for a political career. Across all major political parties, political activists and (semi-)professionals now dominate decision-making with regard to candidate lists and political agendas. Political parties are not bottom-up movements. Rather, they are intermediaries between political elites and their electorates, with political party members as links. Intra-party democracy (e.g., party congresses, election of party leaders and intra-party referendums) sometimes prove to be counterproductive. One former minister of defense and Labor party member commented: “Party congresses don’t buy combat planes.” Party leadership succession, even in political parties with some tradition of intra-party democracy (e.g., Labor and D66), is not democratically regulated, but is often determined by opaque, “spontaneous” selection processes managed by party elites.

The functional loss of political parties as clear representatives of social groups reverberates across the political system at all levels. Particularly the mobilization and integration into politics of lower educated citizens has declined. Paired with the decline of the centrist parties (in particular the social-democratic PvdA and Christian democratic CDA), the rise of more extremist and fringe parties, increasing electoral volatility, parliamentary fragmentation, polarization on particularly cultural issues and strong anti-establishment sentiments create anxieties of a democracy in crisis.
R.B. Andeweg and G.A. Irwin (2014), Governance and Politics of The Netherlands. Houndmills, Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan: 80-95

Montequieu Instituut, Er moet in Nederland, net als in Duitsland, een ‘Parteiengesetz’ komen, december 2012 (

Gezamenlijk ledenaantal politieke partijen naar dieptepunt, Documentatiecentrum Nederlandse Politieke Partijen, 2016

Trouw, De partijendemocratie is in een doodsstrijd beland, 16 December 2016 (, accessed 3 November 2018)

T. van der Meer, Democratische doemdenkers hebben het mis, Sociale Vraagstukken, 18 January 2017 (, accessed 3 November 2018)
Generally speaking, parties in Japan are fairly insider-oriented, with policy and personnel decisions driven by leading politicians and their networks.

Japan’s strongest party is the LDP (holding 61% of Lower House seats after the 2017 election). No stable second major party currently exists. While the Democratic Party (DP) once seemed a possible contender, it suffered another major blow before the 2017 election, when many of its Lower House members formed the Constitutional Democratic Party (CDP, 12%), an entity primarily devoted to opposing changes to the existing constitution, while others entered the newly formed conservative Party of Hope (11%). This latter party and the DP regrouped as the Democratic Party for the People in May 2018, but not all DP or Party of Hope parliamentarians have joined the new party.

The LDP has traditionally revolved around individual politicians, their personal local-level support organizations and the intraparty factions built by key party leaders. Local party chapters may play decisive roles in choosing a parliamentary candidate if there is no “natural” successor to the former incumbent. Ordinary party-member involvement is usually limited to membership in a local-level support organization for a politician and is mainly (but not solely) based on mutual material interests: While members want tangible support for their communities, politicians want secure “vote banks” for (re-)election.

The LDP has become more centralized in recent years, with the influence of factions declining. Party congresses offer little real opportunity for policy input by delegates. However, delegates from regional party branches have participated in party leader elections since the early 2000s, with some branches basing their eventual choice on the outcome of local primaries. While the LDP has also paid some lip service to increased intra-party democracy, it has shied away from major internal reforms.

Party politics before and after the 2017 Lower House election showed that major strategic decisions in some of the newer opposition parties are made more or less autonomously by individual party leaders.
N. N., The cabals Japan’s prime minister has tried to curb may curb him, The Economist, 19 April 2018,

Aurelia George Mulgan, Where is Japan’s party system headed?, East Asia Forum, 10 October 2017,

Tetsuya Kageyama, Democratic Party for the People launched with little sense of excitement, 8 May 2018,
Almost all Romanian parties have been characterized by weak intra-party democracy. In the case of the strongest party in parliament, the socialist PSD, its chairman Liviu Dragnea has enjoyed an unprecedented authority, not even reached by Ion Iliescu, Romania’s first post-communist president. Despite being convicted for vote-rigging, Dragnea has been able to appoint and dismiss cabinets at will.
All Slovak parties are elite projects that are dominated by a few party leaders. In the parliamentary elections in March 2016 new parties entered the parliament: the extreme right ĽSNS, the populist Sme Rodina and the center party Sieť. The nationalist SNS, came back to parliament while the former governing parties SDKU-DS and Christian Democratic Movement (KDH) remained outside. Smer-SD remains strongly centered around Robert Fico, who has led the party since its founding in 1999 and has remained its head even after his resignation as prime minister in March 2018. The inner circle of the party and the number of party representatives with influence are rather limited. The two centrist parties established in 2017/18 – Spolu–Občianska Demokracia (Together – Civic Democracy) and Progresívne Slovensko (Progressive Slovakia) – are more inclusive and engage in open decision-making with their members.
A number of party leaders participate in decisions on the most important personnel and issues. Lists of candidates and issue agendas are fully controlled and drafted by the party leadership.
The centralized structure of the Political Parties Law (Law 2820) and the bylaws of the major parties does not encourage intra-party democracy. Consequently, strong party discipline is a common feature of all political parties. Although the Justice and Development Party (AKP), the Republican People’s Party (CHP) and the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) do not discriminate on the basis of ethnicity or religious orientation with regard to membership, contestation within the parties is limited, at best. Dissenting voices are generally unable to find an institutional path by which to engage in effective debate. Competition usually revolves around party members’ ability to create local power centers through which they compete for the attention and goodwill of the party leader.

Membership, party congresses and executive boards are not democratically managed in most political parties. Three deputies were dismissed from the MHP in March 2017. Several deputies of the AKP allegedly closer to illegal Gülenist networks either resigned or faced being dismissed, especially in the aftermath of coup attempt in 2016. On the request of the president and AKP chair, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, the mayors of six provinces, including Ankara and Bursa, resigned in fall 2017. Erdoğan stated that “people do not take these offices as independent candidates but as candidates shown by parties.”
“AKP’de ‘metal fırtına’: Erdoğan, “Gökçek dahil 6 belediye başkanının istifasını istedi” iddiası,” 2 October 2017,ğan-gokcek-dahil-6-belediye-baskaninin-istifasini-istedi-iddiasi,455251 (accessed 1 November 2017)
“Turkey’s Erdoğan Calls on Mayors to Resign, Hurriyet Newspaper Says,” 19 October 2017,ğan-calls-on-mayors-to-resign-hurriyet-newspaper-says (accessed 1 November 2017)
Mehmet Akıncı, Özgür Önder and Bilge Kağan Sakacı,”Is Intra-Party Democracy possible in Turkey? An Analysis of Politcal Parties Act and Party By-Law,” European Scientific Journal, 2013, 9(11): 33-49.
P. Ayan-Musil, Authoritarian Party Structures and Democratic Political Setting in Turkey, Palgrave, 2011.
C. Erdoğan, CHP (1919-2018) İdeoloji-Örgütsel Yapı Parti İçi Demokrasi ve Oligarşi, Sokak Kitapları Yayınları, 2018.
Bekir Ağırdır, Fuat Keyman, Tarhan Erdem, Türkiye’nin Demokratikleşmesi İçin Kapsamlı Bir Siyasi Parti ve Seçim Sistemi Reformu Önerisi, Istanbul: IPC, 2015, (accessed 27 October 2015)
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