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 officeholders (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 participated 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 Danish People’s Party, Alternative and since June 2019 the New Right) 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 liberal-conservative minority government (2009 – 2011) and the subsequent three-party government (2015 – 2019). In this way, the Danish People’s Party has managed to promote some of the party’s core issues (e.g., elderly and immigration policy). Similarly, the Socialist People’s Party participated in the Social Democratic-led 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 2019 election:

The Social Democratic Party:
The Liberal Party:
The Danish People’s Party:
The Social Liberal Party:
The Socialist People’s Party:
The Unity List:
The Conservative Party:
The Alternative:
The New Right:
The Liberal Alliance:
At the time of writing, nine parties held seats in the Finnish parliament (Eduskunta). Of those, five parties held more than 10% of the seats, and can be considered as major parties. Although empirical research on intra-party democracy has to date dealt mainly with the Center Party (Kesk), the findings of this research can be assumed to apply to other major parties as well. In general, candidates for parliamentary elections are proposed by local party organizations. The final decision on which candidates will be nominated is taken at the district level of the party organization (which usually coincides with the electoral district) in a vote open to all members of the party in question. However, it is also evident that 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; Lauri Karvonen, “Parties, Governments, and Voters in Finland,” ECPR Press, 2014, p.62.
Generally, party leaders of the coalition government were reelected without any serious opposition. Party members do not directly participate in making important policy decisions. The parties retain traditional hierarchical decision-making processes and candidate-election procedures. However, at the end of October 2018, Chancellor Merkel announced that she would not run for reelection as party chairwoman of the CDU. Breaking with traditional procedures, a number of candidates stood for the office, with three candidates ultimately competing openly for the party leadership. In an open and nationwide campaign, they tried to attract the votes of the party members. In December 2018, a party convention elected Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer as the new party chairwoman. Typically, the party leader runs for the chancellorship in the next national elections. For its part, the SPD adopted a highly sophisticated procedure to elect its new leadership. Only a duo proved acceptable, and a highly complicated procedure was employed. Party members have a strong influence in these debates.
In the 2013 parliamentary elections, four out of 15 parties gained more than 10% of the votes. 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 or declared supporters have the right to vote. 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, held electronic primary elections in every constituency in the autumn 2016 elections. 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 in October 2017. 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 takes place with different levels of intensity within the four major political parties: Christian Social People’s (CSV), Democratic Party (DP), Luxembourg Socialist Workers’ Party (LSAP) and the Green Party. The CSV has tried to renew itself internally. After its second election defeat, in the 2019 European elections, it was for the first time in the modern history of Luxembourg only the second-strongest force in a national election (losing 16.5% compared to its previous total). The DP (gaining 6.7%) became the strongest force. However, the CSV’s internal renewal also led to dissatisfaction, and the election of a new chairman did not serve to end the turmoil. On various issues, such as foreign policy and constitutional policy, the party leadership expressed itself differently than did CSV politicians serving in parliament. The party leader is not a member of parliament. While the DP appears strengthened in the country, the LSAP is weakening, a development currently being seen in many countries in Europe. The Greens were able to gain significantly in 2019 in the European elections (+3.9%), but fell into crisis in the autumn of 2019, after several scandals. Nevertheless, the party was able to renew itself quickly, and allowed two young women to take seats in parliament.
Stoldt, Jürgen: “Welche Zukunft für die Volksparteien?”, February 2015. Accessed 20 Oct 2019.
Europawahl in Luxemburg 2019. Accessed 20 Oct 2019.
“Faktuell 15: Elections législatives 2018.” In: forum: Kleinstaat Luxemburg, 2019, no. 394, pp. 20-21.
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.

The new governing party, MORENA, promised during the election campaign to change political culture and adopt a more open process of politics. It is too early to assess the promises, although one major change concerns the introduction of recall referendums in October 2019. This constitutional change enables voters to remove the president and governors after the mid of their term.
Greene, K./Sánchez-Talanquer, M (2018). Mexico’s Party System Under Stress. Journal of Democracy, 29, 4, October 2018: 31-42.
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. 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 other European countries, the threshold for establishing new political movements in Norway is rather high, although the role of parties as political movements has decreased and voters are also increasingly demonstrating less loyalty to specific parties.
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 four major political parties at the federal level in Canada: the Liberals, the Conservatives, the Bloc Québecois 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. Following the 2019 federal election, the Liberal Party formed a minority government.

Until his resignation in the aftermath of the October 2015 election, the Conservative Party was tightly controlled by erstwhile party leader and Prime Minister Stephen Harper. Decisions in the Conservative Party are mostly made by the elite, and while grassroots views and resolutions passed at party conventions constitute input, 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 highly contested vote. Shortly after the fall 2019 election, in which he underperformed expectations, Scheer resigned as leader.

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.

The Bloc Québecois differs from all other parties in that it runs candidates only in Quebec. While it has strong informal ties with the provincial Parti Québecois, the provincial party that also advocates for a sovereign Quebec, there are no organizational links. Yves-François Blanchet was elected as the party’s leader in January 2019, as the only candidate vying for the position.

Given their short time in office, it is too soon to evaluate the leadership styles followed by Blanchet, Scheer or Singh.
Prior to every round of elections, the Israel Democracy Institute (IDI) publishes a Party Democracy Index report. The report enables voters to evaluate the degree of internal democracy practiced by political parties. It should be mentioned that the terms “party” and “list” are differentiated here, as several parties can be conjoined to form a joint list (e.g., the Joint List, which is an alliance of four Arab parties). As such, parties are measured separately and not conjointly. During 2019, the IDI published two indices, as two rounds of elections were held in April 2019 and September 2019. This allows for comparative observations.

Following the second round of elections, only nine parties entered the Knesset. The Blue and White list (Kahol Lavan) entered the Knesset as the largest faction (winning 33 out of 120 seats). However, the parties that comprise the list (Yesh Atid, the Israel Resilience Party and Telem) received relatively low intra-party democracy scores in the two indices for 2019. Of these parties, Yesh Atid received the highest rating for intra-party democracy, scoring 24 and 23 points in the two indices, with most points received for transparency, and very few for representation and participation, and apparently nothing scored for competition and responsiveness. The Likud party finished second in the second round of elections, winning 32 seats in the Knesset. Overall, Likud ranked the fifth most internally democratic party in both indices, scoring 67 and 68. The Joint List polled third in the second round of elections, winning 13 seats. The list comprises two parties that scored relatively high (Balad scoring 69 and 72, and Hadash scoring 60 and 62) and two parties that scored low (Ta’al scoring 12 in both indices and Ra’am scoring eight in both indices).

The fifth-largest party in the Knesset is Israel Beitenu, which won eight seats in the second round of elections. In the first index, the party scored a modest 26, gaining points across all categories: participation, representation, competition, responsiveness and transparency. In the second index, the party’s score dropped dramatically to 13, gaining points only for representation (10) and transparency (three). The fourth (nine seats) and sixth (seven seats) largest parties are the ultra-Orthodox Jewish Shas party and the United Torah Judaism list. Traditionally, these parties score lowest in the index. Though their scores rose slightly between the first and second index, with the parties gaining points for transparency. Shas scored five and six. Meanwhile, for the parties that comprise the United Torah Judaism list, Agudat Israel scored two and seven, and Degel Hatora scored two and seven.

The seventh-largest party is the Yamina list, which is comprised of parties that scored high (Habayt Hayehudi scored 55 overall in both indices) and low (the New Right scored 18 and 22, and the National Union scored 15 in both indices) in the two indices. Though averaging across its constituent parties, the Yamina list scored around 30 in both indices. The eighth-largest party (six seats) is the alliance between the Labor Party and Gesher. The Labor Party ranked the most internally democratic party in both indices (scoring 85 and then 84), while Gesher ranked lowest in both indices (scoring 18 and then 19). The smallest party in the Knesset (five seats) is the Democratic Union list, which is an alliance between Meretz, the Israel Democratic Party and the Green Movement. The latter two parties were not measured in the first index. Meretz ranked the second most internally democratic party according to both indices, scoring 85 and then 84. Its partners, on the other hand, scored relatively low in the second index (the Green Movement scored 26 and Israel Democratic Party 13).

In 2018, the Parties Act 1992 was amended to allow candidates in a given (and large enough) party’s primary elections to loan and (in accordance with many conditions) 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 grants the State Comptroller supervisory powers over political parties’ primary elections and party register in order to ensure the propriety of the overall procedure.

Likud, the Labor Party and the Jewish Home (JH) 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 Party, Likud and JH 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 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 the 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. In late 2018, Meretz decided to change its internal elections mechanism. Previously, the party’s committee chose the party’s composition prior to each national election. However, in February 2019, the party decided to adopt an open candidate selection, so that all those who subscribe to the party can vote for their candidates.
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 Assaults 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 Haaretz 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 Haaretz 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 Haaretz 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 Haaretz 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 First Thing 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).

Schneider, Tal. “The Meretz Party Announced on Making Open Primary, for the First Time in the Party’s History.” In Globes website.. December 31st, 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).

Shapira, Asaf, and Avital Fridman. “A Bitter State of Affairs: The Intra-Party Democracy Index.” In the Israeli Democracy Institute’s official website.. August 4th, 2019. (Hebrew)

Shapira, Asaf, and Avital Fridman. “The Intra-Party Democracy Index 2019.” In the Israeli Democracy Institute’s official website.. April 8th, 2019. (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 Haaretz 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 Haaretz 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, who won the party election, 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 serving members of parliament continued to support the Skvernelis government after forming the Social Democratic and Labor parliamentary group, and later 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.
The extending of powers to party members and their friends that began in the 1990s is being eroded by efforts at “consensus.” In the latest elections, the leaderships of the parties by-passed party procedures, including on candidate selection. Instead, they reserved decisions on important issues for themselves, depriving grassroots bodies and members of powers.

In the name of “consensus,” the Democratic Rally (Δημοκρατικός Συναγερμός, DISY) sought to in some cases impose “strong” candidates, violating rules of procedure. This was the case both in intra-party and public-office elections. For example, the presidential candidate for 2018 was nominated by simply approving the already announced candidacy of the incumbent president. DISY’s electoral programs are drafted and approved at a high party level. The issues and proposals are based on opinion surveys and advice from communications consultants. The party amended its statutes in 2018 to increase the leader’s powers and further enable 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 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. It may well take five years or longer for these parties 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).
Parties in Spain restrict decision-making to party members. In most cases, all party members have the opportunity to participate in decisions on important personnel and policy issues. Even though party candidate lists and issue agendas have not been so open, perhaps because of the stringent electoral calendar in 2019, internal debates within most Spanish political parties on electoral programs are common and made public. However, in 2019, party leadership structures controlled the most important decisions, including the appointment of individual party leaders, due to the short electoral campaigns.

Spain’s political landscape now includes five major parties that draw more than 10% of the popular vote at the national level: the social-democratic PSOE, the conservative party PP, the left-wing party Podemos, the center-right Ciudadanos party and the right-wing populist party Vox.

The PSOE has never been a president-driven party. 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 won an election to the party leadership in 2017 against the wishes of the party machine. Following his victory, the organization is now much more centralized and, with regard to the 2019 elections, the PSOE secretary-general was automatically named the party’s prime-ministerial candidate.

The PP, traditionally characterized by more 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 total number of registered members). With regard to the 2019 elections, the PP president, Pablo Casado, was automatically named the party’s prime-ministerial candidate, and made some controversial personal decisions on style and selection of candidates.

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 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 in 2019. In 2019, a co-founder of Podemos decided to campaign as a candidate in the regional election in Madrid and was expelled from the party.

The Vox party has presented itself as more grassroots oriented and internally democratic than Spain’s traditional parties. However, the reformed statute of the party presented in February 2019 suppressed the election of candidates by party members, and gave total control over the procedure and election to the national direction. Afterwards several party members presented their resignation before the Electoral Board due to the “lack of democracy” within the party.
El diario, May 2019 Antiguos altos cargos de Vox se unen contra el partido: “Son emperadores. No creen en la democracia”
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 after a series of votes to eliminate other candidates. When the Conservative Party holds a majority in Parliament, the parliamentary Conservative Party is obliged to nominate the incumbent party leader as prime minister. Boris Johnson successfully used this mechanism to replace Theresa May in 2019.

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” were able to vote by paying £3, an amount increased to £25 in 2017, 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.
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 12 parties represented in the national parliament. Party organizations come in a broad variety of forms. Due to the high fractionalization of the May 2019 election, only two parties maintained a vote share above 10%: the conservative, separatist New Flemish Alliance (N-VA, 16%) and the extreme-right, separatist Vlaams Belang (12%). The historically dominant parties, such as the Socialists (respectively 9.5% and 6.7% for the French and Flemish wings), Christian Democrats (respectively 8.9% and 3.7% for the Flemish and French wings), the Liberals (8.5% and 7.5%) and the Greens (6.1% for both wings) all individually fell below 10%.

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 actual percentage totals for each given party should be increased by about a 70% ratio for the Flemish parties and by a 130% ratio for the French-speaking parties.

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).

Many of the parties changed or are on their way to changing their leadership this year. The competitiveness of internal party elections varies widely. In many internal elections, the winner is elected by a crushing majority – and, sometimes, 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 tight contests). Overall, the process is thus mostly controlled by intermediate party elites.
Electoral results:
Parties asking their voters to validate government agreements:
Election in the liberal party:
Election in the Christian Democratic party:
Elections in the socialist parties:

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.
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 for the 2013 and 2017 presidential elections demonstrated that candidate selection and issue agendas are largely controlled by the parties’ leaders. However, the left-wing Broad Front (Frente Amplio) coalition formed in 2017 by several minor parties can be seen as a positive exception to this tendency.
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 on decision-making. As a result, after such parties decline electorally, there is no party organization to keep them alive. The ANEL party did not even participate in the national elections of July 2019, and ceased to exist. The same happened in late 2019 with the neo-Nazi Golden Dawn party, which failed to pass the 3% threshold in the 2019 elections, and – having no parliamentary representation – started disintegrating.

In the period under review, the union of parties of the center and center-left (PASOK and Potami, along with smaller parties), formed in November 2017, largely collapsed. In October 2019, PASOK proceeded to call an extraordinary party congress, the agenda and membership of which was completely controlled by the party leadership. The revival of intra-party life thus 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 the Fine Gael Parliamentary Party (weighting 65%), ordinary Fine Gael members (weighting 25%) and Fine Gael local representatives (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 (weighting 40%) 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.
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 has introduced new mechanisms of online direct consultations for decisions and for candidate selection. At the same time, behind the scenes (and sometimes openly), movement founder Beppe Grillo has maintained a very strong steering and veto role. Internal opponents have found it very difficult to win a platform to voice their positions, and dissidents have frequently been expelled from the party.

Northern League party activists and members selected their current leader, Matteo Salvini, through primaries in 2017. The party is now totally dominated by its leader.

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.
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 from party members. By comparison, commercial law provides more rights to shareholders than rights accorded to party members in their own party.

In the run-up to the 2018 parliamentary election, three new parties emerged and gained substantial support: 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) party. 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 the party council. Since these parties have been elected to the Saeima, with the exception of KPV LV, there has been no indication that party guidelines have been seriously mismanaged.

The KPV LV party statutes center the decision-making power in the hands of the board of directors and posit that key decisions are to be made by an open vote in a party assembly. This has proved to be difficult for the party since its election to the Saeima in 2018 due to numerous internal conflicts and criticisms of the undemocratic leadership style of the party’s leader, Artuss Kaimins.

The Harmony Party (Saskaņas centrs, SC) is an alliance between 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 alliance (rebranded for the 2018 election as New Unity – Jaunā Vienotība) is centered on the organization’s board of directors, which engages closely with its parliamentary faction leadership and government representatives. The party has shown its active internal debates on policy issues in the past, as has been 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.

Two previously independent parties merged to form the National Alliance (Nacionālā Apvienība, NA) in 2010. While decision-making resides with elected party officials, internal debates on important issues are visible to the public. The union’s parliamentarians sometimes pursue individual policy agendas despite official party positions.
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’s recent selection of a new leader took place through a vote open to all party members. However, changes to the party structure that resulted in the removal of the secretary-general are said to have weakened the separation between the party in power and in parliament and the grassroots; as a consequence, critics say, there is no internal party figure able to call the party in power to account. In determining their agendas, the parties are consulting more widely with civil society today than previously. This explains the Labor Party’s reference to itself as a movement, since it has succeeded in bringing together groups with 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
Loving Malta 06/12/2019 We need a Secretary-General again says Labour veteran Jason Micallef
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. While 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. In the parliamentary elections in October 2019, the Social Democratic Party (SLD) also managed to overcome this threshold. The three parties differ strongly from one another in their internal decision-making processes. 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, PO, the second largest party in parliament, and SLD have given members a greater say, which has allowed for more far-reaching internal debates.
A total of 10 parties, running on nine lists, won seats in the most recent parliamentary elections held on 6 October 2019. Only three of these parties obtained more than 10% of the vote: the Socialist Party (Partido Socialista, PS), which received 36.3% of the vote and 108 seats; the Social Democratic Party (Partido Social Democrata, PSD), which won 27.8% of the vote and 79 seats; and the Left Bloc (Bloco de Esquerda, BE), with 10.2% and 19 seats.

Of the other lists that obtained seats, the most successful was the Unitarian Democratic Coalition (Coligação Democrática Unitária, CDU) between the Portuguese Communist Party (Partido Comunista Português, PCP) and the Ecologist Party (Partido Ecologista “Os Verdes,” PEV), which secured 6.3% of the vote and a 12 combined seats, which resulted in 10 seats for the PCP and two for the PEV.

In both the PS and PSD, party leaders are directly elected by party members, while party members also elect delegates to the party congresses. 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 short, the members of these two parties elect a leader, who then presents a list for the other positions. The party’s representatives in the government are selected by the leader in consultation (although the advice is not obligatory) with the party’s political commission.

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.

BE party members elect delegates that convene at the party’s national convention and in turn elect an 80-member national committee called “Mesa Nacional,” which is elected proportionally. The Mesa Nacional then votes for the party’s political commission, which has 18 members since the 2018 convention. In its 10th convention, held in June 2016, the party changed its statutes slightly, albeit the change did not significantly alter the degree of internal democracy. Due to this change, it is now up to the political commission to elect the secretariat, which is comprised of 10 people since the 2018 convention. 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 following the 2016 and 2018 conventions. The party approved some changes to its statutes during the November 2018 convention, though these also do not significantly alter the degree of internal democracy.
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. While the selection of presidential candidates has become more democratic since the introduction of the primary system in 2015, issue-oriented participation by party members remains anemic, and party organizations remain weak. Only some of the smaller parties not represented in the parliament, such as the Green Party, are organized in a bottom-up way. Organizing local party chapters remains illegal in Korea, making it almost impossible to build grassroots organizations. Due to their focus on personalities, parties tend to be ill-prepared to govern, and thus depend on co-opting political outsiders that have little experience in the political arena.
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 2019, the combined total of both parties again rose to more than 58%.

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

In preparation for the 2017 general elections, the ÖVP changed its traditional procedure for nominating candidates. The party transferred total authority for the nomination process to one person, the party’s candidate for the Chancellor’s Office, Sebastian Kurz. This did not change for the 2019 elections, with the ÖVP remaining the party of one figure, Sebastian Kurz. This situation will probably remain as long as the (former and likely new) chancellor (and party chairman) enjoys widespread popularity. Nonetheless, this development 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.
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%.

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 some input, and the party has several factions that vie for influence over the party’s central decision-making structure. Following recent changes, the party’s leader is now elected by a direct vote of all party members, with the first such election scheduled to take place at the end of the present leadership team’s mandate, but before the end of 2021 at the latest.

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 close associates. 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.
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 due to high formal and informal barriers. These barriers include the need to collect 11,000 signatures in order to become an official candidate. Incumbents also have substantial leverage over intra-party rivals due to widespread clientelism and the potential to punish party members who do not toe the existing party line. The threshold and barriers mentioned above are not as high in the second largest party, the Social Democratic Party (SDP). The SDP is somewhat more open to internal debates, but does not tolerate the existence of open political blocs.
Ćelap, K., D. Nikić Čakar (2017): Unutarstranačka demokracija u Hrvatskoj: (Ne)moć običnih članova u procesu stvaranja stranačkih politika, in: Politička misao 54(3): 80-107.
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), emerged as the strongest party (29.6% of the votes), attracting many voters of the Social Democrats (ČSSD) and Communists (KSČ) (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 Orbán, re-elected at the 2019 Fidesz party congress. Due to the party’s failure in the recent municipal elections, new disciplinary measures were introduced for rank-and-file members, although some leaders were also punished. Zsolt Borkai, the strongman in Győr, was excluded following a sex and corruption scandal. Among the left-wing parties, Hungarian Socialist Party (MSZP) is democratically organized with a weak leadership, whereas Democratic Coalition (DK) is dominated by former Prime Minister Ferenc Gyurcsány. The Momentum, a party of young liberal-left members, is in the process of institution-building in the spirit of party democracy. The other opposition parties are in a state of complex chaos and disorganization after the April 2019 elections. Jobbik has gone through a deep transformation and joined the common group of opposition, while the future of LMP (Politics Can be Different) is uncertain.
New Zealand
There are currently five political parties in the New Zealand House of Representatives. The two major parties, National (55 seats) and Labour (46 seats) dominate the electoral map. The minor parties – NZ First, the Green Party and the ACT Party – hold nine, eight and one seat(s), 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 into account criteria such as ethnic background, gender and region. 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 the leadership, replacing it with a combination of party membership (40%), parliamentary caucus (40%) and affiliated trade unions (20%).

The National Party 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.

While NZ First and the ACT Party are also based on centralized organizations, the Green Party stands out from the rest of the party system with its emphasis on participatory processes: in contrast to other 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. 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. For example, some political parties deal with their representatives’ ethical issues within internal councils or executive organs, political parties report inflated numbers of formal members in order to boost state subsidies, and candidate lists and leadership-succession practices frequently lack transparency, illustrating Robert Michels’ thesis that political parties act as oligarchies. In addition, political parties are not obliged to have a membership organization or conduct internal decision-making practices democratically. One party (the anti-immigrant party PVV) has only one member – its leader – and not even its members of parliament or local elected officials are able to join the party they represent. Some political scientists therefore advocate a separate law on political parties and an independent (non-state) commission for oversight and enforcement.

The very narrow basis of political parties is reflected in their membership figures. Political-party membership reached an all-time low of 285,851 in 2015. It increased to 315,000 in 2018 (2.4% 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 have created anxieties regarding the ethical practices of politicians and political parties.
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 (

NRC Handelsblad, 26 January 2019. Kabinet: verbod op partijfinanciering van buiten de EU.

NRC Handelsblad, 9 March 2019. Politieke partijen die regels ontwijken – en een ministerie dat steeds wegkijkt.

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 the seats in the Diet’s lower house after the 2017 election). While the Democratic Party (DP) once seemed to be a possible contender for power, it suffered a 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 joined the new party.

The LDP has traditionally revolved around individual politicians, their personal local-level support organizations and the intra-party 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.
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,

Yoshitaka Koyama, Policy clashes could endanger opposition party cooperation in next Japan election, The Mainichi, 5 October 2019,
The major Romanian parties remain controlled by leaders that are isolated from the party membership and seemingly have little patience and desire to consult local organizations before making decisions. Delegates to national congresses are selected by local organizations in ways that are not always open and transparent, and which allow relatives of current leaders to be promoted. Romanian parties remain largely clientelistic, nepotistic structures in which the power of a handful of leaders outweighs that of large segments of the membership.
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. In the period under review, new parties have been founded like Za ľudí (For the People), which is chaired by former President Andrej Kiska, Vlasť (Homeland), which is led by Supreme Court judge Štefan Harabin and Dobrá Voľba (Good Choice), which is led by former Minister for Health and Interior Tomáš Drucker. These foundations underline the character of elite and personality driven party projects, as they are based on the image and program of their main leader.
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. The right to dismiss local party organizations (Articles 19 and 20) and party members (Article 53), which is widespread among the major political parties, provides party leaders with unlimited powers and thus undermines internal party democracy. Although the dismissals are subject to judicial review (Article 57) no information is available about the judicial trials on these appeals. 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. Nomination processes are dominated by a few party elites or directly by the will of party leaders. Those who dissent are effectively silenced or expected to leave the party. Following the AKP’s 2019 losses in some municipal elections, some of the party’s leading members, including former Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu, former state Minister Ali Babacan and some current deputies, resigned from the party after disciplinary proceedings were introduced against them. The CHP introduced some amendments to its party statute that will enable the party assembly to delegate the selection of candidates to the central executive committee.
“Eski AKP’liler: Pek çok arkadaşımız istifaya hazırlanıyor,” 27 September 2019, (accessed 1 November 2019)

“CHP’de yönetmelik değişikliği: PM aday belirleme yetkisini MYK’ye devredebilecek,” 4 September 2019, (accessed 1 November 2019)

C. Erdoğan, CHP (1919-2018) İdeoloji-Örgütsel Yapı Parti İçi Demokrasi ve Oligarşi, Sokak Kitapları Yayınları, 2018.
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