The Merits and Perils of Intra-Party Democracy: Assessing the Effects of Party Reform in Germany, France and the United Kingdom
Freiherr von Nostitz, Felix-Christopher Otto Arnold
Thesis or dissertation
University of Exeter
Reason for embargo
-to publish articles -to publish book
Over the past decades, European democracies have experienced diminishing trust in their political representative institutions leading to a decline in party membership as well as both reduced electoral turnout and overall political participation (Van Biezen et al., 2012). In response, many European parties began reforming themselves allowing for the direct participation of party members or even non-members in various intra-party arenas, such as leadership selections through primaries. Parties claim that such reforms increase intra-party democracy (IPD) by making internal organisation more inclusive and by providing all party members or even non-members with decision-making power perilously reserved to the party elites (Hazan and Rahat, 2010). However, the positive effect of increased IPD on membership is highly contested and surprisingly few relevant empirical and comparative studies exist. The central research question of this thesis is what are the (different) consequences of adopting different types of primary rules for party members? Hence, my aim is to examine whether the introduction of primaries is in fact as negative for party members as outlined by Katz and Mair (1994), Lefebvre (2011) or Hopkin (2001) or, alternatively, whether it represents a chance to revitalize parties as membership organizations (Macpherson, 1977; Ware, 1979; Bille, 2001). Primaries are defined as selection process for party leaders and candidates in which the final vote rests with either party members in closed primaries, or loosely defined group of party supporters or the wider electorate, open primaries. Thus, introducing a primary leads to a change in the level of intra-party democracy, as it shifts power from a more exclusive selectorate to either of the two selectorates outlined above. While this project focuses on primaries that select top-executive candidates, the theory and conceptual framework developed can be applied to primaries more broadly. The general argument put forward is that to capture the differentiated effects of party primaries we have to study the interplay between the rules determining who can vote (selectorate) and who can run (candidacy requirements) in primaries. This thesis answers its central research question by developing a conceptual framework that combines these two dimensions for party primaries that select the party leader in public office. First, it outlines the underlying logic of the conceptual framework that links the two dimensions and then provides a theoretical discussion of its consequences for party members looking specifically at the interaction between the two. To assess the consequences of different primary reforms, the thesis focuses on four dimensions of party membership: the party membership level, the turnout in primaries, the quality of membership and the attitude towards the leadership. This perspective highlights that different combinations of selection rules and candidacy requirements in primaries result in four distinct types of intra-party democracy from the perception of party members. In turn, these types lead party members to respond in a distinct fashion. Using a mixed-method case study approach, the second part of the thesis tests the theoretical framework for various Western European parties. The analysis will mainly use primary and secondary document analysis as well as new and existing survey data complemented by qualitative in-depth membership surveys. The main conclusion is that only some combinations of primary rules can lead to a positive effect for members while others do not. For example, closed primaries with open candidacy requirements will lead to more active participation of members, while open primaries with open candidacy requirements will reduce membership participation considerably.
Strategic (Departmental) Ph.D. Studentship, College of Social Science and International Studies for the Department of Politics (2013-2016)
PhD in Politics
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