State Funding and Intra-Party Dynamics: Exploring the Impact of State Funding on Staffing, Centralisation, and Electoral Participation in New Minor Parties in Norway and Italy
Date: 15 April 2019
University of Exeter
PhD in Politics
State funding is currently provided to parties in most first and second wave democracies. For European political parties, state funding has come to constitute a majority of their income. Existing studies have found that state funding is linked with staffing, shifting structures of intra-party power (centralisation), and continued pursuit ...
State funding is currently provided to parties in most first and second wave democracies. For European political parties, state funding has come to constitute a majority of their income. Existing studies have found that state funding is linked with staffing, shifting structures of intra-party power (centralisation), and continued pursuit of constitutive function, i.e. electoral participation (survival). However, the results are far from unequivocal. In consequence, we have only a limited understanding of the ways in which state funds shape contemporary parties, and in particular, the extent to which state funding fosters or hinders the performance of political parties’ crucial linkage function between citizens and the state. This thesis addresses this limitation, by analysing the impact of state funding in parties where this impact is most likely to manifest itself, namely in newly established (post-1980) and electorally minor parties (with less than 10 percent of the vote). The central research question is: How does state funding influence processes of staffing, centralisation, and pursuit of constitutive function (electoral participation) in newly established, electorally minor parties? State funding is defined as state benefits, comprising direct (e.g. annual grants), and indirect (e.g. party tax) state funds, and state constraints, comprising criteria related to access to and maintenance of state benefits. Staffing is defined as shifts to a party’s number of staff, while centralisation refers to the process in which elites increase their share of seats in the (national) executive council at the expense of members. Pursuit of constitutive function (electoral participation) is defined as surpassing Pedersen’s (1982) threshold of authorisation, i.e. exceeding ballot access requirements and presenting an electoral list. The thesis develops three hypotheses to guide the empirical analysis. Firstly, I argue that an increase in state funding sparks hiring processes (H1). Secondly, I argue that state funds and staff strengthen party elites, in turn enabling them to initiate and execute centralising reforms (H2). Finally, H3 contends that state funding and staff contribute to new minor parties’ pursuit of constitutive function by facilitating their compliance with ballot access requirements and their presentation of an electoral list. A comparative case design is adopted to empirically explore H1, H2, and H3. The comparison takes place both across the 14 selected new minor parties in Norway and Italy, and within these parties, as the exploration of staffing, centralisation, and pursuit of constitutive function take place by means of analyses of individual party life cycles. A range of primary documents, 61 interviews, and secondary sources are used to analyse the research question. The main conclusion from the in-depth, exploratory analysis is that state funds do indeed shape new minor parties’ staffing patterns, supporting H1. In a similar vein, state funds and staff strengthen elites, in turn enabling them to initiate centralising reforms, and – in some instances – state funds and staff contribute to execute centralising reforms, thus supporting H2. Finally, state funds and staff broadly contribute to new minor parties’ ability to exceed ballot access requirements and present an electoral list in both Norwegian and Italian new minor parties, in line with H3.
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