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Concepts for Analyzing Political Parties (cont)

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concepts: institutionalization, issue orientation, social support, organizational complexity, centralization of power, autonomy, coherence, involvement, strategy and tactics, and governmental status. The literature on comparative political parties can be usefully reviewed under each of these conceptual headings.


Institutionalization is the process by which parties become established and acquire value and stability (Huntington (1965, 394). As Welfling (1973, 13) pointed out, institutionalization is not only a process but a property or state. As a property, party institutionalization can be defined as the extent to which a party is reified in the public mind so that it exists as a social organization apart from its momentary leaders while regularly engaging in valued patterns of behavior (Janda 1980b, 19). In the U.S., the two major parties are virtually identical in their state of institutionalization, but across the world, party institutionalization is highly variable. For example, Scott (writing in the mid-1960s) noted that in Latin America "little real political party machinery exists at the local level, and what does exist is seldom related directly to a national party. Instead, a few local notables build on their own personalistic organizations for each election, allying themselves with national leaders of so-called national parties for reasons of power or material advantage" (1966, 337). Pye saw parties in Southeast Asia in much the same light (1966), but Welfling's careful analysis found that even African parties varied in institutionalization (1973). Dix's recent research on Latin American parties also found that parties and party systems "were somewhat more institutionalized as the 1990s began than they were during Latin America's previous democratic heyday around 1960" (1992, 505).

Party institutionalization has been measured in various ways. Sometimes party age or counts of splits and mergers are used as indicators (Lane and Ersson 1991, 113; Dix 1992). It has also been measured on a scale built from measures of age, electoral stability, legislative stability, and leadership change.[6] More often, the concept has been tapped with simpler measures of minimum election strength and minimum durability. Rose and Mackie, for example, said, "a party is judged to have become institutionalized if it fights more than three national elections. A group that fails to do this is not an established political party, but an ephemeral party" (1988, 536). Applying their criterion to 19 democratic countries from electoral origins through 1983, they uncovered 369 parties that contested at least one national election and won at least 1 percent of the vote, but barely more than half of these became institutionalized.

Clearly, the numerous new parties in Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union face a challenge of institutionalization. In the 1989 Polish elections, Solidarity swept nearly all the offices it contested, but Jasiewicz (1992) attributed its success to anti-government voting rather than to pro-Solidarity sentiment--a view supported by the regression analysis of election results by Heyns and Bialecki (1991). After the October 1991 elections to the Polish parliament, Jasiewicz reported that some 30 parties or groups were elected to the 460 seat chamber and the strongest party had only 62 seats. Speaking of Poland's new political situation, he said, "With the exception of the renamed communists and a few veteran opposition groups ..., the parties are brand new. They have no tradition, no apparatus, no organizational history, no established rules of conduct" (1992, 66).

The situation was comparable in the former Soviet Union, which, according to Kelly (1992), demonstrated "behavioral" pluralism in 1991 with more than 60,000 political organizations. However, Kelly said it lacked "institutionalized" pluralism and certainly not a multiparty system,

at least inasmuch as that description commonly implies that the party structures channel political conflict, accurately reflect the views of and speak for particular constituencies, and take part in the functioning of government or opposition. In many ways, the evolution of the party and group structures has not reached that level of maturity" (1992, 31).

McFaul held that party development in Russia was hampered by citizens' obvious reasons to distrust and disdain political parties and by the new parties' reluctance in discarding old attitudes about the purposes and functions of political organizations. "Finally," McFaul said, "there are simply too many parties; democracy has been hindered by too much democracy" (1992, 32).[7]

Treating institutionalization as a dependent variable, Rose and Mackie identified four factors that increased the chances of a nascent party becoming institutionalized: (1) Its origin at the founding of competitive elections, (2) a proportional representation system of elections, (3) being based on an organized social group, and (4) its initial success in winning votes. Three of these factors pertain to a party's "conditions of origin," which Duverger (1963) identified as a major predictor of party properties. Other scholars have owed party institutionalization to party origin. Panebianco (1988, 50-52) identified three important factors: (1) whether the party was organized by a "center" that "penetrated" the country or arose from local

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