Political Parties - The Indispensible Evil? Latest Polling Results in: Germany: 95% trust firefighters and police 30% trust politicians and parties Britain (after Lord Ashton scandal) : 73 % don’t trust politicians and parties Philippines?
The Role of Political Parties Consensus in the literature: Political opinions and demands are manifold in any society. Therefore, parties have to structure, filter, and aggregate public opinion so that the political system is able to process them. But why do some parties survive, others not?
One possible explanation: Party Institutionalization <ul><li>1. Roots in society </li></ul><ul><li>2. Autonomy </li></ul><ul><li>3. Organization </li></ul><ul><li>4. Coherence </li></ul>
Dimensions of party institutionalization Value-infusion means that a relevant share of people -party members and the electorate - sees the party as an organization one should not do without . Stability Value-infusion External Roots in society Autonomy Internal Level of organization Coherence
Roots in society <ul><li>Indicators: </li></ul><ul><li>Party age relative to beginning of multiparty period </li></ul><ul><li>Changes in electoral support in last and second last elections </li></ul><ul><li>Links to civil society organizations </li></ul>
Autonomy: The party is relatively independent from individuals within and societal groups outside the party. <ul><li>Indicators: </li></ul><ul><li>Number of alternations in party leadership </li></ul><ul><li>Changes in electoral support after alternation in party leadership </li></ul><ul><li>Decisional autonomy from individuals and groups </li></ul><ul><li>Popular appreciation of particular party </li></ul>
Organization: There is a constant organizational apparatus at all administrative levels and acts in the interest of the party <ul><li>Indicators: </li></ul><ul><li>Membership strength </li></ul><ul><li>Regular party congresses </li></ul><ul><li>Material and personal resources </li></ul><ul><li>Nationwide organizational presence, activities beyond election campaigns </li></ul>
Coherence: The party acts as a unified organization; the party tolerates a certain level of intraparty dissidence <ul><li>Indicators: </li></ul><ul><li>Coherence of parliamentary group (no defections or floor-crossing) </li></ul><ul><li>Moderate relations between intraparty groupings (no dysfunctional factionalism) </li></ul><ul><li>Tolerance vis-à-vis intraparty dissidence </li></ul>
Ideology? The century of ideologies is over – in Europe… Political “families” (SI, IDU, LI) rather Europe-centered Except the socialist façades in China or Vietnam no strong labour/socialist/social democratic parties in Southeast Asia
Political change – democratization? Expectations from the West (and Western educated Asian scholars) and the reality of European parties. NDI “ Minimum Standards ” vs. Thomas Carothers Democratic development in Southeast Asia – which Yardsticks? Political engineering in Southeast Asia - Indonesia
Parties in the Philippines “ Philippine electoral political parties can be said to be the weakest political institutions that are at best described as ad hoc, if not transient and fluid. They are the weakest link in Philippine democracy.“ Tuazon , Bobby M. (editor), Oligarchic Politics, Elections and the Party-List System in the Philippines, CenPEG Publications 2007, p.24
Singapore The People’s Action Party (PAP) is probably the most observed and discussed Asian party in PS literature and the general media… though little is known about its inner mechanisms, cadre system etc. Opposition? Generally toothless despite protest votes.
Malaysia UMNO / Barisan Nasional : Absolute power corrupts absolutely. Decades with huge absolute majorities, easy access to state funds, racial bias unsolved, small allies bribed (?) Parti Keadilan Rakiat /Pakatan Rakiat : “ Strange bedfellows”, PAS with islamic agenda (?), leadership of Anwar Ibrahim unstable
Coping with election systems Poll-watching - international electoral support – expensive strategy consultants: Elections getting cleaner Trend towards proportional systems or elements slow and timid, little understood by voters Dominant role of attractive personalities as candidates and campaign funding
Plutocracy – money politics? 1. Whereas in many European countries civil servants form a majority of MPs, many Asian parliaments - and parties - are dominated by businessmen. 2. In the absence of public party funding, the costs of political activities and campaigning are not affordable for normal earners. 3. Opportunities for self-enrichment are much higher in Asia than in Europe. 4. This is why the competition for mandates and government is often ferocious. 5. The richer a party, the bigger the spoils of government (e.g. UMNO in Malaysia) the more attractive it is.
The problem is at least 2400 years old.. "Thus it is manifest that the best political community is formed by citizens of the middle class, and that those states are likely to be well administered in which the middle class is larger and stronger – if possible than both other classes." – Aristotle , Politics, Book IV The balance between rich and poor was an obsession of ancient Greek politics, but plutocracy often prevailed. And the difference between Asian and “Western” systems is only gradual!
Southeast Asian characteristics? <ul><li>Tentative list (no ranking): </li></ul><ul><li>Survival of authoritarian single-party systems </li></ul><ul><li>No democratic socialist parties </li></ul><ul><li>Generally weak party programs </li></ul><ul><li>Parties often based on patron-client relations </li></ul><ul><li>High volatility of parties and membership </li></ul><ul><li>Highly “innovative” money politics </li></ul><ul><li>National cleavages normally accommodated </li></ul><ul><li>Efforts to improve institutions, election systems etc. </li></ul>