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The Rise of the Plutocrat Party

Comparative Politics
Elites
Political Leadership
Political Parties
Glenn Kefford
University of Tasmania
Glenn Kefford
University of Tasmania
Duncan McDonnell
Griffith University

Abstract

One of the manifestations of party change in Western democracies has been the rise of the personal party. This type of party tends to be characterized by heightened personalization and weak grassroots organizations. So much so that they are neither built – nor expected to last – beyond the founder-leader. Although such parties have long been present in newer democracies, they are now increasingly found in established democracies. This paper examines a key sub-type of the personal party: the plutocrat party. It does so by focusing on two high-profile cases: Silvio Berlusconi’s parties in Italy (Forza Italia and the Popolo della Libertà) and Clive Palmer’s Palmer United Party in Australia. Utilising interview material and party documents, this paper presents the first comparative study of how such parties are organized, how decision-making functions and how those within them view the leader, his role and their own roles.