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The ascendancy of the party in public office: a general or party type specific phenomenon? New cross-temporal evidence from Finland

Comparative Politics
Political Leadership
Political Parties
Cartel
Vesa Koskimaa
Åbo Akademi
Vesa Koskimaa
Åbo Akademi

Abstract

Cartel party theory suggests that in the latter quarter of the 20th century the internal balance of power within West European parties shifted from internal representative organs to ‘public faces’. Several reasons justify a healthy doubt against this commonly held view. Firstly, only a few studies have examined cross-temporal power changes in Western parties and their findings are often at odds with this claim. In part, this results from methodological inconsistency. Secondly, the idea that the powers of mid-elite activists have somehow eroded has been challenged in various theoretical notes. This paper aims to make a twofold contribution to this discussion. First, it develops the idea of activist influence further and argues that in parties where mid-elites have been traditionally empowered changes that enhance power transmissions are less likely to occur. Second, it tests the idea by comparing the over time development (from early 1980’s to early 2010’s) of three ‘most different’ party types under conditions that have been ‘most likely’ to produce change. To build comparability analysis employs methods that informed the original argument and to gain depth they are reinforced with an in-depth cross-temporal comparison of major intra-party decision-making processes. A two-level development emerges: while macro factors (party funding, national-level decision-making procedures, publicity, etc.) tend to enhance the position of the ‘public face’, micro dynamics (intra-party decision-making and resource distribution) reveal enduring party type specific differences that might prove crucial under pressure. Thus, systematic differences should be acknowledged more clearly.