ECPR Joint Sessions
University of Nottingham, Nottingham
25 - 30 April 2017

Factionalism as a Public Asset? The Effect of an Open Culture of Debate in Podemos

Political Competition
Political Leadership
Political Parties
Bálint Mikola
Central European University
Bálint Mikola
Central European University

Factionalism is generally regarded as an evil both to the internal functioning and to the external legitimacy of party organizations. Intra-party conflicts may hinder efficient decision-making and portray the party as a group paralyzed by internal strife. As a consequence, most political parties that face such tensions try to conceal them or downplay their importance in public in order to save the image of the party as a cohesive unit.

At the same time, being open about the coexistence of differing views, policy preferences or even ideological strands within a political party might serve three purposes. First, resolving internal debates transparently might prevent political adversaries from exploiting them to their own interest. Arguably, it is more difficult to create media scandals when none of the actors hide their true preferences. On the other hand, publicizing debates may also serve as a means to generate higher levels of engagement from activists and sympathizers who might otherwise become passive over time. Third, internal debates may constitute an endless source of press coverage which might increase the party’s media salience and portray it as an active political community that is always in flux.

The internal divisions within Podemos in Madrid community provide an extremely fertile ground to analyze these payoffs. The party’s local organization has undergone a series of conflicts and defections in 2016, which mirrored divisions in the party’s national leadership. The paper will reconstruct a microhistorical narrative in order to evaluate whether local tensions have eroded the cohesion of Podemos’ parliamentary group and the efficacy of their work. The findings will be used to construct testable hypotheses on the impact of factionalism on party cohesion.
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"To govern is to choose" - Duc de Lévis

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