Active members are the essence of parties. Unfortunately, it is not an easy task to scrutinize party members. Parties do not usually publish detailed information on the members, such as their gender, age, education or geographic location. Some parties hesitate to release even the exact total quantity of the members to conceal a true figure. Therefore, I employ a proxy to inspect active party membership. I focus on local elections as there are the most positions to be elected at the very local tier. Thanks to this, parties have to draw on their maximum potential in local elections. Since active members are expected to help parties as the first squad, I define local elections candidates as a proxy for active party members.
Overall, I focus on Czech local elections candidates between 1994 and 2018. To be more specific, I deal with almost 800 000 politically active unique persons, from which approximately 20% were party members. Thanks to this, it is the most elaborate dataset on politically active persons in the Czech Republic. The very first look shows that approximately 20% of all members of old large parties (KDU-ČSL and KSČM) are active. In the case of newer large parties (ODS, ČSSD), the figure rises to approximately 40%. Last but not least, active members of small major Czech parties account for approximately 60% of all their party members. To summarize, the paper identifies the exact share of active party members compared to the total number of parties’ members.
Moreover, as the Czech Statistical Office publishes a lot of information on local elections candidates, it is possible to employ it to understand active party membership. Therefore, we may inspect active party members’ age, gender, education level, the size of a town of living, and a geographic location. In other words, we can gather all the basic information, which are necessary to build a complex picture describing active party members in the Czech Republic. The preliminary results of the analysis show that only some (typically large) parties can renew their active party membership, which leads to the stability of active party members’ average age. More frequently, the average age of active members increases simultaneously with the age of the parties. Next, the results imply that during the last 25 years, the share of female and university educated active party members have risen. Last but not least, nationalization of parties’ active membership decreases together with parties’ withdrawal from the party system.
Besides this, the research design allows tracking active members’ party switching between the years of local elections. Thus, the paper delivers interesting conclusions on defectors as well as newcomers, and their final and original destinations, respectively.
To summarize, the paper delivers a comprehensive message on active party members in the Czech Republic during the last 25 years. Furthermore, it also presents an original research design inspecting local elections candidates as a proxy of active party members. Such an analysis may be employed in the case of other countries as well.