ECPR General Conference
Universitetet i Oslo, Oslo
6 - 9 September 2017

Political Parties: Transformation or Decline?

Comparative Politics
Political Parties
Section Number
Section Chair
Sofia Vasilopoulou
University of York
Section Co-Chairs
Emilie Van Haute
Université Libre de Bruxelles
Nicole Bolleyer
University of Exeter

One of the classical functions of parties is the linkage function. Parties mobilize the electorate, provide channels for citizen participation and engage in the descriptive and substantive representation of voters. New communication technologies provide parties and their candidates with an unprecedented direct access to the electorate. Simultaneously, parties are portrayed as ‘echo chambers’, which some consider as symptom of decline.

Starting out from these conflicting observations, this Section, which is endorsed by the ECPR Standing Group on Political Parties, welcomes Panels and Papers that assess the capacity of parties to reach out and engage the wider public in three key areas:

1) As organizations: how do parties organize mobilization in its variety of forms? How do they ensure mechanisms of representation? How do parties link to interest groups and other types of collective mobilization? How do they reconcile participation and representation in their own decision-making processes (candidate selection, leadership selection, policy formulation)? To which extent do they differ in these attempts from other organizational types, such as interest groups or movements?
2) In the electorate: How do parties build linkage and party identity among citizens? How do they reach out to undecided/volatile voters? Which electoral campaign tools or strategies favor reaching out vs. preaching the converted? How close are parties to their voters in terms of policy preferences?
3) In government/opposition: How do parties reconcile their linkage function and the imperative of responsiveness and accountability? How is the tension between these two goals mediated by multilevel structures? How does party competition affect representation? To what extent is the responsible party model still an accurate description of party behavior? In what ways do populist, far right and far left parties electorally benefit from a perceived lack of this linkage? Which strategies do these parties employ in order to attract voters? And how do they differ from mainstream party strategies? How does the linkage function work in autocratic regimes where government-opposition dynamics are different to democracies?

Our Section will feature both theoretical and empirical contributions, which will unpack the linkage function of political parties. We encourage Panels and Papers that question the barriers to linkage or the conditions under which parties maximize their linkage capacity (the role of party regulation, institutions, media, etc.). We also encourage Panels and Papers that investigate further whether certain parties are better equipped to do so (the role of resources, types of organizations, party families, party age, etc.). We welcome different approaches and methodologies, including conceptual, comparative and case study analyses as well as the employment of both qualitative and quantitative methods.

Panel List

P156Group Representation and Diversity View Panel Details
P177Institutionalization and De-Institutionalization of Political Parties in Young and Established Democracies View Panel Details
P188Intra-party Functioning and Decision-making View Panel Details
P249New Party Political Actors View Panel Details
P257Parties and Elections View Panel Details
P259Partisanship, Membership and Activism View Panel Details
P260Party Change and Reform View Panel Details
P262Party in Government and in Parliament View Panel Details
P263Party Policy and Party Competition View Panel Details
P283Political Parties and Public Policies: Are there still Differences – Against all Odds? View Panel Details
P355State Funding / Party-State Relations View Panel Details
P432The Study of Parties and Interest Groups: From Parallel to Overlapping Research Agendas View Panel Details
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"In all forms of Government the people is the true Legislator" - Edmund Burke

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