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Political Parties and

Democracy:
A Comparative Analysis of
Party Mobilization
Doug Perkins
Department of Political Science
The Ohio State University
perkins.75@osu.edu
http://psweb.sbs.ohio-state.edu/grads/dperkins/

Prepared for delivery at the 1998 Annual Meeting of the American Political Science Association, Boston
Marriott Copley Place and Sheraton Boston Hotel and Towers, September 3-6, 1998. Copyright by the
American Political Science Association.

Political Parties and Democracy:


A Comparative Analysis of Party Mobilization
Doug Perkins, The Ohio State University
Theory: The manner by which politicians attempt to mobilize support helps determine the character and
quality of democracy, as well as the possibility for democratic consolidation.
Hypotheses: The mobilization strategies politicians pursue as they attempt to win elections are affected by
their access to certain resources. Key resources include secondary organizations, patronage, and mass
media outlets.
Methods: In order to provide the best possible test of the hypotheses under consideration, this research
utilizes Mills Indirect Method of Agreement and attempts to follow the dictates set forth in King et al.s
Designing Scientific Inquiry with one minor exception: a mechanism is provided in order to provide a more
convincing case for causation. The dependent variable under consideration is the mobilization strategy and
is measured dichotomously along two dimensions: whether the mobilization efforts are direct or indirect, and
the degree to which state patronage is used. The key independent variables are the politicians access to
secondary organizations, state patronage, and state and private media outlets. The causal mechanism
employed involves the use of soft rational choice and institutionalism.
Results: Politicians access to key resources affects their choice of mobilization strategy. In cases where
only one of the key resources is available, the model performs as expected. In cases where multiple options
are available, the findings suggest that politicians prefer indirect methods of mobilization to direct ones, and
would prefer to use state patronage to support their mobilization efforts. The mechanism employed links
endogenous theories of party formation such as are found in Aldrich (1985) with structural theories such as
Shefter (1984).

Electoral Mobilization and Democracy


Political parties have developed alongside democracy, and it is commonly assumed that
democracy cannot survive without them. The types of party organizations that compete in a
states party system profoundly affect the character of democracy. Party organizations
determine the manner in which elections are conducted, as well as the nature of the linkage
between political elites and the mass public (Burnham 1965, Przeworski 1985, Weber 1946).
Recent analysis suggests that political party organizations also play a pivotal role in democratic
consolidation and stability (Berman 1997, Huntington 1968). The weakening of political parties
is thought to have "hollowed-out" democracy in established regimes by atrophying the linkages
between politicians and their constituencies (Diamond 1996, Katz and Mair 1996). The
situation is direr in Eastern Europe and the Soviet successor states, where few parties have
developed the strength required to consolidate democracy. Although party organizational
structure is thus hypothesized to affect the quality and performance of democracy, surprisingly,
little attention has beeen given to how and why politicians choose the type of party organizations
they do. In this paper, I offer a new model of party formation and test it against a summary
account (King et al. 1994: 53-54) of European party formation, as well as several Russian
observations.
The model, which synthesizes assumptions from rational choice and organizational theory, is a
predictive typology that seeks to account for the various organizational forms taken by parties

based on their locations within the political opportunity structure. This study is unique in that it
focuses particular attention on two facets of party organization that affect democratic stability
and consolidation: mobilization strategies and the derivation of party resources. Parties that do
not mobilize voters directly and consistently are largely unable to socialize their supporters to
norms conducive to democracy. Parties that are dependent on state resources cannot
adequately counter-balance the state and its rulers.
This research seeks to build on previous works such as Aldrich (1995), Kalyvas (1996), and
Shefter (1994) in an attempt to explain the formation of important equilibrium institutionspolitical parties. While each builds upon the traditional party literature using the new
institutionalism, each of these three authors explain the formation of political parties in different
ways. Kalyvas and Shefter argue that politicians choose to organize as they do based largely on
their relationship to key resources such as secondary organizations (Kalyvas 1996, also see
Przeworski 1985) and state resources (Shefter 1995, also see Perkins 1995), while Aldrich
focuses primarily on the pressures democratic governance and elections put on politicians to
form political parties (Aldrich 1995). This paper synthesizes these two approaches and provides
a systematic test of the theory and hypotheses so generated.
Methodology
In his book Why Parties?, John Aldrich explains the formation and evolution of political parties
using a set of mechanisms endogenous to the politicians and parties. Political parties and their
various forms are strategies politicians use in their pursuit of office and policy goals. This book
is noteworthy not for its findings- it goes over well-tilled ground- or qualitative analysis -which
describes the theories rather than testing them -but rather for the mechanisms Aldrich employs.
Mechanisms attempt to tell the story of causation in a consistent manner. As such, the idea is
similar to Alexander Georges notion of process tracing, except that process-tracing
involves directed historical storytelling, while mechanisms tell the story stripped of proper nouns
and reproduced in a more or less formal manner. Both are complementary to one another and
a rigorous application of the comparative method or statistical analysis.
In this paper, I use the comparative method to find the causal effect of several variables on
party formation, soft rational choice to provide the mechanisms behind the different forms of
party formation, and briefly process-trace a summary account of European party formation
and a few Russian cases. It should be noted that King et al. argue against mechanisms and
process-tracing and suggest that the only way to connect the independent and dependent
variables is to break the chain between them down into individual links, and treat each link as a
new hypothesis. According to them, rational choice and formal modeling are not mechanisms as
such, but can be used to help ensure that the theory and associated hypotheses are internally
consistent. I respectfully suggest that they underestimate the value of mechanisms and directed
story-telling1. In this, I side with Elster and George: a good mechanism, or at least a convincing
1

For more on mechanisms, see Jon Elsters Nuts and Bolts for the Social Sciences and Kalyvas (ibid). For
the debate over the comparative method, as presented by King et al., see APSA (cite).

story, is useful as we attempt to move from correlation (or causal effect) to causation2. In the
section below, I present endogenous mechanisms that help explain party formation, then show
how the environmental variables under consideration affect these mechanisms, and through
them, affect the outcome3. I argue that endogenous mechanisms such as those presented in
John Aldrichs Why Parties?, as attractive and elegant as they are, are insufficient and must be
supplemented soas to take into account structure in a consistent manner.
The Mechanisms of Party Formation and Mobilization
Politicians formed the original political parties, called cadre parties (Duverger 1954) or parties
of notables (Weber 1946), as their parliamentary or congressional caucuses became temporally
stable. Aldrich argues that these coalitions coalesced because politicians needed them to
overcome collective action and social choice problems inherent in making policy (1995). While
this explanation does not explain when coalitions will become more or less permanent, it does
provide a mechanism- an iterated n-person prisoners dilemma for its occurrence. Without such
coalitions, lawmaking is simply unmanageable. Permanent caucuses make the process more
tractable.
The next step in the formation of the cadre parties involved the institutionalization of the links
between the caucuses and local electoral committees. The parties that resulted were candidatecentered, employed a small number of consultants (Duverger 1954), and were ideally suited to
winning elections as long as the relative size of the electorate was small. However, as the size of
the electorate grew, and as outsiders sought entrance to the political arena, politicians had to
find new ways to overcome the problems associated with mobilizing electoral support. These
two pressures led to the development of the first mass parties. While a system comprised
wholly of weakly articulated cadre parties could have continued for quite some time, a couple of
factors seem to suggest that the penetration of the electorate may well have been inevitable.
Politicians in opposition parties, assuming they desire to move into the majority, had an incentive
to implement strategies that might give them a competitive edge. Similarly, political outsiders
had to find strategies that would allow them and the groups they represented entrance into the
political arena. While there were a number of strategies both of these groups could have
pursued, the most successful involved direct mobilization of segments of the populace (Shefter
1994).
One way to understand the problems associated with mobilization is through the use of the
calculus of voting (Downs 1957; Riker and Ordeshook 1968, 1973; Aldrich 1995). The
most popular form of this calculus is R = PB + D - C, where R is the expected utility of voting,
P is the probability that the individual will affect the outcome, B is the importance of the
outcome to the individual, and D and C respectively represent the benefits and costs the
2

Probably the best example of this approach in the parties literature is Stathis Kalyvas The Rise of
Christian Democracy in Europe. John Aldrichs Why Parties? and Martin Shefters Political Parties and
the State are two other excellent examples. This work is modeled upon these three works.
3
The endogenous mechanisms employed are largely based upon those presented in John Aldrichs Why
Parties.

individual receives from the act of voting itself. The aggregation of voters with such a calculus
creates a collective action problem known as the paradox of voting. The problem arises
because the election of a beneficial candidate is a public good, and, as the probability of
effecting the outcome is so small, the incentives facing individuals usually suggest abstention. The
paradox is that anyone votes at all. This problem is compounded by the presence of a second
collection problem surrounding the B term. In order to determine the differential between the
candidates, a potential voter must gather information and intelligence about the candidates. This
effort is costly, and few voters will expend the time necessary when, as is usually the case, they
do not expect to affect the outcome. Political campaigns are designed to overcome these
problems. Politicians who wish to mobilize support must take steps to ensure that R is positive.
For instance, politicians try to increase the B term and decrease the costs associated with
gathering information and intelligence by presenting their messages in an easily digestible manner
and by pointing out the differences, real or imagined, between them and their rival candidates.
In order to move out of the minority, politicians must affect the calculus of potential supporters,
and as political resources are scarce, they must do so as efficiently as possible. Politicians turn
to parties only if the parties are of use to them. There are a couple of reasons why politicians
might turn to parties to help them mobilize electoral support. When politicians associate
themselves with an established political party, party labels reduce information costs by providing
perspective voters an inexpensive cue about a candidates ideology. More importantly for
the present research is the fact that coalitions of politicians can provide economies of scale
(Aldrich 1995: 49). Politicians can affect voters voting calculus, but it is expensive. Groups of
politicians can pool their resources and share the costs associated with mobilization.
Unfortunately, just because politicians would be better off pooling resources does not mean that
they will- such mobilization presents a collective action problem. This approach helps explain
why politicians might join parties, but it does not explain why parties would form in the first
place. For this, we have to go outside the political arena and look at the structures that make it
possible for politicians to solve the collection problems of mass mobilization4.
The endogenously generated pressures found above describe why politicians need parties as
well as the difficulties associated with their formation. However, they do not describe when or
how these difficulties will be overcome. Iteration could account for party formation
spontaneously, and without outside interference, but parties tend to mobilize around
politicians and groups with access to privileged resources- a factor that trumps mere iteration.
Politicians with access to privileged resources can use these resources (or the promise of them)
to induce cooperation, as is suggested by Olson (1965). Simply put, leaders with access to
resources can initiate and sustain cooperation among politicians by rewarding cooperative
behavior and punishing defection. While spontaneous cooperation is possible in an iterated
game (e.g. Axlerod 1984), it is more likely when a leader is able to link a politicians reward
4

Aldrich recognizes that it was the presence of certain conditions that allowed ambitious politicians to
form strong political parties (1995: 56, chs. 4&5). Unfortunately, as he was only trying to demonstrate how
certain mechanisms affect party formation. More rigorous testing would have allowed these conditions to
be treated as variables in, rather than preconditions for, a model of party formation.

with her behavior.


Bianco and Bates (1990) demonstrate how a leader can sustain cooperation without tapping
into resources outside the group, and through this, seem to offer a way to build in leadership
effects without bringing in structure.5 Unfortunately, according to Bianco and Bates, even a
leader with information about the individual strategies of each group member and the ability to
sanction/reward individuals separately cannot initiate cooperation among followers unless this
leader has an established reputation (ibid.; 142-144)- a fact which limits the applicability of the
(no longer completely exogenous) theory. Bianco and Bates point out that this reputation is part
of the political structure, and not necessarily something individuals have control over. Once
reputation is included, it seems proper to include other structural features that allow politicians to
affect the payoffs of individual politicians (Perkins 1996). Indeed, many structures provide
leaders with resources that allow leaders to affect politicians incentive structures without
drawing from pooled assets. The structures and resources leaders exploit to induce
cooperation and develop political parties determine the form of party organization and the
partys relationship to the electorate (ibid., Katz and Mair 1995, Luubbert 1991, Shefter
1994). The types of party organizations that result from given structures are described in the
following sections.
The Model (independent variables)
Strong parties and party organizations might improve the quality of democracy in the West, and
help ensure its survival elsewhere. However, politicians and parties do not make decisions
regarding organizational structure with the goal of promoting democracy, but in order to win
elections. Politicians wishing to win office choose the most economical and efficient
organizational strategy to achieve their goal of election. The politicians environment, here
referred to as the political opportunity structure, is made up of several components that
influence his choice of strategies vis--vis political party organization. The most important
components are the relative availability of state and private resources, secondary organizations,
and effective media outlets, as well as the type of institutional arrangements in which politicians
are obliged to operate. The state resources analyzed in this model include the availability of
enough bureaucratic positions to staff a large party organization and the state provision of
access to the mass-media for campaigning (see below for the latter)6. Historical examples of
secondary organizations co-opted for electoral purposes include trade unions (e.g. Przeworski
1985) and religious associations (e.g. Kalyvas 1996). However, all organizations have the
potential to be utilized in this manner. This measure is accordingly used as a measure of the
degree to which civil society is developed7. The media variable has two conditions. The first
5

Endogenous leadership is parasitic- groups members would be better of cooperating without leadership
than with it.
6
Public provision of campaign funds is important, but is included under the public provision of campaign
air-time. Additional research is necessary to determine if this simplification is justifiable.
7
Individual case studies in future studies will treat this variable in a more nuanced manner. In addition to
indicating whether or not society can provide organizational assets, the variable civil society can also
serve as an indicator of the difficulty involved in creating organizations from scratch, where needed.

condition is whether or not the technology needed to reach a large audience actually exists in a
given society. This condition would, for instance, preclude traditional societies where television
and/or radio reception is unavailable on a regular and widespread basis. The second condition
asks whether or not a given party has access to broadcasting facilities. There are two ways
parties can gain access to broadcasting facilities, independently or with the help of the state.
All of these components of the political opportunity structure heavily influence the types of party
organizations selected by political actors in a specific social and historical context. This is not to
say that they cause party organization. The politician judges the relative merits of each
strategy, given her position in the political opportunity structure, then chooses the one she feels
will help him the most.
(the dependent variable)
There are four distinct strategies politicians can employ. Each strategy varies in terms of the
manner in which politicians mobilize the electorate and the primary source of their resources.8
The combination of these two dimensions yields a two-by-two matrix:
Mobilization
Direct

Indirect

Derivation

State

Party Machine

Cartel Party

of Resources

Private

Mass Party

Cadre Party

The cadre party was the first party organization, historically, and evolved out of the alliance of
parliamentary factions and electoral committees (Duverger 1954). Due to its inability to mobilize
large constituencies, it was of little use to politicians once the size of the electorate had increased
beyond a certain level. However, the modern technology has increased the utility of the cadre
party organization by allowing politicians to reach large segments of the population through such
media as television and radio. The cadre party network helps politicians win elections by
providing contacts, professional campaign managers, and financiers. The cartel party is quite
similar to the cadre party in that politicians use the mass media to reach the electorate. It differs
from the cadre party in that the party staff is employed by the state, and the state provides the
majority of the partys campaign resources. Politicians choosing the mass party organizational
strategy create or co-opt secondary organizations in order to mobilize electoral support. This
strategy involves a substantial sacrifice in terms of autonomy, but once created reduces
transaction costs and uncertainty (Kalyvas 1996; Przeworski 1985). The party machine
strategy makes extensive use of government resources to staff a highly penetrative party
organization (Shefter 1994; Weber 1946 also see Aldrich 1995 p. 56). It is thus similar to the
mass party in degree to which it penetrates society, but differs from the mass party in that it also
deeply penetrates the government.
8

This is new. The existing literature on party organizations either treats organizational type as a discreet
variable (e.g. Perkins 1996) or includes only a subset of possible types (e.g. Katz and Mair 1995).

These strategies are not chosen in a vacuum. Each requires that certain resources be present.
Politicians using the pure cadre strategy must have adequate access to the media in order to be
consistently successful, the mass strategy requires the creation or co-optation of secondary
organizations, and the patronage requires, among other things, that elected offices have control
over appointments and services. The relevant independent variables, then, are the availability of
patronage, access to independent and state-sponsored media outlets, and the availability of
secondary organizations. Each of the four strategies in the partys opportunity set has associated
long and short-term costs and benefits for the politician. Some are fairly predictable, as in the
case of the degree of autonomy each affords to politicians, but all are highly contextual.
Politicians choose their strategies based not just on their absolute merits, but on the perceived
utility of each strategy, given their particular political opportunity structure. The environment
does not necessarily determine the choice of strategy, but it does make some strategies more
useful (and possible) than others. The most obvious hypotheses are summarized in the following
table9:
Simple Hypotheses on the Political Opportunity Structure and Party Organization
Bureaucracy
Media Available?
Secondary
Available? (Independent) (State)
Organizations?
Party Type
Yes
No
No
No
Party Machine
No

No

No

Yes

Mass Party

No10

No

Yes

No

Cartel Party

No

Yes

No

No

Cadre Party

No

No

No

No

(Local/Marginal)

In cases such as those described by the above table, the political opportunity structure
practically determines the partys choice of strategy. If a party has no access to existing
secondary organizations or to the mass-media, but does have access to enough bureaucratic
positions to staff a large, penetrative organization, it will probably choose to do so, forming a
machine party. Similarly, if the bureaucracy is closed to the party, and it cannot mobilize
sufficient support through available media resources, but it can develop ties with existing
secondary organizations, the result is likely to be a strong, independent, mass party organization.
If the party has no (or very limited) access to bureaucratic positions or secondary organizations,
but does have state-sponsored access to the mass media, the result will likely be a cartel party.
If the party has no access to bureaucratic positions, secondary organizations, or statesponsored access to the media, but does have independent access to the mass media, it will
probably form a cadre party. In the worst case scenario, the party will not have access to any
9

All of these assume an electorate of such size that a small organization cannot mobilize sufficient support
through direct, face-to-face canvassing.
10
The cartel party does require a porous enough bureaucracy to provide jobs for a very small staff, but this
requirement is easily fulfilled.

of the above mentioned resources. In such a case the party runs a large risk of becoming
marginalized and must create its own resources11. While the hypotheses generated in the table
above can be tested, we have made no predictions as to what strategies will be pursued when
combinations of resources are made available- that is, when there is more of a choice of
strategies. In order to make predictions in such cases, we must add more assumptions that will
take into account the relative utility of each strategy to the politicians.
Rational choice suggests that people make decisions based on their desires and opportunities.
For instance, people who desire to win office will select the strategy that gives them the greatest
chance of doing so, given their opportunities. The assumption is that politicians weight the costs
and benefits associated with each strategy available to them, and select the strategy that has the
greatest expected utility. In the cases listed above, the calculations are very straight forward- if
only one strategy is available, then it obviously has the highest expected utility12. However, such
is not the case when a politicians opportunity set includes more than one strategy. In such
cases, the politician must compare the utility of each strategy. While each of the four strategies:
the mass, machine, cadre, and cartel strategies, are potentially more or less equally efficacious,
some incur greater costs than others. For instance, the cartel and machine strategies are
cheaper than mass parties because the state is essentially subsidizing them. In terms of start
up and maintenance costs, the smaller organizations are cheaper than larger ones (Kalyvas
1996). The above suggests the following preference ranking:
cartel > cadre > machine > mass
In addition to monetary costs, certain strategies impose other sanctions that will affect their
ranking. Some strategies constrain politicians more than others. Politicians value autonomy,
and, all other things being equal, choose the strategy that will provide it to them. All other things
being equal, politicians wishing to maximize autonomy will rank the cadre and cartel party
strategies above the others. Politicians value these strategies above the others because they do
not create a new layer of sub-elites or ties with a large membership that might constrain their
actions, as do the mass and machine parties (Kalyvas 1996). Accordingly,
cadre = cartel > machine = mass
However, party machines and cartel parties are less constraining than mass parties and cadre
parties respectively because of the debt members of these organizations owe their patrons. This
factor confirms the ranking of preferences described above:
11

Successful politicians in such positions usually create their own secondary organizations. Shefter argues
that some oppression is a necessary condition for the formation of strong party organizations (1995:
introduction & Part One). While oppression can encourage the creation of secondary organizations, these
can also form under less dire circumstances. My argument is less grand than Shefters, but covers it well.
12
I should point out that the examples listed above are only deterministic if we assume that the elite are
going to participate in democratic elections. The fact is that there are other options. For example, if the
expected utility of revolution (in the case of political outsiders) or oppression (in the case of political
insiders) is greater than that of party formation, they will be chosen instead (see Shefter 1994: ch. 1).

cartel>cadre>machine>mass13
Using the analysis above, we can make predictions in cases that were previously indeterminate,
as is indicated in the following table:
Hypotheses on the Political Opportunity Structure and Party Organization
Bureaucracy
Media Available?
Secondary
Available? (Independent) (State)
Organizations?
Party Type
Yes/No
Yes/No
Yes
Yes/No
Cartel Party
Yes/No

Yes

No

Yes/No

Cadre Party

14

Yes

No

No

Yes/No

Party Machine

No

No

No

Yes

Mass Party

No

No

No

No

(Marginalized?)

The preference ordering also suggests the following decision tree:


State Sponsored
Media Access?

Yes

No

Cartel
Party

Independent
Media Access?

Yes

No

Cadre
Party
Access to the Bureaucracy?

Yes
Machine
Party

No
Access to 2
Organizations?
Yes
Mass Party

No
Marginalized?

Summary Data of European Party Formation


A quick look at summary data (King et al. 1994: 53-55) from the general trends in European
13

The argumentation and evidence provided in Kirchheimer (1966) and Katz and Mair (1995) support this
ranking, suggesting that politicians prefer the cartel party to both the mass and machine parties. Similarly,
Shefter (1994) finds that politicians prefer the machine party to the mass party for reasons of cost and
convenience.
14
The yes/no indicates that the result will be obtained with either one. I combined them to save space.

party formation and development confirms the face validity and appeal of the above preferenceranking and decision tree. The first parties were cadre parties15. The cadre party originated as
the parliamentary caucus, which was limited and elitist. The cadre parties consisted of local
networks, impermanent in nature, which were active around election time as they worked to get
members elected. Politicians wishing to win office needed very few resources because the
electorate was both small and local. Organizational requirements were minimal. As suffrage
was extended, political elites saw the need to get new voters to support them. The caucus
expanded into the cadre party to meet this demand by co-opting and coordinating the activity of
local electoral committees. The cadre party network provided contacts, professional campaign
managers, and financiers. Max Weber predicted a bleak future for parties of notables (cadre
parties) for a variety of reasons, the primary two being the prevailing trend towards
bureaucratization, and the organizational requirements for mobilizing sufficient support, given the
large size of the electorate. While the first was probably overstated, both must be reexamined
in light of modern communications technology. It certainly is the case, however, that this type of
organization is not capable of mobilizing enough support to win an election in a large electorate
without the help of mass media.
Seeking to preserve their status through democratic means, cadre party leaders had to create
organizations large and strong enough to mobilize a large constituency. If the bureaucracy was
open, these politicians used it to create machine parties. In cases where the bureaucracy was
closed, as when civil service reforms preceded the extension of the suffrage, these politicians
were forced to create or co-opt secondary organizations (Shefter 1994).
Of course the opposition found itself occupying an entirely different position in the political
opportunity structure: not only did historical circumstance deny them access to effective media
outlets, they were, almost by definition, denied positions in the bureaucracy. This forced them
to mobilize support directly through the creation of mass parties. Their structural position did
allow them one advantage in this regard- the start-up costs for creating large, penetrative
organizations had already been spent by socialist agitators. Trade unions were easily converted
into highly efficient vote winners: the first mass parties16. In situations where politicians are
denied access to the modern mass media and the bureaucracy and there are no secondary
organizations for politicians to co-opt, politicians must become agitators themselves to have a
chance at competing in the future. This leads to the sort of no-pain, no-gain argument
suggested by Shefter (1994: ch. 1).
It should come as no surprise that this summary account supports the hypotheses generated
above- the theories from which they were culled were originally tested on European cases.
King et al. suggest that theories developed around one set of observations be validated on a
new set. As a preliminary step towards satisfying this goal, the following section offers several
observations from post-communist Russia. Russia provides an ideal setting for testing theories
15

The question of whether or not these first parties, as described by Duverger, are better classified as cartel
parties requires further investigation. See also Shefter 1995: Part One.
16
See Duverger 1956 and Przeworski 1985; for the Christian Democratic example see Kalyvas 1996.

10

of party development, providing politicians that occupy different positions in the political
opportunity structure. The comparison with European party formation also eliminates the
problem with some accounts of Russian party formation (e.g. Fish 1995)- namely the lack of
variation on the dependent variable.
A Brief Analysis of Several Russian Observations
Most of the politicians and parties that got their nominees onto the ballot for the Russian Duma
elections of 1993 and 1995 occupy a less than ideal position in the political opportunity
structure. Thanks to the communist legacy, there are very few secondary organizations for
them to co-opt. Additionally, forming grass-roots organizations from scratch takes time and
money- resources that are spread thin in Russia. The lack of money also keeps these politicians
from purchasing airtime or creating their own media outlets. In a classic catch-22, these parties
could raise campaign money from dues if they had stronger organizations, but need money and
exposure to create stronger organizations. Similarly, the start-up costs involved in creating
organizations from scratch are probably much lower among developed civil-societies.
Russian parties do have some access to the media in Russia thanks to electoral rules that give
television time to all parties on the ballot. Were it not for this, these parties would be forced to
band together in hopes of creating a mass party or disappear. State subsidies keep these
parties relatively fit and actually serve as sort of a disincentive for collective action. Due to
their location in the political opportunity structure, these parties chose the cartel party
organization. Due to their limited support in society and the state, politicians in this situation are
not masters of their own political destiny. Alexander Rutskoi, a popular centrist who found
himself at odds with the Yeltsin-controlled state found it next to impossible to get media
coverage for his post-1993 political career. His attempt to build a national grass roots mass
party organization, the only strategy left to him, was largely unsuccessful17. His position in the
political opportunity structure led him to choose the mass party strategy, but did not guarantee
his success. In general, this is one of the problems with the Russian political opportunity
structure- its lack of secondary organizations and the high start of costs of creating them, makes
the mass party strategy problematic. The primary alternative at the present is to play sycophant
to the state or risk being cut-off.
Some politicians have either the name recognition or access to money that would allow them to
win elections without state support. One example is Zhironovskys LDPR, which has been
given airtime on the national news thanks to Zhironovskys outrageous antics and off the cuff
remarks. This exposure allowed the party to recruit members and staff electoral committees in
some localities. Similar in organization to the major US parties, the LDPR still receives its share
17

However, Rutskoi recently won a gubernatorial position that will give him some national exposure. This
points out the importance of the constitution within which politicians operate. The fact that Russia allows
popular candidates to run for national seats in local and regional elections, as with the Duma seats allocated
by SMDM and the gubernatorial/Federation council elections, allows them to continue their careers
indefinitely without developing the ties with other politicians and activists that would lead to stronger less
candidate-centered political parties.

11

of state subsidies, but relies primarily on private financial support. As such, its party strategy is
mostly a cadre. Yabloko occupies a similar place in the political opportunity structure and is
roughly similar to the LDPR in terms of organization.
The CPRF inherited many of the resources of its predecessor, the Communist Party of the
Soviet Union (CPSU), a mass party without peer. While members left the party in droves
through the late 80s and early 90s, it still maintains grass root organizations throughout the
country. While it has some access to state resources in some regions (in addition to the media
coverage and campaign support given to all parties), it came into the game with strong ties to
sections of electorate. Both Gorbachev and Yeltsin have expended considerable energy
denying the CPSU and CPRF access to the state bureaucracy and state assets. The real
danger to the CPRF is that its parliamentary faction of electoral-minded politicians will loosen
the CPRFs ties to the electorate in an effort to increase its autonomy and ideological
maneuverability. This move, made possible by state campaign subsidies and a semiindependent press, would make the CPRF dependent on the state: a difficult position for the
opposition to be in. At present, the CPRF remains the best example in Russia of a mass party,
but actually straddles the line between mass and cartel. How long this will last is anyones
guess. Were the leadership to devoid itself of its organizational roots, the local networks could
form a smaller and more ideologically-pure mass party.
In Eastern Europe, as in Western Europe before, external parties were forced by their position
in the political opportunity structure to mobilize support directly in their efforts towards gaining
inclusion. This led to the creation of mass parties. The East European examples, which went
under various labels such as Democratic Russia, Solidarity, the Civic Forum, the New Forum,
and Sajudis, were all external movements actively opposed to the existing regime. However,
once the regime allowed them entrance, the external parties were unable to translate this success
to the electoral arena for very long. Democratic Russia was extremely successful in contesting
early elections, but these elections, held in 1989 and 1990, were still rigged in favor of the
Communist Party, forcing Democratic Russia to pursue a policy of sponsoring both independent
and Communist Party members. This gave voters the necessary cue that the Communist Party
label did not offer, as the Communist Party was composed of many factions of varying
ideological bent. Democratic Russia also rallied support for Yeltsin in elections and in
encounters with hard-liners. However, the group's diverse background, exacerbated by
Yeltsin's refusal to commit himself to the group18, the unwieldy nature of its mass support, and
the ability of its factions to go it alone, led to Democratic Russia's eventual fragmentation (Fish
1995, Kullberg 1994, Perkins 1996).
Although Democratic Russia was a mass organization or even party while it was in its prime it
has all but disappeared and failed to get the necessary signatures for a place on the 1995 ballot.
18

Yeltsin was been quite willing to use Democratic Russia to further his own agenda, but he did not
reciprocate by committing himself to the organization in part because he did not want to sacrifice his
autonomy of action (Kullberg, 1994: 19). In a situation with some parallel in Poland, this lack of commitment
undermined the development of Democratic Russia as a political movement and party.

12

Democratic Russias new location in the political opportunity structure led many of its
constituent politicians to go it alone. While some regard the reluctance of Russian politicians,
and especially those in the democratic camp, to band together as irrational, the availability of
state subsidies and private financial support lowers the costs of independent action, making
independence the obvious (and rational) choice for many free-thinking politicians. The remnants
of Democratic Russias vast network remain in some areas and have been put to use to aid
candidates at the local level (Kullberg 1998).
Our Home is Russia, often referred to as the party of power, occupies an enviable position in
the political opportunity structure, as did Russias Choice in the 1993 elections. It has access to
the state-owned (and influenced) media, control over large amounts of state resources, and
deep pockets thanks to its relationship with many businessmen (who happen to owe Yeltsin and
his clients for their business success). Thanks to its position, it could easily have chosen any of
three organizational strategies (the cartel, cadre, and machine strategies) and arguable had the
resources for the fourth (the mass party). The two most obvious choices, however, were the
cartel and machine strategies, and it should come as no surprise that it chose a combination of
the two. It combined a strong national media presence with machine-party politics of a new
sort in some areas (Kullberg 1997). Organizationally, it is somewhere between a cartel and
machine, as its machines can be found only in those parts of Russia where Yeltsin was best able
to influence personnel choices at the local level. Several Russian (and other more familiar)
party organizations can be summarized by the following table:
Examples of Party Organizations
Degree of Penetration
High
Low
(Cartel Party20)

(Party Machine)

Use of State
Resources

High

Low

Our Home is Russia (RU)


th

19

US parties (late 19 century)

Most parties on ballot (RU)

Christian Democrats (IT)

Many European Parties (current)

(Mass Party)

(Cadre Party)

CPRF (RU)

Forza Italia (IT)

Solidarity (until break-up)

US Political Parties (current)

Democratic Russia (until break-up)

LDPR (RU)

Early SDs and CDs

Yabloko (RU)

In summary, most of the parties in Russia have access to few resources outside of those
provided by the state, and thus have chosen the cartel strategy. None of the exceptions have
19

These are summary descriptions. I am not claiming that all such parties conform to one type, only that
they do belong to the assigned group on average. (King et al. 1994: 53-55)
20
Just to remind the reader, by putting a party in the Cartel quarter, I am not claiming that they necessarily
conspire with other parties to monopolize political competition. Rather, I am making the more modest claim
that these parties do not penetrate the electorate directly, and that they rely heavily on state subsidies for
support.

13

yet formed strong enough organizations to socialize the masses to democracy (as would
machine and mass parties) or to provide a counter-weight to the state (as would mass and
cadre parties). As it stands, no parties are able to solve the collective action problem of
democratic consolidation. The result is a reassertion of Dual Russia (Tucker 1971), and an
uncertain future for Russian democracy. While the data is only suggestive, both the summary
descriptions and sample of Russian cases seem to support the hypothesis generated by the
rational choice model spelled out above.
Conclusion: Political Parties and Democratic Consolidation
In the West, the tendency of politics in the television era to weaken parties, with their attendant networks
of patronage and local support organizations, has been noted. In Russia, television electoral politics,
with its emphasis on personalization drawing from both Soviet traditions and Western imports, plays to a
nation uncertain of its future and lacking the secondary associations that can act as brakes or firewalls.
Though it is only one variable in this complex model, television, the most powerful medium and desired
political asset, could well retard the development of the very political parties that render the electoral
system efficacious.
Mickiewicz and Richter 1996, 125

The weakening of political party organizations is thought to have "hollowed-out" democracy in


established democracies by atrophying the linkages between politicians and their constituencies
(Diamond 1996). In established democracies, many political parties have distanced themselves
organizationally from their supporters in favor of developing strong, institutionalized relations
with the state (Burnham 1965; Katz and Mair 1995). Such parties are less responsive to their
electorate and have alienated large sections of the citizenry. In the view of some scholars, such
a situation creates potential for instability and authoritarianism (Berman 1997; Huntington 1968).
The situation is quite probably more dire in Eastern Europe and the Soviet successor states,
where few parties have developed the strength required to consolidate democracy. Penetrative
party organizations have historically played a fundamental role in socializing new voters to the
norms of democracy. However, most parties in the Soviet Successor states have not
established ties with society and thus cannot socialize the newly enfranchised electorate to these
norms. Due partly to their isolation from society, many of these parties depend on the state and
its resources for their survival and viability. While this situation mirrors that of parties in
established democracies, it is potentially more dangerous due to the lack of secondary
organizations and poorly developed civil society in these countries. Civil society has traditionally
helped re-enforce democratic behavior and attitudes (Putnam 1993), and can serve to check
the power of the state (Foley and Edwards 1996). It may take time for society to organize itself
to the extent necessary to perform these functions on its own. Without a supportive citizenry
and something to check state power, democracy stands little chance of surviving, much less
consolidating, in many of the states that recently made the transition from post-totalitarianism
and authoritarianism.
Once again, the more penetrative mass and machine party organizations have historically played
a fundamental role in the consolidation of democracy. In fact, democracy seems to require

14

such strong parties to ensure its survival. However, these party types did not arise because
democracy required them: these party organizations were formed and maintained to the
extent politicians found them useful. Given this fact, and the importance of the choices they
make, the question which must be answered is what leads choose one strategy over another.
This research is designed to answer this question. Preliminary results are not encouraging: it
seems as though the contemporary availability of the media and state resources has stunted the
growth of the majority of the parties in Russia and Eastern Europe, and led to the decline of
party organizations in the more established democracies (Perkins 1996). Most East European
parties have access to few resources outside of those provided by the state, and thus have
chosen the cartel strategy. This is the worst possible choice for democratic consolidation.
None of the exceptions have yet formed strong enough organizations to socialize the masses to
democracy (as would machine and mass parties) or to provide a counter-weight to the state (as
would mass and cadre parties). As it stands, no parties are able to solve the collective-action
problem of democratic consolidation. The situation is little better in the West. Western parties
have largely disassociated themselves from their constituencies and can no longer channel the
needs of the citizenry adequately nor protect them from the creep of authoritarianism. The result
is an uncertain future for democracy in both regions.

15

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