Tag Archives: Political Parties

Gianluca Passarelli – The presidentialization of political parties: A new perspective

This is a guest post by Gianluca Passarelli, who is an Associate Professor in Political Science at the Department of Political Sciences, Sapienza University, Rome. He is the editor of a new book, The Presidentialization of Political Parties: Organizations, Institutions and Leaders, published by Palgrave Macmillan

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What actually makes a president of the Republic a leader in (semi-)presidential regimes? And when, if ever, is it possible that a party leader, once he or she has become the head of government in a parliamentary regime, can come close to the style of leadership in similar cases in which the separation of powers exists? If the institutions influence the behavior of politicians, and thus of the parties, it is necessary to understand and explain if and in what way it is possible to refer to ‘presidentialized’ party organizations outside of the institutional context that defines its characteristics: the presidential regime.

The presidentialization of politics is a relatively new and important phenomenon. However, the term presidentialization has become highly debatable. In particular, the more contentious side is offered by the suggestion that presidentialization of politics could make (semi) presidential regimes and parliamentary ones more similar to presidentialism.

The present state of affairs, in very brief terms, sees those on the one side who maintain that it almost exclusively the institutions that influence, condition and make possible (or not) party ( and therefore also political) presidentialization. On the other, we find those who insist that political presidentialization – intended as a centralization of governmental, elective and party functions – is a verifiable “tendency” in practically all western democracies. For various reasons, we would argue that to this dichotomy can be added a variable, the component connected to the “nature” of the parties analyzed, which can contribute to spotlighting a phenomenon that is being widely discussed throughout the (not only academic) world. In light of these different research hypotheses, we seek to approach our analysis by flanking the party variable with the institutional one.

The aim of our research is to explain why the level of party presidentialization varies from one country to another. If it is true that that constitutional structures affect the level of party presidentialization, we are adding the party’s original features and arguing that the degree of party presidentialization varies as a function of the party’s genetics, that are the original organizational characteristics of each party.

The literature has mainly focused on the general process of personalization that has been detected in recent modern politics, especially in western democracies. Depending on the cases studied, on the research fields and the data availability (and reliability), the studies conducted have had different foci. The role of institutions, the characteristics of leadership and leaders, as well as the electoral process or the mass media influence, have been the main explanatory variables analyzed in order to explain the phenomenon of «presidentialization». Thus, the weakening of party loyalties, the kind of electoral system, the influence of mass media, and the form of government have in turn been considered as the independent variable, the factor that justifies the above mentioned phenomenon of a «presidentialization of politics». We place greater stress both on the concept of presidentialization, and on demonstrating empirical evidence of the phenomenon, if any such evidence exists. Indeed, the presidentialization of politics in our view means the presidentialization of parties, or better yet, a phenomenon that arises from the political parties’ behavior.

The causal trajectory is summarized as follows: constitutional structures affect party presidentialization through the medium of endogenous party factors. We consider the genetic model of organizational development (penetration v. diffusion), the characteristics of the dominant coalition (factions v. tendencies), as well the balance of power in the dominant coalition (central office v. public office). There are three factors concerning party genetic features: 1) the organization’s construction and development; 2) the presence or the absence (at the party’s origin) of an external “sponsor”; 3) the role of charisma in the party’s formation (Panebianco 1988, pp. 50-2).

We basically claim that differences between «personalization of politics» and «presidentialization of politics» essentially refer the fact that: a) the previous implies mainly considering a sort of personal «capital» in terms of skills, characteristics, attitudes, etc., while b) the latter consider primarily institutional resources, constraints and opportunities.

The results tend to confirm both of the starting hypotheses: a) the presidentialization of political parties is a phenomenon (and a concept with clear empirical “aspects”) that must inevitably arise in presidential regimes (and also in semi-presidential ones, under certain circumstances); b) the genetic characteristics of political parties function as an intervening variable capable of accentuating the opportunities offered by the institutions from a presidentialization perspective, or rather they circumvent restrictions and produce presidential effects, even if limited in time and space. Moreover, the results indicate an increasing level of presidentialization in parties (and thus indirectly in political systems) where the parties have original, genetic features capable of accentuating the institutional opportunities for such a development. Independent of the distinctions between regimes, «centralized» parties that are cohesive, disciplined, without factions and with a leadership that is «independent» from the organization (for extra-political or statutory resources) will be more suitable to increasing levels of presidentialization. Vice versa, political parties that have a fragmented and divided leadership, and are permeated by fractions, factions and ideological conflicts as well as by “decentralized” and diffused organizational structures, will have considerably greater difficulty in concentrating resources around a single individual. General results confirm our hypothesis about the importance and influence of the genetic characteristics of the parties and equally about the inescapable influence of the constitutional structure.

Gianluca Passarelli (gianluca.passarelli@uniroma1.it) is Associate Professor in Political Science at the Department of Political Sciences, Sapienza University, Roma. He earned his PhD in Comparative and European Politics at the University of Siena, and he has been research fellow at the University of Bologna. His research interests lie in presidents of the Republic, political parties, electoral systems, elections and electoral behaviour. He has authored, co-authored, or edited books on presidents, political parties, and constitutional regimes. He has published in journals such as French Politics, South European Society and Politics, Contemporary Italian Politics and Political Geography.

The Philippines – Political parties and Presidential power

Vice president Jejomar Binay recently left his party of 30 years, the Partido ng Demokratikong Pilipino-Lakas ng Bayan (PDP-Laban), to form a new party in preparation for his run at the 2016 presidential elections. VP Binay was a member of the Laban (Laban ng Bayan) Party when it was headed by former senator Benigno Aquino. The Laban Party joined forces with the Partido Demokratiko ng Pilipinas (PDP) in 1986, and has enjoyed significant electoral success – winning the presidency under Corazon Aquino in 1986 – as well as lacklustre performance – in the last 2013 elections, it won one seat in the Senate and 2 of the 231 seats in the House.

With VP Binay’s departure from the PDP-Laban, the party has announced that it will leave the main opposition coalition, the United Nationalist Alliance (UNA). The UNA was an electoral alliance formed in part with VP Binay’s support as national chair of PDP-Laban. However, PDP-Laban President Senator Aquilino Pimentel III was opposed to the coalition and did not run under the UNA banner for his senatorial seat but, instead, under the administration’s Team PNoy, which he successfully secured.

The situation with the PDP-Laban and the UNA underscores changeability in political parties in the Philippines and renews the question: how does this changeability affect presidential power and policy performance in the country? The answer – discussed at greater length below – is not hopeful: the changeability undermines programmatic political development and fails to displace personalistic money-centric politics.

Studies identify at least three fundamental roles for political parties:[1] (1) as vehicles to mobilize support for elections; (2) as a political pillar encapsulating regularized patterns, such as programmatic political contestation rather than personalistic politics or candidate-centered politics; and (3) undergird executive-legislature relations that frame political performance.

Do political parties perform as vehicles to mobilize support for elections in the Philippines? On the one hand, thus far, presidential candidates have continued to run under party labels; on the other hand, it is debatable if this represents a rallying under political parties or if political parties are rallying around strong candidates. Thus, for instance, the 2013 elections for the senate are not necessarily indicative of political party performance as much as Team Pnoy’s success.

Are political parties in the Philippines encapsulating regularized patterns? The answer to this is less ambiguous than the previous: studies show that political trust remains low in the Philippines, and the electorate remains sceptical of political institutions and representatives of Congress, Senate, and political parties.[2]

Do political parties undergird executive-legislature relations that frame political performance? As the PDP-Laban and UNA situation indicate, and the rebuilding of the Liberal Party under President Aquino III suggest, political parties are still working out their coalescence. While this process is underway, executive-legislative relations continue to ride on personalistic relations. This means that successful policymaking generally carries high transaction costs.

Clearly, political party institutionalization in the Philippines will benefit the country in the immediate term and the long run. There is reason for hope: as executives and legislators become increasingly cognizant of the significant political and social costs in running personalistic campaigns and as the anticorruption efforts deepen, the trends will converge towards greater institutionalization.

South Korea – Reforming Party Nomination

The impending June 4th local elections for the 17 cities and provinces in South Korea have refocused attention onto the political parties, particularly the nomination process. Party nomination – widely considered to perpetuate nepotism and corruption – was one of the few subjects over which the presidential candidates of the 2012 elections expressed explicit agreement. In particular, then-candidates Park Geun-hye and Moon Jae-in acknowledged that the closed-door process was a primary source of public disapprobation and distrust and formulated a bipartisan pledge to reform the party nomination process towards greater transparency and accountability. Given the significance of party nomination to candidate selection, including presidential candidates, and the public distrust of political parties, it pays to look at the efforts towards the reform of the party nomination process.

The bipartisan pledge explicitly banned the party nomination practice so that those running for local elections will hold no party affiliation. Following elections, a special interparty parliamentary reform committee was constituted and tasked with recommending political reforms, including the pursuit of the ban. However, time has eroded the determination and resolve of 2012, and the committee’s efforts to push reforms ahead have stalled. In particular, the Saenuri Party is calling for an open primary nomination rather than a complete ban of the party nomination practice, citing the concern that unvetted candidates may be problematic due to their lack of experience or qualification, without the option or prospect of reigning in problems through the party nomination process. Officially, the Saenuri Party is punting on the issue of the ban, referring back to the stalemated special parliamentary reform committee for the final decision. For the impending June 2014 elections, the ruling party has adopted a system that requires candidates be selected by an “electoral college” of each constituency, with the party retaining the right to replace the candidate selected if deemed uncompetitive. Opposition parties are accusing the ruling Saenuri Party of resisting the ban on party nomination and President Park of backtracking on an election pledge.

On its end, the main opposition party, the Democratic Party had announced a package of reforms for the party nomination process that similarly opened up the nomination process to public participation but does not ban party nomination. The reforms had included banning candidacies of those with corruption charges and expelling party members involved with party-nomination bribery. This has since changed with the announcement of the opposition coalition bloc with independent Representative and former presidential candidate Ahn Cheol-soo.

Former presidential candidate Ahn Cheol-soo’s much anticipated party, the New Party, was the only party to hold fast to the ban on party nominations. Ahn is a favorite among independents and while his party was likely to draw some support away from both major parties, it was considered a primary electoral challenge to the support for the opposition Democratic Party. The coalition between Ahn and the opposition Democratic Party has changed the political landscape, and one of the foremost changes announced is the ban on parties’ nomination of candidates for lower-level administration chiefs and councilors.

The announcement of the opposition bloc seems to have caught the ruling Saenuri party offguard. This may mean an acceleration of reforms with the party’s nomination efforts, given that the issue ignites considerable public disapproval.

Indonesia – (Dead) Presidents and Political Parties

The electoral race is heating up with the countdown to the legislative elections in April 2014 and the presidential elections in July. Almost on cue, we see political swipes taken against the standing president – President Yudhoyono and his once-popular Democratic Party – as well as the intensifying efforts of political parties to build momentum. The exercise has witnessed an increasing number of political parties seizing on legacies of past, dead presidents, namely, President Suharto, President Sukarno, and President Abdurrahman “Gus Dur” Wahid. In the case of President Gus Dur Wahid – a moderate Muslim strongly opposed to religious intolerance – several Islamic parties are vying to lay claims to preserving and continuing the president’s ideals. Are political parties harking back to the past of personalistic politics rather than constructing competitive, cogent political agenda based on voters’ interests? Does this speak to a trend of diminution of political parties? Evidence suggests that the answers are: no, and no.

In the first instance, there are indications that Indonesian political parties have worked to develop platforms for competitive election – albeit with varying success – with several incorporating an anti-corruption stance on their agenda. For instance, the Prosperous Justice Party (PKS) – the largest Islamic Party in Indonesia – has tried to expand beyond religion to become the “clean” party, i.e., one untainted by corruption, reflecting the effort to move beyond a religious platform and probably the awareness that religion was no longer sufficient to attract Indonesia’s popular vote. Unfortunately for the party, the efforts were cut short by corruption charges and sex and bribery scandals that hit the highest levels of the party. Similarly, President Yudhoyono’s Democratic Party was elected on a platform of anticorruption, social justice, and economic performance and the party’s recent escalated decline is due not only to the battery of corruption charges and intraparty feuds but also a lack of policy performance. The rise of the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P) in the polls beyond the popularity of its chair, Megawati Sokarnoputi, may also be considered as moving beyond personalities. Of course, one may argue that the new-found popularity of the PDI-P may not be due to a more robust party agenda but, rather, the popularity of Jakarta Governonr Joko “Jokowi” Widodo. There’s certainly something to that: for instance, news reports point out that Jokowi’s popularity has led parties other than the PDI-P to feature him in their political ads. But, it is also true that Jokowi’s popularity rests largely on: (a) his record of successful implementation of policy platforms; and (b) Jokowi’s “man-of-the-people” that has engaged young and old voters. More importantly, they represent significant departures from personalistic-cult politics.

These circumstances point to a hopeful assessment on the question in the second instance: the diminution of political parties in Indonesia may be greatly exaggerated. What we are witnessing is the stops and starts in the process of institutionalizing political parties in emergent democracies. With elections imminent and in the face of several unpopular revelations, it is not surprising that some parties hope to stem the tide of losing popular support by harking back to past. It remains to be seen if this will work in the immediate term; there is no question, however, that in the medium- and long-term, programmatic appeal or policy record are the bases for electoral success.

Indonesia – The 2014 Elections: Political parties and Presidential nominees

Indonesia is counting down to the elections, with House and Council races scheduled for April and the Presidency in July (with run-offs in September). 560 seats of the House of Representatives (Dewan Perwakilan Rakyat, DPR) are contestable, alongside 128 seats for the People’s Representatives Council (Dewan Perwakilan Daerah, DPD). Together with provincial elections – 2112 seats – and district elections – 16,895 seats – the election year promises to be no small affair. A review of the election rules and the impact on political parties and the presidential elections will help frame how the election year unfolds.

Legislative elections are guided by Law No. 8, passed in 2012. Representatives to the DPR are elected under an open-list proportional system through affiliation with political parties. Members of the DPD are elected via single non-transferable vote, and perform as individuals in the Upper House, notwithstanding their political affiliations.

Article 8 of Law 8 stipulates that political parties may contest the elections if they meet the following conditions:

    1. Political Parties that contested the last Election and met the threshold of vote acquisition of the total national valid votes (3.5 percent) shall be determined as Contesting Political Parties in the next Election.
    2. Political Parties that did not meet the threshold of vote acquisition in the previous Election or newly established political parties may become Election Contestants after meeting the following requirements:

a)      have regional chapters in all provinces;

b)     have chapters in 75% (seventy five percent) of the total number of regencies/ municipalities in the province;

c)      have chapters in 50% (fifty percent) of the total number of districts/kecamatan in the regency/municipality;

d)      have at least 30% (thirty percent) women’s representation in the management of the central chapter of the political part;

e)      have a minimum of 1000 members of the total population for each chapter of political party;

In addition, Article 55 stipulates that the list of party nominees for candidates must contain at least 30% women candidates.
For 2014, the General Elections Commission (Komisi Pemilihan Unum, KPU) sanctioned 12 parties to contest the national elections, with an additional three eligible to contest provincial elections in Aceh. They are:

  • Nasdem Party
  • National Awakening Party (PKB, chair HA Muhaimin Iskandar)
  • Prosperous Justice Party (PKS, chair Muhammad Anis Matta)
  • Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P, chair former President Megawai Sukarnoputri)
  • Golkar (leading party of the Suharto era, chair Aburizal Bakrie)
  • Party Movement Indonesia Raya (Gerindra, chair Prof. Dr. Ir. Suhardi, founder Prabowo Subianto)
  • Democratic Party (PD, chair President Dr. Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono)
  • National Mandate Party (PAN, chair M. Hatta Rajasa)
  • United Development Party (PPP, chair Dr. H. Suryadharma Ali)
  • People’s Conscience party (HANURA, chair former presidential candidate H. Wiranto)
  • Crescent Star Party (PBB, chair Dr. H. MS. Kaban)
  • Indonesian Justice and Unity party (PKPI, Partai Keadilan dan Persatuan Indonesia, splinter party from Golkar)

However, only parties or coalitions with at least 25 percent of the vote or 20 percent of the House are able to field a presidential candidate. The Constitutional Court has scrapped these requirements for the 2019 elections with the landmark decision to hold concurrent legislative and presidential elections. At the moment, that still rules out some of the parties, like the Gerindra party, that hold less than 20%  of the House seats.

Meanwhile, jockeying for nomination as presidential candidate of the various parties continues. Two parties have already nominated their candidates — Gerindra’s nominee is its founder, Prabowo Subianto, while Golkar’s presidential candidate is Aburizal Barkrie, its chair and chief benefactor — although they may not be able contest the presidential elections without coalition partners under the current electoral laws. Meanwhile, President Yudhoyo’s Democratic Party has set its 11 candidates on a national-tour-debate that will end in April. The PDI-P has yet to name a candidate: Jakarta Governor Joko “Jokowi” Widodo is a favourite and consistently outpolls the other candidates, but there is the possibility that the party may nominate Megawati as presidential candidate.

One thing seems clear: there will be no shortage of election news from Indonesia in 2014.