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The cost of partitocracy: party funding in East Central Europe

Simral, Vit (2014) The cost of partitocracy: party funding in East Central Europe. Advisor: Morlino, Prof. Leonardo. Coadvisor: Gattei, Dr. Stefano . pp. 153. [IMT PhD Thesis]

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The work’s goal is to contribute to the discussion on cartelisation in the party systems of East Central Europe. Its contribution to the research field is to be found in a thorough analysis of the budgets of political parties in the Czech Republic, Poland and Slovakia, to a smaller degree also of the budgets of political parties in Austria, Germany and Slovenia. In total thirty arguments found in the existing scholarly literature are discussed, with a focus on their relation to budgets and election strategies of political parties. These arguments are analysed with the help of basic tools of quantivative statistical analysis and the qualitative method of comparison of selected features of the analysed cases. The work’s analytical part is based on two new original datasets. The first one, where data on budgets of political parties are collected, uses publicly available sources found in both the off-line as well as the on-line world of today. The second one uses original data collected by the means of an electronic questionnaire send to representatives of political parties in the six researched countries. The work defines two new concepts that serve as the theoretical basis of the analysis: the rule drive and the strategy drive. The rule drive is the part of a party’s budget that is predominantly formed by legal regulations on political parties, their funding and activities. On the income side, the rule drive is mostly visible in the share of party budget comprised by state subsidies. On the expenditure side, the rule drive is most apparent in the legal limits of expenses parties may allocate to election campaigning. In addition, the rule drive encompasses also the various limits on donations permittable to be accepted by political parties, limits on parties‘ business activities, or the legal fees that parties are obliged to pay to enter certain types of elections. The strategy drive is the causal agent that is predominantly formed by parties‘ free decisions on how they wish to conduct their day-to-day activities and their election campaigning. On the income side, the strategy drive is represented by the amount of membership fees collected, donations accepted or loans taken out. On the expenditure side, the strategy drive is the formula by which political parties allocate their financial assets to the various activities each political party carries out: office operations, administrative work for their elected representatives and officials, education of party members and promotion towards the public in general, election campaigning. Both concepts are of interest for the analysis and all their segments are used to assess the various structural features of party budgets. Original data collected for the work show that parties in their lifetime go through an evolution of their budgets, from one relying mostly on private donations and spending the majority of assets on elections to one relying on membership fees, state subsidies in the case of an electoral sucess, and spending a larger part of assets on activities not related to election campaigning. The specific shape of budget evolution depends largely on the size of their budget – parties with smaller budgets feature also a different budget structure than parties with budgets larger. This rule applies across the spectrum, from the largest parties in the dataset to the smallest one. The quantitative data on budget sizes are in the work translated into meaningful, categories based on budget sizes. , The categories are labeled weight classes, mimicking the weight classes found in the boxing world, from bantamweight parties, with annual budgets up to €10 thousand, to super heavyweight parties, with annual budgets over €10 million. All parties in the researched countries are thus be classified. Based on these categories, is it shown that the largest, super heavy parties in East Central Europe receive the bulk of all public funding. The model of subsidies distribution differs in the researched countries and the numbers show that it is difficult to assess whether one system is more cartelised than the other on the basis of distributed state subsidies. Easier and less arguable is to assess the relative transparency of the models of party regulations and regulations of party funding in each of the researched country. Austria, Poland, Slovakia and Slovenia and Poland are in the recent time undergoing a turn towards more transparency, with new laws already in place or currently being adopted. The Czech Republic is noticeably lagging behind. The last phenomenon discussed in the work is that certain features of budgets, including its size and structure, correlate with certain party strategies. Parties of certain budget size and structure have different campaigning strategies, different policies and different opinions than parties of different budget size and structure. The collected data shows links between several variables, such as parties with large subsidies share in their budgets see as legitimate larger subsidies share than parties without subsidies, or heavyweight and middleweight parties spend a significantly larger share of their election expenses on the Internet than super heavyweight parties. Finally is discussed the behaviour of a specific set of parties that are in the researched dataset mostly found in the heavyweight and middleweight class. These parties have different campaign strategies, keep their election campaign spending higher than the rest and their budgets do not go through the same evolutionary shift as do the budgets of other parties. They do not increase their fee-paying membership and do not sustain significant day-to-day activities not directly related to election campaigning. These parties are since 2007 at the latest most successful in challenging the ‘cartel’ established by larger parties in national parliaments. The set of these parties overlaps in a large part with the set of ‘populist’ parties as discussed in other, ideology and party programme-oriented literature. Or, if restated, the populist parties are in their majority distinguished not only by their programmatic profile, but also by the structure of their budgets and related party strategy features. Ultimately, the work provides a lot of empirical evidence for the discussion of the concept of ‘cartel’ in the region of East Central Europe. It supports with hard data some of the old folk theorems and creates a firm data and conceptual basis for further research of party funding in East Central Europe.

Item Type: IMT PhD Thesis
Subjects: J Political Science > JA Political science (General)
PhD Course: Political Science and Institutional Change
Identification Number: 10.6092/imtlucca/e-theses/154
NBN Number: urn:nbn:it:imtlucca-27185
Date Deposited: 16 Jan 2015 11:23
URI: http://e-theses.imtlucca.it/id/eprint/154

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