Lawrence LeDuc, "Democratizing Party Leadership
Selection," Party Politics, 7 (May 2001),
Political parties choose candidates for their country's
highest office through a variety of different institutions.
As Rahat and Hazan note (this issue), the manner in which a
party selects its candidates reflects party politics in a
variety of ways. The choice of alternative methods for the
selection of party leaders sometimes reflects a party's view
of its competitive position within the electoral system. For
example, parties which have suffered a serious electoral
setback may embark on a process of party 'renewal' in order
to lay the foundations for an eventual return to power. In
such instances, an important component of the argument can
be the need for greater 'democratization' - to open the
party up to new ideas, new groups and broader participation.
But through such a process a party can change significantly.
In adapting and surviving, a party's attempts to renew
itself by 'democratizing' the processes through which it
selects its leader can have a number of consequences for the
type of party which it ultimately becomes, and not
necessarily those anticipated when the process of
democratization was implemented.
Figure 1: Categorizing party leadership selectorates p.
Table 1: The growth of presidential primaries in the United
States: 1968-2000 p. 328
Table 2: Elections for leader and deputy leader of the
British Labour Party: 1981-94 p. 331
Table 3: Characteristics of major party leadership
conventions in Canada: 1919-93 p. 334
Table 4: Canadian Progressive-Conservative Party leadership
election: 24 October 1998 and 14 November 1998 p.
Rahat and Hazan (this issue) show that the composition of
party selecorates has a direct effect on shaping the image
which a party presents to he voters in an election. The same
line of argument may readily be applied to the mechanisms
for selection of party leaders. As politics becomes more
candidate centered' (Wattenberg, 1991), the leader is the
party for large numbers of voters. Leaders have assumed
greater electoral importance, even in parliamentary
countries 'such as Britain or Canada in which citizens armor
vote for them directly (McAllister, 1996). In an earlier
time, parties guarded the right to select their leaders
closely, and often fought tenaciously to ensure that the
leader was someone with proven party credentials and
demonstrated political abilities. With less predictable
selectorates, such constraints may no longer apply. As the
pressures for greater democratization for internal party
politics build, parties run the risk of losing control of
their own leadership selection mechanisms. To a large
extent, this has already happened in the United States. If
party selectorates in other countries ecome more like those
of the US, will we be surprised someday to discover that
parties elsewhere have begun to look more like American
parties? Lord Bryce would not be.