Return to: Search Page or to: Table of Contents Vol. 10, issue 4

Jo Saglie and Knut Heidar, "Democracy within Norwegian Political Parties: Complacency or Pressure for Change?" Party Politics, 10 (July 2004), 385-405.

First Paragraph:
'The political parties created democracy and . . . modern democracy is unthinkable save in terms of the political parties', according to E. E. Schattschneider (1942: 1). Accepting that still leaves open the question of the ways in which parties are instrumental to democracy. One line of argument is that parties allow citizens to exercise some control over public policy, especially by giving voters a choice between competing programmes (e.g. Downs, 1957). Another view is that parties offer the voters a choice between competing teams of leaders, or at least that the voters have the opportunity to kick the incumbent rascals out (e.g. Schumpeter, 1942). But while inter party competition is widely appreciated, intra-party democracy is questioned. Is intra-party democracy possible? Ought parties to be internally democratic? Why should we expect parties to be internally democratic?

Figures and Tables:
Figure 1. Perceptions of the leadership's attentiveness among party members, 1991 and 2000 (percent)*
Table 1. Perceptions of intra-party democracy among party members and Congress delegates, 2000-1 (percentage)*
Table 2. Perceptions of intra-party democracy among party members (M) and Congress delegates (CD) 2000-1, by party. Balance of opinion*
Figure 2. Perceptions of party member influence in local branches among party members, 1991 and 2000 (percent)*
Table 3. Perceptions of party member influence in local branches among party members (1991 and 2000), by party and activity
Figure 3. Norms on member and voter influence among party members and Congress delegates, 2000-1 (percent)*
Table 4. Norms on member and voter influence among party members and Congress delegates (2000-1), by party. Balance of opinion
Table 5. Attitudes to delegatory and direct intra-party democracy among party members and Congress delegates, 2000-1 (percentage)*
Table 6. Attitudes to delegatory and direct intra-party democracy among party members and Congress delegates, by party. Balance of opinion (delegatory minus direct democracy)

Last Paragraph:
Declining membership, inactivity within the organizations and anti-party sentiments among the voters threaten the legitimacy of the parties and their policies. Party organizers try almost desperately to make their parties more attractive. Delegatory democracy is often regarded as unsuitable for the new information society, where individualization, decentralization and flat structures are required. This may lead to experiments with new structures and procedures, regardless of current member satisfaction. Our data indicate, however, that if more extensive reforms are adopted, the party Congresses will do it rather grudgingly.