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Pieter van Houten, "Multi-level Relations in Political Parties: A Delegation Approach," Party Politics, 15 (March, 2009), 137-156.

First paragraph:
The interactions between actors and units active at different territorial levels within political parties are typically complex, and state-wide political parties face a variety of challenges in shaping and operating a multi-level party organization. At the root of this complexity and these challenges is the fact that party fortunes at each level are usually influenced by those at other levels, while different 'territorial units' in a party are likely to face quite different demands and imperatives in their operations. A good understanding of the complex multi-level dynamics in political parties requires answers to a number of questions. For example, how are parties organized across different levels of government, and what are the links between the national party office and sub-national branches? Which factors influence these links? What are the effects of state decentralization on political parties? How much autonomy do sub-national branches have? At which level is the decisionmaking authority on certain issues located?

Figures and Tables:

Last Paragraph:
This article has given a few brief illustrations to indicate the plausibility and promise of the framework presented, but much more empirical research needs to be done to establish its utility (for a first attempt, see van Houten, 2009). Moreover, further theoretical developments and extensions of the framework are necessary. In particular, which factors can we expect to influence the relative costs of particular control mechanisms, and, thus, the preferences of party elites for these mechanisms? And what can explain whether the chosen mechanisms are formal or informal rules, or state laws? The legal availability of mechanisms, the existing framework of regulations at a particular point in time, the level of heterogeneity (in electoral context, party systems, etc.) across regions, and the nature of party and electoral competition at the national level are possibly relevant factors, but more theorizing - in combination with empirical research - is necessary. Equally importantly, we need to formulate alternative frameworks and hypotheses, based on different assumptions about actor preferences, institutional arrangements and factors driving the behaviour of party actors. The development and evaluation of alternative frameworks is necessary to complement, interpret and direct the growing body of empirical research on multi-level party organizations, and to take this research agenda forward.

Last updated March 2009