Return to: Search Page or to: Table of Contents Vol. 16, issue 2

Bram Wauters, "Explaining Participation in Intra-Party Elections: Evidence from Belgian Political Parties," Party Politics, 16 (March 2010), 237-259. [Available at]

First paragraph:
Political parties are thought of as being in crisis, although this is not entirely true. Mair (1994) proposes splitting up the party organization into three parts in order to facilitate analysis: the 'party in public office', i.e. the party in parliament and in government; the 'party on the ground', i.e. the party members and also the party voters; and the 'party in central office', i.e. the central party organization. Rather than talking about the general 'decline' of parties (Wattenberg, 1984; Webb, 1995), it is better to consider recent evolutions as a change within parties where the balance between the three components has been altered to the detriment of the 'party on the ground'. The other two components have grown in importance due to a generous system of public financing and to intra-party professionalization. This implies that when speaking of a decline of parties, reference is mainly to the 'party on the ground', featuring a decline of trust in parties, a reduced identification with parties and a decline in the number of party members. The decrease in the number of party members is a phenomenon that has occurred throughout Europe in recent decades (Biondi et al., 2000; Katz et al., 1992). Nevertheless political parties continue to make every effort to attract as many members as possible. This can be explained by the benefits that members bring to parties, benefits that still outnumber the costs (Scarrow, 1994).

Figures and Tables:
Table 1. Ways to hand over leadership
Table 2. Party leadership elections: classification (Punnett, 1992)
Table 3. Number of members and number of ballot papers (both valid and invalid) for the 2001 internal elections of the VLD
Table 4. Results of the VLD leadership elections in 2001
Table 5. Results of the VU referendum
Table 6. Percentage of VLD and VU members declaring that a motive had a strong influence on their decision to become party members
Table 7. Percentage of VU and VLD members by the influence they have by casting a vote in internal elections
Table 8. Percentage of VLD members by the number of local party members participating in the internal elections
Table 9. Percentage of VLD and VU members by number of activities organized by the local party section
Table 10. Percentage of VLD and VU members by gender
Table 11. Percentage of VLD and VU members by level of education
Table 12. Percentage of VLD and VU members by the number of party activities they participate in
Table 13. Logistic model for participation in the VLD leadership elections of 2001
Table 14. Logistic model for participation in the VU member referendum of 2001

Last Paragraph:
(Third paragrap of conclusion) The results reveal that both instrumental motivation theory and participation as habit can explain participation in intra-party elections. Members who joined the party for purposive motives (especially because of the points of view of the party, or out of idealism) are more likely to participate in internal elections. People who joined because of some social and/or material motive are less likely to vote. Not all motives for joining a party show a significant relationship in the logistic model explaining participation in internal elections. Another aspect of the instrumental motivation theory is confirmed: members estimating that they can have a major impact on the policy of the party by casting a vote are more likely to participate in these internal elections.

Last updated March 2010