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"The Salience of Political Parties for Democracy"

Martin Brusis' contribution in a publication by the Council of Europe

13.12.2007 · C·A·P

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Parties in many European states have been faced with fundamental structural changes that indicate a profound crisis of party-based interest representation. Party membership has declined, the alignments between voters and parties have loosened, public trust in parties is low, populist rhetorics has increasingly been used as a successful instrument of electoral mobilisation, and party politics is frequently associated with dubious machinations suspicious of corruption, decoupled from public accountability and popular preferences.

These changes have rendered parties less capable of fulfilling their democratic functions. Alternative organisations and mechanisms that could substitute these functions have neither been well conceived in democratic theory, nor well established in democratic practice. Thus, parties are indispensable for the functioning of democracy and we need to consider how they can sustain and regain their vital role. Starting from this assumption, Martin Brusis presents some empirical evidence for the problems of party-based representation, discusses their causes and makes four suggestions to improve the capacity of parties to mediate between citizens and the state. His paper has been published by the Council of Europe as a part of the Council's ongoing deliberations on the future of democracy (pages 72-83).

The publication and further information on the future of democracy forum process are also available at

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