published in Contemporary Italian Politics
For many years after World War Two, the mass party model dominated Italian politics. High rates of membership and activism were considered to be essential for optimising electoral performance, for optimising organisational resources, and for the legitimacy of the party itself.
However, since the 1970s, and in particular since 1989, party-membership linkages have begun to weaken. Taking its point of departure from the recent literature, this article offers a theoretical framework for the examination of three different meanings of membership, associated with changing models of party organisation. Data from national election surveys, and from qualitative research on party activists, support the proposed theoretical framework. The article focuses on three Italian parties – the Democratic Party, the Northern League and the Five-star Movement – discussing the similarities and differences, with implications for cross-national comparative studies.
my latest article, with R. Elgie on Political Studies Review
This article examines the term ‘presidentialisation’. There is now a large body of work on this topic (Dowding, 2013a, 2013b, 2013c; Foley, 2000, 2004, 2013; Kefford, 2013a, 2013b; Mughan, 2000; Passarelli, 2015b; Poguntke and Webb, 2005b; Samuels and Shugart, 2010; Webb and Poguntke, 2013). Some of this work questions the very usefulness of the term. For example, Dowding argues that the term ‘prime ministerialisation’ should be preferred at least in empirical studies that deal with processes of change in parliamentary systems such as Australia and Britain. By contrast, Karvonen (2010) and Garzia (2014) argue that contemporary processes of change can better be captured by the idea of ‘personalisation’.
These critiques are well known, and we do not wish to rehearse them here. Instead, we focus on the book by Samuels and Shugart (2010) and the edited volume volume by Poguntke and Webb (2005b). We do so partly because both are very prominent contributions; the former having received nearly 400 Google Scholar citations and the latter nearly 1000. Primarily, though, we choose them because both are centrally concerned with the idea of ‘presidentialisation’. In that sense, they seem to be focusing on the same topic. However, we argue that each work employs the term in a very different way. Samuels and Shugart have a narrow focus on constitutional presidentialisation and party presidentialisation. They are engaged in an exercise in deductive political explanation that focuses on the effect of constitutional presidentialisation on party presidentialisation. By contrast, Poguntke and Webb refer to a more general idea of presidentialisation that results from a much broader process of social and political change. In effect, they are offering what amounts to a grand historical narrative. Thus, while both sets of authors are using the same term, they are referring to different meanings, outcomes and processes.
My chapter in The Oxford Handbook of Electoral Systems
Edited by Erik S. Herron, Robert J. Pekkanen, and Matthew S. Shugart
Italy stands out among advanced industrialized democracies because of its frequency of major electoral reforms. In the postwar period, Italy has experienced four major electoral systems: the proportional representation (PR) system of the First Republic (1948–1992), mixed-member majoritarian (MMM, 1993–2005), and two varieties of PR with majority bonus (2005–2015, 2015–2017), plus a MMM in 2017. In addition, there have been many failed attempts at electoral reform through legislation or referendum. The frequency of electoral reform makes Italy an important case for investigating the causes and effects of electoral system change. However, the path to each change has been somewhat idiosyncratic: the major reform of 1993 came against the backdrop of revelations of massive corruption, while the 2005 reform can be understood as an attempt to engineer divided government by an incumbent coalition expecting losses in the next election. The effects of the electoral reforms have also not always been as expected.
Government and Opposition (by Marina Costa Lobo, Instituto de Ciéncias Sociais, Lisbon)
In January 2017 Donald Trump was inaugurated as the forty-fifth president of the United States. Trump’s ability to win the Republican Party nomination, against the will of the party grandees, went against the received political science wisdom, which placed party elites in charge of the choice of presidential candidates in the US (Cohen et al. 2009). His subsequent victory against Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton further challenged the idea that the two parties controlled
access to American institutions. Trumpism is a clear sign of the decline of political parties as institutional gatekeepers and is symptomatic of the rise of the media-driven, outsider leader. Yet is this a specifically
American phenomenon, or has it spread to other countries?
In Italy, the rise of Silvio Berlusconi as leader of Forza Italia and the longest-serving prime minister of Italy is perhaps the closest parallel to Trump. Berlusconi was also an outsider – a media and construction billionaire – who stormed Italian politics. He was elected as MP in 1994 and went on to serve on three different occasions as
prime minister of Italy (1994–5, 2001–6 and 2009–11). Berlusconi, unlike Trump, created his own party, at a time when the party system in Italy was imploding (Bartolini et al. 2004) under the weight of tangentopoli. Despite being dogged by the judiciary for most of his mandates, he dominated politics in Italy for more than a decade.
Another Italian politician, Beppe Grillo, the leader of the Movimento 5 Stelle (5 Star Movement – M5S) is also a clear example of a mediatized personality, in this case using the internet to gain visibility. His party has been described as belonging to a personal party model (Diamanti 2014). He illustrates the importance that new
media may have in the process of the personalization of politics which has been recurrent in Italy. Founded in 2009, M5S won 25 per cent of the vote in the 2013 legislative elections and 109 seats in the Italian parliament, becoming the second largest party in Italy. The election of Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa as president of Portugal
can also be counted as one of the more recent cases of the extreme mediatization of politics. Despite not being the head of government, the president of Portugal holds important prerogatives both in terms of veto power and in relation to the dissolution of the Assembly, which can be crucial when governments are weak (Amorim Neto and
Lobo 2009). Although Rebelo de Sousa has been a centre-right party member for most of his active life, and was even leader of the Partido Social Democrata (PSD) between 1996 and 1999, Marcelo – as he is known to the Portuguese – became a household name from 2000 because of his weekly political commentary shown on open access television networks. Marcelo is, to a large extent, a product of the media, where he carefully crafted an image of a likable politician over the course of 15 years. In 2015 he decided to run for the presidency against the wishes of the PSD leader, Pedro Passos Coelho, who saw him as an outsider. He persevered nonetheless, running a campaign with little funding and winning the presidential election on the first round in January 2016 with 52 per cent of the vote. HERE THE FULL ARTICLE (pdf)
on Political Studies Review (by Maximilien Cogels, University of Louvaine)
While the study of presidentialisation is often combined with the concept of personalisation, Gianluca Passarelli decides to make a clear conceptual distinction between the two, focussing on the already highly debated study of the presidentialisation of politics. By starting with the premise that under certain circumstances presidentialisation is also possible in non-presidential systems (this is highly contested between scholars), this book takes a closer look at the presidentialisation of political parties in the world, advocating that the presidentialisation of politics stems from the behaviour of political parties. This collaborative book considers that political parties are the driving force behind the phenomenon. The authors study in this book the constitutional structures (opportunities and constraints) that affect presidentialisation while including party genetics (and their organisational changes over time) as an intervening factor. This is an original approach given the fact that these two dimensions are often studied separately. Indeed, the book is innovative in regard to two crucial points, the first being the study of these two dimensions together, and the second being its method of bringing together all types of democratic regimes. Continua a leggere
Book Review on Italian Political Science (by Luca Verzichelli, University of Siena)
This volume is an important contribution to the field of comparative political institutions because it focuses on the growing role of party leaders who assume a relevant institutional power in many advanced democracies. The notion of “presidentialization” is at the core of the volume’s theoretical framework. However, in contrast to other pieces of empirical research emphasizing the impact of institutional changes on the development of party structures, the volume endeavors to explore the phenomenon of the increasing importance of party leadership independently from the evolution of the institutional setting. This is, as noted by the editor in the introduction, the “missing link” in the study of presidentialization. More precisely, Passarelli aims to explain the varying intensities of “party presidentialization” one can observe by comparing certain countries using a simplified framework built on two separate dimensions: institutional presidentialization and party genetic presidentialization.
Does society and its cleavages influence Parties, or rather the other way around? The book I have reviewed deals with this crucial research question in Political Sociology.
The literature on political parties’ genesis and organization is well consolidated. Do exist brilliant books on comparative politics and in political sociology alike. On one side, the contributions of Max Weber, Stein Rokkan, Seymour Lipset and Hans Daalder have settled a clear perspective on the relevance of social cleavages and structures in shaping the born and the development of political parties, especially in western countries, and in Europe in particular. On the other side, the organizational perspective to analyze political parties is well robust alike. Since the seminal works of Moisey Ostrogorsky, Robert Michels, and then Maurice Duverger, David Epstein, Valdimer O. Key, Sigmund, Angelo Panebianco, Giovanni Sartori, Peter Mair, etc., the structure of political parties has been well analyzed. Do exist comparative researches that shed light on differences and similarities of different aspects of the political organizations, such as the leadership, the role of members and activists, and the funding. Continua a leggere
Edited by Gianluca Passarelli, new collection The Presidentialization of Political Parties: Organizations, Institutions and Leaders, explores why the level of party presidentialisation varies between countries, arguing that this is linked to both constitutional design and the genetic features of political parties. Although he finds that some of the country case studies provide stronger evidence for the book’s central argument than others, Raul Aldaz appraises this book as a valuable contribution to the field that will be of particular use to scholars of comparative politics.
The headlines on US politics, currently covering caucus elections, are filled with names – Clinton, Cruz, Rubio, Sanders, Trump – and their personal positions on a handful of policy issues, but they direct less attention to their parties or the ideological standpoints that Democrats and Republicans (should?) convey. Is modern politics therefore becoming a more person-centred phenomenon rather than party- or ideology-focused? And if so, why?
The increasing importance given to specific politicians and/or presidential candidates is part of a broader trend that goes well beyond the US: what we might term ‘the presidentialization of politics’. Part of this phenomenon is ‘the presidentialization of political parties’, which refers to the increasing influence that presidents have on the behaviour and organisation of their parties. This new book, edited by Gianluca Passarelli, consists of a collection of country cases that provide an in-depth analysis of the extent of this presidentialisation of political parties and two possible explanations for its occurrence. Continua a leggere
The 2005 Prime Ministerial Primaries held by the coalition of the centre left were less important for their immediate outcome than they were important as crucial events for the institutionalization of primaries in the process of building the Democratic Party. Those held in 2012 were a second step in the same process. Since the two elections differed significantly and were both ‘exceptional’, we first propose a rational narrative of the political strategies leading up to each of them and of the political dynamics that followed. We also analyse indicators of the level of public interest in such a competition and the candidates’ abilities to mobilize support beyond the party’s traditional electoral constituency. Our central argument is that, since the centre-left Prime Ministerial Primaries achieved the strategic goals of some of their proponents, this particular type of primary should be less frequent in the future, at least on the left of the political spectrum. Even though they did so in very different ways, they both strengthened the project of creating the Democratic Party as an ‘open party’, whose leader is chosen by a broad base of electors in a primary-like competition and is the party’s natural candidate for the premiership (view the full paper).