What Do Political Parties Do?
Most political scientists believe that political parties are central to the process of democratization in poor countries. However, leaving aside a few relatively well-studied cases such as India, we know little about the role of political parties in much of the South, and especially not in the more fragile democracies or semi-democracies. There is a massive research task here, encompassing a great deal of fact-gathering as well as conceptual and causal analysis. It would be too much to expect any single publication to have made major inroads into this task. However, the recent issue of Democratization (Volume 9, No 3, Autumn 2002) offers some very useful case studies and a very helpful stimulus to thinking about the role of political parties in democratic consolidation. For those who want to think or research further on this issue, here is a good place to start.
The collection comprises a mixture of comparative studies across regions
(Africa, the Southern Cone of Latin America, the Third World) and national
cases. The latter may be especially interesting because they deal mainly
with countries with weak democratic traditions that rarely appear in the
literature on democracy - notably Cambodia, Chad, Mauritania, Kenya, Zambia
and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. It is however the Introduction
by editors Vicky Randall and Lard Svasand that non-specialists will find
most useful. They present a revised version of an older conceptual framework,
in which the potential functions of political parties are conceived as
operating on three levels:
Source: Democratization, Volume 9, Number 3. Democratization is
published quarterly by Frank Cass Publishers (http://www.frankcass.com).
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