Political Parties presents perspectives on political parties in democracies at the beginning of the 21st century. It critically re-examines the classic concepts and typologies that have guided research in this field over the past decades.
In this book the author proposes that parties are indispensable to modern politics and that the absence of parties suggests that a system is governed by a traditional elite which has yet to come to terms with the modern world. Without them it would be impossible to legitimize modern systems, to engage the loyalty and support of the citizens. The alternative to party rule is either aristocracy or violent repression. In all systems the party widens the area from which political leaders are recruited and is thus a 'democratising' if not necessarily a 'liberalising' force.
If a country has no developed political party system, it is not really a democracy. And the development of political parties in Russia has a long way to go. The only branch of government in which parties play an influential role is in the State Duma (the lower house of parliament) -- not in the Federation Council (the upper house) or the executive branch. Addressing the question of why parties have developed so little elsewhere, it is argued that they are weak because the most powerful politicians choose to make them so. This institutional arrangement suits their purposes to control what happens in government from the top. Tracing the origins of this situation reveals that they lie in Russian history & culture, predating the Soviet period. Another impediment to party development is the scale of socioeconomic change in Russia. Socioeconomic cleavages were important to party development in Western Europe, with liberal & conservative parties representing different sectors of the population. However, there is reason for optimism for the future. While Putin enjoys solid support from the people, other major political actors do not; if Putin should cease to identify with Unified Russia, the majority party's future is uncertain. Also, a 2002 law passed by both houses & the president requires regional parliaments to be proportional in terms of political party representation. This will lead to party development at the regional level, which conceivably could spread upward. Tables. J. Stanton