Intra – party Democracy

Intra-party democracy is a matter of organizational choices and aspirations as well as of strategy: a party’s internal procedures help to define what the party stands for. Clear internal rules and procedures are invaluable for parties which are seeking long-term electoral success. Procedures that regulate internal conflict can contribute to a party’s longevity, particularly if rules are transparent, well-publicized and understood by members.

Internal party democracy can be defined as “implementation of a minimum set of norms within the organization of political parties’’[1]. This minimum set of norms should provide a bottom-up approach to forming a decision in the party and the internal distribution of power at different levels, bodies, and individuals[2]. The minimum set of norms are “internal rules and procedures that give ordinary members greater influence on issues such as candidate selection, leadership selection and policy platform”[3]. The most engaging models of internal party democracy are inclusive, participatory, deliberate, responsible and include fair distribution of power[4]

The internal rules of political parties should be guided by clarity, transparency, accountability and independence, as well as by effective links between party leadership and local and regional levels of the organization. Their interaction with society should be based on dialogue, interdependence and co-operation. Parties have to use open conditions for membership and list the members’ rights.

Parties generally adopt party constitutions or party statutes to spell out the relations between different levels of the party, and to define procedures for making decisions. These rules usually detail how local and national party leaders are selected (and often, how they may be de-selected), how candidates for public office are selected, and who is eligible to stand for both types of positions. Parties’ organizational choices reflect the environments in which they compete, and because of this they are likely to vary widely over time, and across countries[5]

As parties contribute to the expression of political opinion and are instruments for the presentation of candidates in elections, some regulation of internal party activities can be considered necessary to ensure the proper functioning of a democratic society.


[1] Von dem Berge et al., 2013: 2

[2] Čular, 2004:34.

[3] Di Virgilio, Giannetti, 2009: 1

[4] Cross, Katz, 2013

[5] National Democratic Instiute, 2008: 5

Photo: NZ Parliament

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