Shaping New Parties' Legitimacy: Members and Organization in Post-Accession Countries. Insights from Hungary and Romania

Tuesday, 12 July 2016: 11:25
Location: Hörsaal 5A G (Neues Institutsgebäude (NIG))
Oral Presentation
Sorina SOARE, University of Florence, Italy
Alexandra IONASCU, University of Bucharest, Romania
For more than two decades post-communist political parties exhibited loose electoral constituencies featuring limited membership figures. In-depth analyses have fine-tuned these initial diagnoses identifying not only variations among countries, but also within the same country. In line with the electoral breakthroughs of new parties in numerous Central and Eastern European countries, various scholars have recently analyzed the criteria according to which new parties are to be distinguished in relation to their name and organization, leader, candidates, and patterns of support (Hug 2001, Rahat and Barnea 2010, Arter 2010, Sikk 2012). However, the membership figures remain misleading for the party capacity in fostering mobilization. In Romania, high but volatile membership figures conduced to volatile party trajectories. Conversely, in Hungary, lower yet relatively stable figures of party encapsulation ensured organizational and electoral stability. Starting from these examples, this paper aims to examine the relationship between party membership figures and party activism. It argues that incentives to political entrepreneurship in gathering new members cannot guarantee electoral stability without organized structures of support. The paper has a two-fold goal. First, it investigates to what extent the conceptualization of party organization (notably membership activism) is dissimilar in our two cases. Second, it tests whether the grassroots' development increases the parties' electoral success. The analysis relies on the qualitative content analysis of party statutes/constitutions, party membership figures and electoral results. The conclusions will emphasize that although institutional and organizational incentives may play a role in boosting membership figures, the party electoral success heavily relies on the intensity of membership consistence