Hostname: page-component-5d59c44645-jqctd Total loading time: 0 Render date: 2024-03-02T06:46:02.465Z Has data issue: false hasContentIssue false

State Intervention in Party Politics: The Public Funding and Regulation of Political Parties

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  01 July 2008

Ingrid Van Biezen*
Department of Political Science and International Studies, University of Birmingham, Birmingham B15 2TT, UK


This article is concerned with a closer investigation of the growing tendency for the state to intervene in contemporary party politics. It examines two trends. First, it looks more closely at the increased levels of regulation of party activity and behaviour in European democracies, discussing the empirical practice as well as the underlying normative paradigms of party regulation. Second, it examines the increased availability of public funding to political parties from a comparative perspective, while also exploring the motivations for its introduction in light of particular understandings of party democracy. It is argued that both dimensions constitute part of the way in which parties have strengthened their linkages with the state in recent years, and that parties, as a result of the increased involvement of the state in their internal affairs and external behaviour, have become increasingly defined as public utilities or semi-state agencies.

Copyright © Academia Europaea 2008

Access options

Get access to the full version of this content by using one of the access options below. (Log in options will check for institutional or personal access. Content may require purchase if you do not have access.)


2. See, for example, Dalton, R. J. and Weldon, S. A. (2005) Public images of political parties: a necessary evil? West European Politics, 28, 931951.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
3.Sartori, G. (2005) Party types, organisation and functions. West European Politics, 28, 532.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
4.Katz, R. S. and Mair, P. (1995) Changing models of party organization and party democracy: the emergence of the cartel party. Party Politics, 1, 528.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
5.Bartolini, S. and Mair, P. (2001) Challenges to contemporary political parties. In: Diamond, L. and Gunther, R. (eds) Political Parties and Democracy (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press), pp. 327343.Google Scholar
6.van Biezen, I. and Kopecký, P. (2007) The state and the parties: public funding, public regulation and rent-seeking in contemporary democracies. Party Politics, 13, 235254.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
7.Kopecký, P. and Mair, P. (2003) Political parties and government. In: Salih, M. (ed.) African Political Parties: Evolution, Institutionalisation and Governance (London: Pluto), pp. 275292.Google Scholar
8.Avnon, D. (1995) Parties laws in democratic systems of government. Journal of Legislative Studies, 1, 283300.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
9. For a recent exception, see Karvonen, L. (2007) Legislation on political parties: a global comparison. Party Politics, 13, 437455.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
10.Katz, R. S. (2002) The internal life of parties. In: Luther, K. R. and Müller-Rommel, F. (eds) Political Challenges in the New Europe: Political and Analytical Challenges (Oxford: Oxford University Press), p. 90.Google Scholar
11.Janda, K. (2005) Adopting party law. Working paper series on Political Parties and Democracy in Theoretical and Practical Perspectives (Washington DC: National Democratic Institute for International Affairs).Google Scholar
12. R. S. Katz (2004) Democracy and the legal regulation of political parties. Paper prepared for the USAID conference on ‘Change in Political Parties’, Washington DC, 1 October.Google Scholar
13.Bogdanor, V. (2004) The constitution and the party system in the twentieth century. Parliamentary Affairs, 57, 717733.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
14.Persily, N. and Cain, B. E. (2000) The legal status of political parties: a reassessment of competing paradigms. Columbia Law Review, 100, 775812.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
15.Gardner, J. A. (2000) Can party politics be virtuous? Columbia Law Review, 100, 667701.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
16. See, for example, Kopecký, P. (2006) Political parties and the state in post-Communist Europe: the nature of symbiosis. The Journal of Communist Studies and Transition Politics, 22, 251273.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
17.Pinto-Duschinsky, M. (2002) Financing politics: a global view. Journal of Democracy, 13, 6986.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
18.Pierre, J., Svåsand, L. and Widfeldt, A. (2000) State subsidies to political parties: confronting rhetoric with reality. West European Politics, 23, 124.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
19.Farrell, D. (2002) Campaign modernization and the West European Party. In: Luther, K. R. and Müller-Rommel, F. (eds) Political Challenges in the New Europe: Political and Analytical Challenges (Oxford: Oxford University Press), pp. 8393.Google Scholar
20. Mansfield, quoted in Scarrow, S. E. (ed.) (2002) Perspectives on Political Parties: Classic Readings (New York and Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan), p. 37.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
21. See van Biezen, I. and Saward, M. (2008) Democratic theorists and party scholars: why they don’t talk to each other, and why they should. Perspectives on Politics, 6, 2135, forthcoming.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
22.van Biezen, I. (2004) Political parties as pubic utilities. Party Politics, 10, 701722.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
23. Epstein defined them as ‘an agency performing a service in which the public has a special interest sufficient to justify governmental regulatory control, along with the extension of legal privileges, but not governmental ownership or management of all the agency’s activities. Epstein, L. (1986) Political Parties in the American Mold (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press), p. 157.Google Scholar