Party Regulation as a Self-Legitimizing System


The aim of this article is to contribute to a reflection on the endogenous nature of party regulation and on the ways in which law making can be used by political actors to foster a privileged legal environment. The article first provides a review of the literature about party regulation and its main approaches. Secondly, building on a comprehensive database of party regulation in Europe, it draws attention to the presence of functional definitions of political parties in party law and speculates as to why such non-prescriptive statements have been introduced. In the conclusions, it suggests that presenting themselves as ‘eufunctional’ performers, political parties have strengthened their legal status and (self-)legitimized their institutional centrality, ensuring their organizational survival within the system independently from their declining capacity as vehicles of political representation. Further lines of inquiry and cross-fertilization between disciplines are suggested and encouraged.

DOI Code: 10.1285/i20356609v8i1p118

Keywords: Political parties; party regulation; institutional endogeneity; functionalism; self-interest; political representation


Avnon D. (1995), “Parties laws in democratic systems of government”, Journal of Legislative Studies, 1(2): 283–300, doi: 10.1080/13572339508420429.

Bartolini S., P. Mair (2001), “Challenges to Contemporary Political Parties”, in L. Diamond and R. Gunther (eds.), Political Parties and Democracy, Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 327-43.

Bachrach P., Morton S. Baratz (1962), “Two Faces of Power”, The American Political Science Review, 56(4): 947-95, doi: 10.2307/1952796.

Beetham D. (1991), The Legitimation of Power, Basingstoke: Palgrave.

Biezen I. van (2008), “State Intervention in party politics: The public funding and regulation of political parties”, European Review, 16(3): 337–353, doi: 10.1017/S106279870800029X.

Biezen I. van and G. Borz (2012), “Models of Party Democracy: Patterns of Party Regulation in Post-War European Constitutions”, European Political Science Review, 4(3): 327–359, doi: 10.1017/S1755773911000294.

Biezen I. van, P. Mair, and T. Poguntke (2012), “Going, going, . . . gone? The decline of party membership in contemporary Europe”, European Journal of Political Research, 51(1): 24–56, doi: 10.1111/j.1475-6765.2011.01995.x.

Biezen I. van, E. R. Rashkova (2012), “Deterring new party entry? The impact of state regulation on the permeability of party systems”, Party Politics, 20(6): 890-903, doi: 10.1177/1354068812458616.

Biezen I. van, D. R. Piccio (2013), “Shaping Intra-Party Democracy: On the Legal Regulation of Internal Party Organizations”, in Katz R. S. and W. Cross (eds.), The Challenges of Intra-Party Democracy, Oxford: Oxford University Press, pp. 27-48.

Bol D. (2013), “Electoral reform, values and party self-interest”, Party Politics, published online before print December 9, 2013, doi: 10.1177/1354068813511590.

Bowler S., T. Donovan, and J. Karp (2006), “Why Politicians Like Electoral Institutions: Self-Interest, Values, or Ideology?”, The Journal of Politics, 68(2): 434-446.

Casal Bértoa F., I. van Biezen (2014), “Party regulation and party politics in post-communist Europe”, East European Politics, 30(3): 295–314, doi: 10.1080/21599165.2014.938738.

Casal Bértoa F., F. Molenaar, D. R. Piccio and E. Rashkova (2014a), “The world upside down: Delegitimising political finance regulation”, International Political Science Review, 35(3): 355-375, doi: 10.1177/0192512114523302.

Casal Bértoa F., D. R. Piccio and E. Rashkova (2015), “Party Laws in Comparative Perspective: Evidence and Implications”, in van Biezen I. and H. M. ten Napel (eds.), Political Parties and Public Law: the Netherlands in Comparative Perspective, Leiden: Leiden University Press.

Daalder H. (2001), “The Rise of Parties in Western Democracies”, in Diamond L. and R. Gunther (eds.), Political Parties and Democracy, Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 68-89.

Dalton R. J., D. M. Farrell and I. McAllister (2011), Political Parties and Democratic Linkage: How Parties Organize Democracy, Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Di Mascio F., D. R. Piccio (2015, forthcoming), “La regolazione dei partiti”, Rivista Trimestrale di Diritto Pubblico.

Gauja A. (2010), Political Parties and Elections: Legislating for Representative Democracy, Farnham: Ashgate.

Gauja A. (2013), The Politics of Party Policy: From Members to Legislators, Basingstoke, United Kingdom: Palgrave Macmillan.

Caldeira G. A., R. D. Kelemen, K. E. Whittington (2008), The Oxford Handbook of Law and Politics, Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Gunther R., L. Diamond (2001), “Types and Functions of Parties”, in

Diamond L. and R. Gunther (eds.), Political Parties and Democracy, Baltimore: John Hopkins University Press, 68-89.

Harfst P. (2013), “Changing the rules of the game: Determinants of successful electoral system change in Central and Eastern Europe”, International Political Science Review, 34(4): 427–443, doi: 10.1177/0192512112457195.

Ignazi P. (2014), “Power and the (il)legitimacy of political parties: An unavoidable paradox of contemporary democracy?”, Party Politics, 20(2): 160-169, doi: 10.1177/1354068813519970.

Katz R. S. (1990), “Party as Linkage: A Vestigial Function?”, European Journal of Political Research, 18(1): 143-161, doi: 10.1111/j.1475-6765.1990.tb00225.x.

Katz R. S. (2002), “The Internal Life of Parties”, in Luther K. L. and F. Müller-Rommel (eds.), Political Challenges in the New Europe: Political and Analytical Challenges, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 87-118.

Katz R. S. (2004), “Democracy and the Legal Regulation of Political Parties”, paper presented at the USAID conference on ‘Change in Political Parties’, Washington DC 1 October.

Katz R. S. (2014), “Democracy and the Legal Regulation of Political Parties”, in van Biezen I. and H. M. ten Napel (eds.), Regulating Political Parties: European Democracies in Comparative Perspective, Leiden: Leiden University Press.

Katz R. S., P. Mair (1995), “Changing Models of Party Organization and Party Democracy: the Emergence of the Cartel Party”, Party Politics, 1 (1): 5‐28, doi: 10.1177/1354068895001001001.

Katz R. S., P. Mair (2009), “The Cartel Party Thesis: A Restatement”, Perspectives on Politics, 7(4): 753‐766, doi: 10.1017/S1537592709991782.

Karvonen L. (2007), “Legislation on Political Parties: A Global Comparison”, Party Politics, 13(4), 437-455, doi: 10.1177/1354068807077955.

King A. (1969), “Political Parties in Western Democracies: Some Skeptical Reflections”, Polity, 2(2): 111-141.

Kommers D. P. (1997), The Constitutional Jurisprudence of the Federal Republic of Germany, Durham: Duke University Press.

Koole R. (2014), “Dilemmas of Regulating Political Finance, with special reference to the Dutch case”, in van Biezen I. and H. M. ten Napel (eds.), Regulating Political Parties: European Democracies in Comparative Perspective, Leiden: Leiden University Press.

Koss M. (2008), “Party Goals, Institutional Veto Points and the Discourse on Political Corruption: The Evolution of the German Party Funding Regime”, Journal of Elections, Public Opinion, and Parties, 18(3): 283–301, doi: 10.1080/17457280802227686.

Lawson K. (1980), “Political Parties and Linkage”, in Lawson K. (ed.), Political Parties and Linkage: A Comparative Perspective. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2-24.

Mair P. (1995), “Political parties, popular legitimacy and public privilege”, West European Politics, 18(3): 40-57, doi: 10.1080/01402389508425090.

Mair P. (1998), “Representation and Participation in the Changing World of Party Politics”, European Review, 6(2): 161-74, doi: 10.1017/S1062798700003203.

Mair P. (2003), “Political Parties and Democracy: What Sort of Future?”, Central European Political Science Review, 4 (13): 6-20.

Müller W. C. (2003). ‘The Relevance of the State for Party System Change’, Journal of Theoretical Politics, 5 (4): 419–454, doi: 10.1177/0951692893005004001.

Müller W. C., U. Sieberer (2006), “Party Law”, in Katz R. S. and W. Crotty (eds.), Handbook of Party Politics, London: Sage, 435-45.

Nassmacher K. H. (1993), “Comparing Party and Campaign Finance in Western Democracies”, in Gunlicks A. B. (ed.), Campaign and Party Finance in North America and Western Europe, Boulder CO: Westview Press, 233-267.

Paltiel K. Z. (1979), “The Impact of Election Expenses Legislation in Canada, Western Europe and Israel”, in Alexander H. E. (ed.), Political Finance, London: Sage, 15-39.

Pasquino G. (1980), Crisi dei partiti e governabilità, Bologna: il Mulino.

Persily N., B. E. Cain (2000), “The Legal Status of Political Parties: A Reassessment of Competing Paradigms”, Columbia Law Review, 100(3): 775-812.

Piccio D. R. (2012), “Party Regulation in Europe: Country Reports”, The Legal Regulation of Political Parties, Working Paper Series, No. 17.

Piccio D. R. (2014a), “A Self-interested Legislator? Party Regulation in Italy”, South European Society and Politics, 19(1): 135-152, doi: 10.1080/13608746.2014.888274.

Piccio D. R. (2014b), “Political finance in Western Europe”, in Funding of Political Parties and Election Campaigns: A Handbook on Political Finance, Stockholm: International IDEA, 207-252.

Piccio D. R., F. Di Mascio, A. Natalini (2014), “Tackling corruption, finally? How domestic and supranational factors have led to incremental policy change in Italy”, in Peleg I. and J. Mendilow (eds), Corruption in Contemporary World: Theory, Practice and Hotspots, Lexington: Rowman and Littlefield, 173-196.

Piccio D. R. and I. van Biezen (2015, forthcoming), “More, and more inclusive, regulation: the legal parameters of public funding”, in

Boatright R. (ed.) The Deregulatory Moment? A Comparative Perspective on Changing Campaign Finance Laws, University of Michigan Press, Michigan.

Pierre J., L. Svåsand, A. Widfeldt (2000), “State subsidies to political parties: Confronting rhetoric with reality”, West European Politics, 23(3): 1-24, doi: 10.1080/01402380008425381.

Renwick A. (2010), The Politics of Electoral Reform: Changing the Rules of Democracy, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Römmele A. (2003), “Political parties, party communication and new information and communication technologies”, Party Politics, 9(1): 7-20, doi: 10.1177/135406880391002.

Rosanvallon P. (2008), Counter-Democracy. Politics in an Age of Distrust, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Sartori G. (1976), Parties and Party Systems: a Framework of Analysis, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Sartori G. (2005), “Party Types, Organization and Function”, West European Politics, 28(1): 5-32, doi: 10.1080/0140238042000334268.

Scarrow S. E. (2004), “Explaining political finance reforms. Competition and context”, Party Politics, 10(6): 653-675, doi: 10.1177/1354068804046912.

Scarrow S. E. (2006), “Party subsidies and the freezing of party competition: Do cartel mechanisms work?”, West European Politics, 29(4): 619-39, doi: 10.1080/01402380600842148.

Scarrow S. E. (2011), “Carrots and Sticks, Chickens and Eggs: Understanding Variations In Party Finance Regulatory Regimes”. Paper prepared for the IPSA/ECPR conference, Sao Paolo, Brazil, February 16-19 2011.

Schmitter P. (2001), “Parties Are not What They once Were”, in Diamond L. and R. Gunther (eds), Political Parties and Democracy, London: John Hopkins University Press, 68-89.

Schonfeld W. W. (1983), “Political Parties: The Functional Approach and the Structural Alternative”, Comparative Politics, 15(4), 477-499.

Tarrow Sidney (1989), Democracy and Disorder, Protest and Politics in Italy 1965-1975, Oxford: Clarendon Press.

Tavits M. (2007), “Party Systems in the Making: The Emergence and Success of New Parties in New Democracies”, British Journal of Political Science, 38(1): 113-133, doi: 10.1017/S0007123408000069.

Thatcher M., A. Stone Sweet (2002), “Theory and Practice of Delegation to Non-Majoritarian Institutions”, West European Politics, 25(1): 1-22, doi: 10.1080/713601583.

Tsatsos D. T., D. Schefold, H. Schneider (eds.) (1990), Parteienrecht im europäischen Vergleich. Die Parteien in der demokratischen Ordnungen der Staaten der Europäischen Gemeinschaft, Baden-Baden: Nomos Verlagsgesellschaft.

Venice Commission of the Council of Europe and OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) (2011), Guidelines on Political Party Regulation, Strasbourg/Warsaw.

Webb P. (2005), “Political Parties and Democracy: The Ambiguous Crisis”, Democratization, 12(5): 633-650, doi: 10.1080/13510340500322124.

Whiteley P. (2011), “Is the party over? The decline of party activism and membership across the democratic world”, Party Politics, 17(1): 21–44, doi: 10.1177/1354068810365505.

Whiteley P. (2014), “Does regulation make political parties more popular? A multi-level analysis of party support in Europe”, International Political Science Review, 35(3): 376-399, doi: 10.1177/019251211452642.

Full Text: PDF


  • There are currently no refbacks.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribuzione - Non commerciale - Non opere derivate 3.0 Italia License.