Political Parties and Electoral Strategy: The Development of Party Organization in East Asia

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Parties and Interest Associations

This unhappy marriage underscores the need to develop and apply alternative theoretical frameworks more attuned to the study of clientelistic political arenas. Voter identification with parties is going down, but in a manner on par with other democracies. Yet these criteria, derived from the literature on party institutionalization, seem most relevant for the study of western, largely programmatic, democracies.

They pay little attention to other dimensions of party institutionalization that can perhaps be taken for granted in more programmatic political arenas, such as the control of parties over candidate selection, the involvement of party members in election campaigns, or the control of political parties over the personalized distribution of state resources. That is what parties do: the literature generally simply assumes that parties select candidates and campaign for them.

And the third dimension is simply irrelevant for non-clientelistic political parties.


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  5. Yet in the context of a largely clientelistic political arena, these three dimensions should not be ignored. As Mietzner does mention, parties in Indonesia rarely appoint figures from the party cadre as candidates for district heads and governors, as moneyed outsiders often take the lead in building read: buying a coalition of parties.

    Their limited mobilizational strength is partly due to another important comparative dimension, the control of political parties over the distribution of state resources. This seems to vary across Southeast Asia. That is regrettable, as the degree of party control over the distribution of state resources seems to constitute an important contrast with Indonesia.

    SOAS University of London

    In Indonesia, political parties are not only largely absent at the local level—it is an often-heard complaint that political parties are not seen in between elections—but they are also hardly involved in the kind of constituency service that Bjarnegard and Auyero describe. Indonesians go to local state representatives village heads, neighbourhood heads, lurah , camat to arrange the things that Bjarnegard describes.

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    Their prominence and influence can be observed during election campaigns: while officially forbidden, candidates often rely on these local state representatives to campaign for them. State representatives are generally considered more influential than party members because their relatively strong control over the distribution of state resources enables them to accumulate feelings of gratitude and indebtedness.

    Such dichotomies bring us back to using an idealized programmatic party as a measuring stick. What is needed, instead, is to develop theory that enables us to compare between clientelistic political parties, and focus attention on the different ways that clientelistic interactions between parties and voters may take.

    The observations on Indonesian parties above—parties rarely promote their own cadre, they play limited role in election campaigns, are considered to have limited mobilizational strength, and hardly engage in constituency service—should form the core, not the periphery, of an assessment of the relative strength of political parties. That need not be the case: the continued importance of aliran might also be due to the fact that religious organizations like NU or Muhammadiyah constitute influential clientelistic networks capable of facilitating clientelistic exchanges in areas where they are strong.

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    Voters And Parties - Oxford Handbooks

    The study of clientelistic political parties also involves a methodological challenge. Research is needed that can uncover the concrete forms that voter-party or party-politician exchanges may take. These essays largely engage in a more helicopter-view-type of party politics. Such general analysis—while useful—tempts the researcher to focus on the more easily generalizable, visible, and formal aspects of politics, at the expense of attention for the more shadowy and less visible nature of clientelistic interactions. Yet the underlying research also largely focusses on national-level party operatives and national party conferences.

    This focus on high-level politics has precluded attention for the exact role of political parties in more shadowy processes such as candidate selection or the facilitation of state-citizen interaction.

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    It is not surprising then, that the above-mentioned dimensions receive relatively little attention. On the whole, with their comparative analyses these books constitute important steps forward in the study of political parties in democratizing Southeast Asia. These books also suggest the work that lies ahead: the development of theoretical frameworks more suitable for studying largely clientelistic political parties, and the integration of more close-up, ethnographic research methods.

    Duverger, Maurice Political parties.

    National security

    Their organization and activity in the modern state. London: Methuen.

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