Article: "Parties versus democracy: Addressing today’s political party threats to democratic rule"

The growing threat to liberal democracy worldwide is, in many ways, a political party threat. Recent years have witnessed the rise of a range of authoritarian populist, illiberal, far-right, nativist, and extremist parties. Some have entered government in countries including Hungary, Poland, Austria, and Italy. Beyond Europe we see democratic structures threatened or incrementally dismantled through the subversion of an established democratic party by an outsider (e.g. Donald Trump in the United States or Rodrigo Duterte in the Philippines) or ascendance of the extremist wing of a right-wing party (e.g. India’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)).

Parties and party leaders occupying an ill-defined space on the political spectrum—a form of “far-right lite”—today generally present a much greater threat to democratic governance than overtly antidemocratic fringe outfits. The ambiguity of such parties, their growing size, their entry into government, the subversion of “good” democratic parties by a “bad” leadership, and the rise of the “shadow party” and intensifying external control mean that contemporary political party threats seriously frustrate the possibility of remedial action afforded by existing public law and policy mechanisms.

In this article, CTN Convenor Tom Gerald Daly & his collaborator Brian Christopher Jones make the following central claims: that contemporary political party threats require us to more systematically map the key threats posed, to pay greater attention to crafting new public law and policy solutions to address these threats, and to reflect anew on our fundamental assumptions about the relationship between political parties and the functioning of liberal constitutional democracy itself. At a time when political party systems are transforming worldwide, parties’ core function is shifting (from a broadly rational vehicle for channeling citizen policy preferences to a more emotive representation of identity), and the very way we practice democracy is being questioned, this article aims to ignite discussion and debate rather than answer all the questions raised.

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