Dissertation Project

Court of Modern Princes: the origins of party based regimes

Why has democracy become “unthinkable save in terms of parties” to Americans and not to Peruvians? Why did a party-based authoritarian regime emerge in Mexico but not in Libya? Scholars have argued that political elites in both democratic and authoritarian regimes have good reasons to invest in political parties. Organizing parties causes political elites to win more and more often under democracies and to survive longer when exerting authoritarian power. Notwithstanding these good reasons, only some political elites invest in party building and even fewer succeed. Therefore, despite incentives suggesting that parties should be ubiquitous, they are not. Why?

My research asks why parties become important political actors and structure politics in some countries while they fail to do the same in others. More specifically, it investigates the conditions under which “party-based” political regimes are more likely to emerge and consolidate. Despite the extensive scholarship on political parties, comparative politics lacks a comprehensive theory to explain the enormous variation observed in the emergence of party-based regimes. Regimes with stronger political parties are associated with some regions of the world (Western Europe), some specific periods (the early 20th century), and some institutional settings (parliamentary democracies and post-revolutionary authoritarian regimes), but no global theory of party system emergence and institutionalization has been outlined. My research aims at providing this theory and testing it for a global sample of countries.