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Erik Moberg ã:
A Theory of Democratic Politics
 
 

6.6 - MECHANISMS IMPEDING PARTY DISCIPLINE RELATED TO PRIMARIES, REFERENDUMS AND INITIATIVES

Some democratic techniques or institutions, such as primaries, referendums and initiatives, give additional power to the ordinary voter. For this reason these institutions also may impede party discipline.

Popular primary elections, by which candidates for political posts are nominated, obviously deprive party leaderships of important power and thereby impede party cohesion and discipline.

The relation between referendums and party cohesion is a somewhat more complicated issue since referendums sometimes can be used in the service of party cohesion. Imagine for example that in a parliamentary country, in which party cohesion is essential, an important issue which divides the parties appears. If, in such a case, the referendum institute is used for the decision making, rather than the regular machinery, a potential threat to party cohesion is bypassed, which serves the system's functioning.

Referendums may however also be used frequently and regularly with the main purpose of reaching decisions, without any regards for party cohesion. If so the popular initiative is also an interesting institute, which may be made available for the citizens. Now, if referendums and initiatives are used without any regard for the parties, it is still interesting to ask whether, in fact, they are likely to affect the parties in any substantial way. I think they are, and the hypotheses is that the parties' consolidation and cohesion is likey to be undermined. The reason is that the parties, in order to be consolidated and cohesive also must have some importance, which means that they must be allowed to handle as many issues as possible. If a lot of issues are taken away from the parties' dominating influence, and are given away to people's direct initiatives and decisions, the parties will, I think, disintegrate.