Erik Moberg ã:
A Theory of Democratic Politics


In spite of their importance political parties are somewhat elusive and many-faced organizations. A first point to notice is that, although political parties appear and operate in all democracies, they are usually not highlighted in the constitutional texts. They may be mentioned, and their activities may also be regulated in various ways, but that is about all. Thus, according to Sartori (1976, p 33), "(e)ven today, in most countries parties remain, juridically, private associations with no constitutional recognition. Among the few notable exceptions are the Bonn Fundamental Law and the French Constitution of 1958". Another interesting exception, though negative in a sense, is the Austrian constitution in which the parties are mentioned mainly in the stipulation that the members of the constitutional court must not be party functionaries or employees (Müller, 1994, p 24). It is also interesting to quote Schlesinger (1991, p 10 f) writing that "The United States is unique among democracies in the extent to which it has sought to regulate and define party organization. In countries such as Great Britain or France parties have been free to organize as they see fit ".

So, usually, the constitutions do not reveal the importance of the political parties. Still, the parties are important, and, furthermore, as will be outlined in the following, various constitutional elements play important roles in shaping the parties and the party-systems, and thereby also contribute in determining the exact roles played by the parties in the political process.

Another important point is that political parties, since they work in both the legal decision-making structure and in society at large, and in a sense form links between these two worlds, have several appearances. V. O. Key has (1964, p 164), for instance, made distinctions between the party-in-the-electorate, the party-in-the-legislature, and the party-in-the-government.