Proto-Parties and Proto-System?

An Outline of Emerging Polish Multi- partism

(Warsaw: Institute of Political Studies, 1997)

Ewa Nalewajko

Nalew's book is devoted to the process of institutionalization of Polish parties during the period of democratization. The object of study is the process itself and its results. Considering the importance of the comparative approach, emphasis is placed on those typical and specific aspects, which put these parties closer or separate them, as well as those aspects that differentiate them from parties in a more stable political system.

The analysis of this process of institutionalization takes under consideration social features and cultural contexts. It is understandable that the starting point for this analysis was empirical data rather than ready theoretical models borrowed from other systems.

The following features, among others, of this process accompany the institutionalization of parties: break with previous ideological traditions, disappearance of multi-party experience, lack of clearly crystallized social interest, uncertainty which was produced by political and economic changes, party building from the top, performed by strongly divided elites.

As a result, besides many proto-parties other parties were established which can be described as weak institutions. They are far away from the model of mass parties or catch-all parties. They are based on limited membership, badly organizational structures and strong personalization and autonomy of party leaders who are oriented toward state structures. They are relatively close to the model of cartel parties.

Parties included in this model differ between each other in their ideology, structure, selection procedures and leadership profile. This is closely connected to party strategy--electoral, coalition, and opposition. Exactly those characteristics, mentioned above, connected with the model features of parties, create new variables which are useful for explaining the democratization process. After all, political parties are a result of democratization, as much as they are responsible for creating it.


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