Party Patronage East and West: A Comparative Exploration of European Trends

Friday, July 10, 2015
S12 (13 rue de l'Université)
Petr Kopecky , Political Science, Leiden University
Maria Spirova , Political Science, Leiden University
Most popular and academic accounts of post-communist politics point to party patronage as a widespread phenomenon across the region. Our paper explores the extent to which it is justifiable to speak about party patronage as a typical post-communist phenomenon. We answer this question by comparing the trends in Western and Eastern Europe using consistent  data on party patronage in 12 Western European countries and four post-communist democracies. Our main findings can be summarized as follows. Extensive party patronage is not exclusively a post-communist phenomenon, countries in all parts of the continent display variation in the levels to which parties carry out discretionary appointments. However, there are two features that do set the post-communist practices aside.  One is the direct link that seems to exist between the system of patronage appointments and the opportunity for other particularistic behavior, such as party clientelism and overt corruption. The second feature is the high importance attributed to appointing political loyal people to positions in the state institutions. Our paper concludes with some tentative conclusions about the implications of these findings for parties, party government and the states in post-communist Europe and beyond.