Movement Parties and Democratic Quality

A panel debate at the ECPR virtual General Conference, 3 September 2021

How does the emergence of anti-establisment movements and movement parties affect democracy? How do movement parties transform institutions and procedures of democratic representation? What implications have their ideological leanings on democratic quality? How does their use of digital media bear on their forms of action, organizational structures and cultures of advocacy? How has the pandemic affected their evolution and their linkages with civil society?

These questions were explored on a panel at the ECPR General Conference, organized by Fred Paxton, Lorenzo Mosca and the PRODEM project, an international research network studying the impact of movement parties for democratic politics in several European countries. I was invited to discuss the three excellent papers presented at the panel. In my comments, I highlighted the ambivalence of movement parties. They can be viewed as revitalizing democracy insofar as they mobilize and integrate disengaged groups, they contribute to pluralism and they are more responsive to citizens’ demands. But some movement parties and their governments have also been associated with exclusionary representation claims, restrictions to civil liberties and the erosion of institutional checks and balances. Thus, the balance for democracy and its quality appears to be more uneven and less clear than suggested by some authors.

Papers presented at our panel:

  • From protests to institutions: Exploring how social movements, movement parties and citizens affect democratic quality, PRODEM team
  • How political parties interact with social movements, by E. Borbáth and S. Hutter, WZB and Freie Universität Berlin
  • Populism in power: Can flatmates change each other ? The Italian case” by A. G. Napoletano, University of Bologna