Columbia International Affairs Online: Working Papers

CIAO DATE: 11/2010

Lessons to Be Learned: Political Party Research and Political Party Assistance

Gero Erdmann

October 2010

German Institute of Global and Area Studies


Generally speaking, the effects of international political party assistance are viewed negatively, or at least controversially. This study attributes some of the shortcomings of political party aid to the poor relationship between assistance providers and political science party research. They simply operate in different worlds. Party assistance lacks clear-cut concepts and strategies in practice, which makes it difficult to adequately evaluate it. At issue is its "standard method," with its "transformative" intention to change the party organization of the assistance receivers. At the same time, the scholarship on political parties can provide only limited help to assistance providers due to its own conceptual and methodological re-strictions, such as the Western European bias underlying its major concepts, the predominance of a functionalist approach, and the scant empirical research on political parties outside of Europe and the US. Taking a cue from recent political party research, we could begin to question the overarching role of political parties in the transition and consolidation proc-ess of new democracies. Other research findings emphasize the coexistence of different types of party organizations, and the possibility of different organizational developments, which might all be consistent with consolidating democracy. All this suggests the necessity of abandoning the controversial aim of the "transformative impact" of political party aid.