Local Government Institutionalization in Hungary

by Gábor Soós (Author)
©2015 Thesis 214 Pages


Why are local political organizations enduring in certain municipalities and ephemeral in others? This book explores the systematic factors that influence the level of Local Party Institutionalization (LPI). The analysis of LPI in Hungary, a new democracy, shows that LPI there mainly depends on the electoral system, the functional size, stability and average age of the population. The local chapters of national parties, especially those of parliamentary parties, appear to be more durable than the civic organizations acting as local parties.

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the author
  • About the book
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Contents
  • Introduction
  • Chapter 1: Local Party Institutionalization
  • 1.1. The Importance of Local Party Institutionalization
  • 1.1.1. Potential Forms of Institutionalization
  • 1.1.2. Local Party Institutionalization in Comparison
  • 1.2. The Concept of Local Party Institutionalization
  • 1.2.1. Institutionalization of Organizations
  • 1.2.2. Local Party Institutionalization
  • 1.3. The Formation of Institutionalized Local Parties
  • 1.3.1. Local Parties
  • 1.3.2. National and Local Parties
  • 1.3.3. Party Formation
  • 1.4. Summary
  • Chapter 2: Explaining Local Party Institutionalization
  • 2.1. Size and Local Democracy
  • 2.1.1. Size and Democracy
  • 2.1.2. A New Concept of Size
  • 2.1.3. Hypotheses About Size
  • 2.2. Socioeconomic Factors
  • 2.2.1. Further Literature Survey
  • 2.2.2. Hypotheses Concerning Intervening Factors
  • 2.2.3. Factors Intervening Between Municipality Size and Local Party Institutionalization
  • 2.3. Other Effects
  • 2.3.1. Electoral Rules
  • 2.3.2. Social Geography Hypotheses
  • 2.3.3. Path Dependency Hypotheses
  • 2.3.4. Party Typology Hypotheses
  • 2.4. An Explanandum-Oriented Summary
  • 2.4.1. Electoral Incentives
  • 2.4.2. Municipality’s Significance to National Parties
  • 2.4.3. Importance of Core Individuals
  • 2.4.4. Availability of Activists
  • 2.4.5. Distinct Group Preferences
  • 2.4.6. Costs of Mobilization
  • 2.4.7. Collaborative Culture
  • 2.5. Summary
  • Chapter 3: Methods and Indicators
  • 3.1. The Local Government System in Hungary
  • 3.2. Measuring Local Party Institutionalization
  • 3.2.1. Party Government
  • 3.2.2. Party Loyalty
  • 3.3. Cases and Data Sources
  • 3.4. Causal Modeling
  • 3.5. Variables and Hypotheses
  • 3.6. Measuring Explanatory Variables
  • 3.6.1. Population Size
  • 3.6.2. Functional Size
  • 3.6.3. Population Stability
  • 3.6.4. Urbanization
  • 3.6.5. Age composition
  • 3.6.6. Citizens’ Resources
  • 3.6.7. Societal Heterogeneity
  • 3.6.8. Ethnic Heterogeneity
  • 3.6.9. Electoral Systems
  • 3.6.10. Proximity to Centers
  • 3.6.11. The Organizational Strength of Civil Society
  • 3.6.12. Electoral Participation
  • 3.7. Summary
  • Chapter 4: Local Party Government
  • 4.1. Local Party Government in Hungary
  • 4.2. Bivariate Associations With Local Party Government
  • 4.2.1. Population Size
  • 4.2.2. Functional Size
  • 4.2.3. Population Stability
  • 4.2.4. Urbanization
  • 4.2.5. Age composition
  • 4.2.6. Citizens’ Resources
  • 4.2.7. Socioeconomic Heterogeneity
  • 4.2.8. Ethnic Heterogeneity
  • 4.2.9. Civil Society
  • 4.2.10. Political Participation
  • 4.2.11. Electoral System
  • 4.2.12. Proximity to Centers
  • 4.3. Multivariate Analysis
  • 4.3.1. Determinants of Party Government
  • 4.3.2. Party Government In the Short Ticket Electoral System
  • 4.3.3. Party Government In the Mixed Electoral System
  • 4.4. Conclusion
  • Chapter 5: Local Party Loyalty
  • 5.1. Loyalty to Local Party Organization
  • 5.2. Bivariate Associations With Local Party Loyalty
  • 5.2.1. Electoral System
  • 5.2.2. Proximity to Centers
  • 5.2.3. Population Size
  • 5.2.4. Municipality Significance
  • 5.2.5. Urbanization
  • 5.2.6. Population Stability
  • 5.2.7. Age composition
  • 5.2.8. Citizens’ Resources
  • 5.2.9. Socioeconomic Heterogeneity
  • 5.2.10. Ethnic Heterogeneity
  • 5.2.11. Civil Society
  • 5.2.12. Political Participation
  • 5.3. Multivariate Analysis
  • 5.4. The Association of Party Government and Party Loyalty
  • 5.5. Conclusion
  • Chapter 6: Causal Models
  • 6.1. Indirect Effects
  • 6.1.1. Political Participation
  • 6.1.2. Social Participation
  • 6.1.3. Functional Size
  • 6.1.4. Urbanization
  • 6.1.5. Population Instability
  • 6.1.6. Citizens’ Resources
  • 6.1.7. Socioeconomic Heterogeneity
  • 6.1.8. Age
  • 6.2. Causal Models of Party Government
  • 6.2.1. Municipalities in the Short Ticket Electoral System
  • 6.2.2. Municipalities in the Mixed Electoral System
  • 6.3. Causal Models of Party Loyalty
  • 6.3.1. Municipalities in the Short Ticket Electoral System
  • 6.3.2. Municipalities in the Mixed Electoral System
  • 6.4. Conclusion
  • Chapter 7: Further Evidence
  • 7.1. Local Party Survey
  • 7.1.1. Systemness: Resources
  • 7.1.2. Systemness: Differentiation and Control
  • 7.1.3. Systemness: Routinized Activities
  • 7.1.4. Autonomy
  • 7.2. Local Representative Survey
  • 7.2.1. Power Positions
  • 7.2.2. Opinion Formation
  • 7.2.3. Accountability to Local Parties
  • 7.3. Party Charters
  • 7.4. Direct Democracy
  • 7.4.1. The Underused Institution of Local Referendum
  • 7.4.2. Inviting Citizens to Local Governance
  • 7.4.3. Local Direct Democracy in Hungary
  • 7.5. Conclusion
  • Chapter 8: Conclusions
  • 8.1. Aspects of Local Party Institutionalization
  • 8.2. Confirmed and Unconfirmed Hypotheses
  • 8.2.1. Specific Hypotheses
  • 8.2.2. Size-related Hypotheses
  • 8.2.3. Other Hypotheses
  • 8.3. A Case for Amalgamation?
  • 8.4. Limitations and Further Research
  • References
  • Appendice
  • A. Research Hypotheses
  • B. The Variables in the Index of Functional Size

← 8 | 9 → Introduction

This book investigates the institutionalization of a specific organization, the local political party, and explores the factors that influence the level of local party institutionalization.

Three questions can be raised concerning local party institutionalization. The first is normative: does a high level of local party institutionalization contribute to democracy? Shall we promote the institutionalization of local politics through party organizations? The second question is empirical: what determines the level of local party institutionalization? What conditions make local party institutionalization possible and what conditions make it thrive? Finally, the third question is related to policy: How can the level of local party institutionalization be influenced? What kind of legal measures can alter the institutionalization of local parties?

I will focus on the second question in this book: What explains the different levels of institutionalization? In a more technical way, my research question is: What are the systematic factors that shape the degree of local party institutionalization and how strong are their effects? Thus, the aim of the research is to identify variables that statistically explain the variance in the level of local party institutionalization.

The Research Question:

What explains the level of local party institutionalization?

While the majority of the book focuses on the empirical problem, it is not possible to avoid the discussion of the two other questions. Therefore, a part of the first chapter deals with the normative question. It places local party institutionalization in the context of other forms of institutionalization and points to the benefits of party-based local political systems. The concluding chapter returns to the basic questions and provides policy advice on the means by which the level of local party institutionalization can be increased.

The first three chapters of the book outline the research design. In addition to the normative justification of the subject matter, Chapter 1 also defines the basic concepts of this research. Local party institutionalization is conceptualized as a multidimensional notion with four components. The definition of a local party involves not only the local chapters of national parties, but also the civil society organizations that act as local parties by nominating candidates. The last ← 9 | 10 → section sheds some light on the endogenous logic of party formation from the viewpoint of national party centers and local politicians. Chapter 2 identifies the independent variables that potentially explain the variance in the level of local party institutionalization. It surveys three bodies of literature to put forward hypotheses about the legal, demographic, socioeconomic, geographical, historical, and typological factors that may influence local party institutionalization. The multidimensional concept of local party institutionalization and the explanatory variables are operationalized in Chapter 3. It also presents the main features of the local government system in Hungary and the sources of data to be used throughout in the research. The clear requirements of data exclude some variables, proposed in the previous chapter, and reduce the number of hypotheses.

The next four chapters discuss the available evidence. Chapters 4 and 5 examine the two most measurable indicators of the explanandum, Local Party Government and Local Party Loyalty. Both follow the same pattern: first the overall picture, then bivariate relationships, and finally the multivariate analysis. Chapter 6 builds causal models with several variables to explain the variance in the above mentioned indicators of local party institutionalization by means of indirect paths. Chapter 7 relies on three surveys to provide additional evidence for the evaluation of all dimensions of the central concept of the research and to test the remaining hypotheses.

The last chapter concludes with an assessment of the four dimensions of party institutionalization in the local governments in Hungary and an overview of the tested hypotheses. As already mentioned, it also offers policy advice that could inform analysts and decision-makers regarding the problem of amalgamation from the point of view of political institutionalization. The chapters of this thesis are not of equal length simply because the issues to be discussed required discussion of different breadth and theoretical discussion cannot be as concise as the presentation of statistical findings.

The case that the research project covers is Hungary. As a new democracy, this country can serve as a test case, especially for the region of Central and Eastern European. Moreover, Hungary has a fragmented local government system that may provide interesting findings for other countries of similar territorial organization.

A few words about the terminology of this research are needed to avoid confusion and make the reading of this report simpler. As all localities have the right to form a local government in Hungary, I use the terms of ‘municipality’, ‘local government’ and ‘local community’ interchangeably, and ‘settlement’ and ‘locality’ interchangeably if not indicated otherwise. That is fully possible in the Hungarian context. By ‘national party’, I mean party organizations that are organized on ← 10 | 11 → the country level. The term would be ‘country-level parties’ in Hungarian (and never ‘national parties’). As Chapter 1 defines, the term ‘local party’ or ‘local party organization’ refers to both the local sections of national parties and civil society organizations. I occasionally call civil society organizations ‘social organizations’, which is the standard legal term in Hungarian. I distinguish in this research between population size and functional size. The more encompassing category of ‘municipality size’ includes both of them. Other definitions, which are more related to the conceptual framework of this research, can be found in Chapter 1. Operational definitions appear in Chapter 3. The two main indicators of local party institutionalization, local party government and local party loyalty are also defined and operationalized in Chapter 3. Finally, the electoral systems of the local government tier play a major role in this research. I briefly refer to them as ‘short ticket system’ (or ‘short list system’) and ‘mixed system’.← 11 | 12 →

← 12 | 13 → Chapter 1:Local Party Institutionalization

The first task of the project is to present a conceptual framework that can be the basis of the research design. Therefore, the following chapter defines the concept of local party, institutionalization and local party institutionalization. It also explains why local parties matter for both local democracy and national parties, and why parties are formed and maintained.

1.1. The Importance of Local Party Institutionalization

Well-established political systems function differently from weakly institutionalized ones. The level of institutionalization of political actors and processes shapes the perception of political reality, calculation, and behavior, influences the durability of governments and their policy performance, and defines the common interests. In Huntington’s (1968: 24) words:

Political institutions have moral as well as structural dimensions. A society with weak political institutions lacks the ability to curb the excesses of the personal and parochial desires. Politics is a Hobbesian world of unrelenting competition among social forces – between man and man, family and family, clan and clan, region and region, class and class – a competition unmediated by more comprehensive political organizations. The “amoral familism” of Banfield’s backward society has its counterparts in amoral clanism, amoral groupism, amoral classism. Morality requires trust; trust involves predictability; and predictability requires regularized and institutionalized patterns of behavior. Without strong political institutions, society lacks the means to define and to realize its common interests. The capacity to create political institutions is the capacity to create public interests.

Local communities in Europe in general, and in Hungary in particular, are obviously provided with governing institutions. The institutions of local governments and elections supply a framework with the potential to “curb the excesses of the personal and parochial desires,” and define and realize the common interests. The extent to which this potential is realized, however, depends on the existence and nature of the institutions that mediate between the local society and local government. The way in which societal demands are channeled makes a difference between opaque, unstable political systems with uncontrolled notables, on the one hand, and transparent, predictable political systems in which leaders’ excesses are curbed, on the other hand. In the following pages, I make an attempt to show why the specific type of institutionalization based on party organizations is, from a democratic point of view, superior to the available alternatives of mediating institutions on the local level.

← 13 | 14 → 1.1.1. Potential Forms of Institutionalization

This book focuses on the institutionalization of a particular form, the political party. Party institutionalization is not the only form of political institutionalization. To take a broad view, parties are new-born babies in human history. The party as an institution is less than 200 years old and gained a prominent role only in the late 19th century. Lots of well-institutionalized political systems emerged and passed away before the age of party politics. To take a more contemporary view, no political system is totally party-based. Parties always have institutional alternatives. Established parties are not the only form of political institutionalization. The politics of local governments are particularly based on clans and personal (non-organized) patronage quite often. Alternative institutionalized forms exist even in the most party-dominated polities. Accordingly, the degree to which local political parties and the local party system are institutionalized is not necessarily a good indicator of the overall level of institutionalization of a local polity. In my view, the following institutionalized models are the usual rivals of parties in contemporary democracies:

Personal connections, built on kinship and friendship, are still important. Horizontal and vertical links may form a strong informal institutional system even in seemingly monolithic, authoritarian polities (see e.g. Peng 2004). In local politics, personal networks and patronage links often play an important role due to the small scale of the political unit.


ISBN (Softcover)
Publication date
2015 (March)
Local Party LPI Party Democratic Evolution
Frankfurt am Main, Berlin, Bern, Bruxelles, New York, Oxford, Wien, 2015. 214 pp., 71 tables, 15 graphs

Biographical notes

Gábor Soós (Author)

Gábor Soós is a senior research fellow at the Institute for Political Science of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences in Budapest. He published several papers and edited four books on local politics and political parties in Hungary.


Title: Local Government Institutionalization in Hungary
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216 pages