The Causes and Consequences of Party Factionalism (Johannes Besch)

Factions are groups assembled around specific interests within political parties. Although it has been shown that factions affect a variety of relevant political outcomes – from position taking of parties over voting unity in parliament to party splits – existing research focused on case studies. Thus, we know little about how widespread the phenomenon of party factionalism is empirically across different parties and party systems. The scope of a comparative perspective is needed to assess the generalizability of the findings and the normative implications of party factionalism. Moreover, the causes for faction formation are unknown. But this is relevant information since factions appear to paralyze parties and therefore their ability to function as a unitary and cohesive political agent.

This dissertation identifies in a first step the factionalism of a variety of parties in different countries to map the “anatomy of parties”. Additionally, it will be surveyed which functions factions fulfill in parties. This is important to examine whether factionalism is an undesirable feature for political parties. Second, the causes for faction formation are scrutinized. Finally, it will investigate whether public perceptions of party factionalism vary across different political systems.