chapter  3
Institutional strategies
Pages 47

In addition to engagement in strat egies relating to the electorate, par ties can also engage in strat egies relating to institutions, and this chapter investigates the extent to which the polit ical institutions of western Europe favour estab lished par ties. Institutions play a major role in shaping the way that polit ical par ties operate and can facilitate or restrict certain ac tiv ities, ultimately playing a role in determining the success of certain par ties. Rules and regulations for the mainte­ nance of the institutional structure are set out in most western Euro pean demo­ cra cies’ consti tu tions, yet governing par ties are not always compelled to abide by rules concerning the opera tion of institutions. If the rules dis advant age certain par ties, they can change the rules. This per spect ive is en cap sul ated by Müller’s statement that ‘polit ical par ties’ mo tiva tion for playing the polit ical game is not the Olympic prin ciple; their rationale is not mere parti cipa tion in the game, but winning it’ (2002: 251). Katz (2002: 90) argues that the major way that polit ical par ties can seek to change the rules of the game is by seeking refuge in the institutions of the state. This forms the basis of the cartel thesis (Katz and Mair 1995), which focuses on state sub sidies and media access as ways in which par ties can entrench them­ selves within state institutions. This chapter addresses these dimensions, along­ side other dimensions relating to the institutional envir on ment. The im port ance of polit ical par ties not only operating in, but also able to influence, the institu­ tional framework is of vital im port ance for the purposes of this chapter. Parties have been the prin cipal actors constructing the par ticu lar institutional ar range­ ment in each coun try over time, so par ties are constantly engaging in institu­ tional strategies. Established par ties, acting as rational actors and in line with the cartel thesis, should seek to utilise the resources of the state and modify institutions to ensure that the institutional set­ up in which they operate favours them. This chapter con­ sider the extent to which the institutional ar range ment in western Europe favours estab lished par ties by con sidering the fol low ing four dimensions: elect oral laws, elect oral sys tems, television cam paigning airtime and state sub sidies. Electoral laws and elect oral sys tems are the first hurdles for par ties when embarking on an election cam paign and the pursuit of votes, pol icy and office (Müller and Strøm 1999b). Television cam paigning airtime and state sub sidies relate to the cam paign

pro cess itself and the rewards that par ties can expect to receive, often because of the share of the vote received at the election. These dimensions form an im port ant part of the cartel thesis, en ab ling this chapter to provide an assessment of the levels of strat egies engaged in by estab lished par ties and expected hypotheses, and provide an ana lysis of the applic abil ity of the cartel thesis.