3D render of Democrats Donkey vs Republicans Elephant symbols on dark blue background

The world has entered a decisive stage of the transit phase that exacerbates representative democracy and party systems crisis.

The report on “The crisis of democracy” of the Trilateral Commission (by Michel Crozier, Samuel P. Huntington, Joji Watanuki) written in 1975 is important in assessing the depth of the crisis. Then the experts predicted that strengthen the movement for private citizens’ participation in political processes, and, on the other hand, citizens’ alienation from the institutions of power would be the representative democracymajor challenges. As a result we will have the legitimacy crisis and the failure to trust the entire system of electoral democracy.

At the moment this process is actually launched. The parties were unable to retain a monopoly on the whole range of its functions. Russian political analyst Kirill Kholodkovsky supposes that function of political socialization has been largely lost by the parties. Media and the Independent Electoral Committee (in the US and some other countries) have pushed the parties in the mass political mobilization sphere. The numerous public associations, thanks to corporate mechanisms of interaction with the state and involving in the process of aggregation and mutual “lapping” these interests, have taken the function of the group interests’ representative. 

Party Life ossifies freezes in the media and the groups of interests largely go to those functions (political socialization, the articulation of social strata requests) which have mostly made the parties the representatives of civil society.

The political sphere has finally turned from the arena of class struggle into a political market services. And a large part of the masses simply do not require these services to satisfy their needs and in pursuing their interests in other markets. They do that on other markets. As the sociologist Ralf Dahrendorf says, the realistic way to overcome the crisis of representative democracy in Western countries has not been found. But it does not mean that they do not exist at all.

World trends and Ukrainian parties

Ukrainian parties are the political superstructure over the oligarchic groups or “remote modules” of FIG (financial and industrial group).A neo-patrimonial regime with all its consequences is our political reality.

As a result, the Ukrainian researcher Nikolay Nazarov marks, parties don’t control the action of the Government any more. Instead this state power directs the activities of the parties in the right direction to her, turning parties, in fact, into an appendage of the state apparatus. Being under the patronage of the Government the ruling party in the neo-patrimonial society performs the following functions:

a) control the advancement of leading cadres in the state apparatus; 

b) organization mass support government objectives; 

c) ideological indoctrination of the masses; 

d) patrimonial privatization of public power-public sphere and its subsequent distribution among the members of the ruling group. The latter function is, in fact, the real purpose of the party machinery.

Politicum does not fulfill its function of interests representation, so there is a rapid growth of citizens’ alienation from the political parties and, consequently, from power.

Fragmented multiparty system does not cover the deficit (over 300 games). Citizens’ trust in parties as institutions ranges from 5 to 12%. There is a growing refusal to vote and passive choice.

Sealing of parties.Firstly, the top parties have actually turned into a closed, self-contained “political class”, in the “partocracy” which divides power. In other words, the current Ukrainian party is a kind of closed joint stock companies, where there are beneficiaries (the oligarchs), there is the all-powerful leader or board of directors (where everything is solved). The party also acts as the machine to obtain votes. And the cogs of this machine aren’t able to have their own opinion. This explains the desire of party leaders to introduce an imperative mandate for the deputies not only in Parliament but also for the local councils of deputies (the law on deputies-serfs).

Moreover, the statutes of those parties are written in such way that doesn’tleave any loop holes for inner-party democracy. Secondly it can’t be any ideological debate in parties which are the Closed Joint-Stock Company. And, if it is possible, even the ideology.

Mostly Ukrainian parties are populist movements, regional groupings or personality type formations. Consequently, they are non-adaptive and doomed to extinction, as soon as a new “Copernican revolution” (a departure from the neo-patrimonial model) will happened.

Currently “the oligarchic consensus” has formed and the phenomenon of “cartel parties” has appeared in Ukraine. The term “cartel party” (by R. Katz and P. Mair) means the subject, acting on the basis of inter-party agreements (of intra communication) and interaction with important elements of the state mechanism (inter-level communication) in order to create favorable conditions for the functioning of the parties – participants of the cartel over competing policy actors. “Cartel Party” spliced with the state apparatus and builds domination relationships within the existing party system. We have the so-called “strategic Seven” and the cartel of Petro Poroshenko Block (BPP) and “Narodnyy Front”.

Crisis of “catch all” parties.“Disengagement” instead of personalism or elite interests. To survive in the electoral strugglethe parties should have a stable support of the population. Under the new conditions the party wouldn’t get any stability, if they don’t establish a connection with the deep-rooted sources of disengagement (cleavage) (for Seymour Lipset).

New social conflicts don’t have of such a permanent and comprehensive nature as the conflict between labor and capital, they are more localized and fragmented. And a division of interests has often temporary, situational character. This complicates the process of forming a stable configuration, but does not deny it. By the words of the sociologist Ulrich Beck, a configuration of the type “or – or” is replaced by the configuration “and – and”. In accordance with this policy is segmented according to themes and the levels and mostly has “specific” and “mono-problematic” character.

Apolitical and anti-established position.In contemporary politics these parties position themselves as the opponents of the existing political parties, the political community as a whole.”Maidan without politicians” at the beginning of the Revolution of Dignity was the first sign of this trend.

The new movements won’t be satisfied by the ideological poverty of modern parties, organizational unwieldiness, joining the leaders to the political establishment, separation from people and the elites’ corruption.

There is “us” (citizens who have the right and consciously prepared to commit themselves in the framework of the Republic (general affairs) and there is “them” (the oligarchs, all parties, politicians, authorities and media – politicum or the ruling class).Each of these words has its own values and there are no principles of interaction between them.

Super-idea in ideological crisis, visionary movements.The request for some super-idea is growing in most countries of Frontier (Eastern Europe, Latin America, South-East Asia). Visionary groups find more and more supporters and form a new type parties.This is due to the crisis of traditional ideologies. We are not able to explain the world in its diversity. Moreover, an important feature of the moment is a request for “discourse of the future”. Our Maidan formed a request for the image of Ukrainian future, the country’s development strategy. The new generation wants to create the own future with joint efforts. And they wouldn’t agree to give their future to party bosses. Visionary and a search for a new ideological paradigm have led to the emergence of clubs movement.

The search for Alternative System.The current model of representative democracy in all its versions is not conducive to revolutionary change. Moreover, no matter who comes to the authority in the framework of this model, the system repairs itself. There is a change of names in the authority, but the essence of the system and the alienation between man and state remain. That’s why the new political forces will target to the construction not representative democracy, but a form that would ensure human self-realization, emancipation of social groups, a harmonious combination of interests and not-domination.

The Typology of Future Parties

We do not claim to scientific validity of terms and methodology in this typology. However, this is the first attempt to short-term forecasting of the political parties development in Ukraine. In our case the typology on the organizational basis is the most useful. According to this principle we can distinguish three main types of future parties.

1. Party – Order”

Similar to the religious community (all of its members – brothers/sisters, the volunteers are combined by the “sacred goal”).

This type of the party is armed by vision, ideology and designed political and economic program. This is very important because visionary must be a unique feature of this type of the party. The key to successful development of the “Party – Order” is an awareness of the ideological postulates, orientation in the discourse, a reference to the source, the ability to operate with ideological constructs.

The cropped parties. Meritocratic and functional approaches to recruiting members. Party-order will not be numerous. Selection to it should be done very carefully, considering it as the core of a new patriotic state elite, adhering to the rules of approval and selection, i.e. meritocracy rules.

Financing is not uniform. There are some prototypes in Ukraine: 5.10 Party (A. Balashov), “Spilna diya” (T. Montian). However, the constant “coming out” of Balashov and especially Montian do not contribute to the expansion of their electoral base. Conversely, they narrow the number of supporters, and authoritarian leadership style of both leaders transform the supporters of these parties to the politicized sect.

At the same time, “Party – Order” is not exhausted the full potential and can claim some success in the case of the right niche positioning and accounting above-mentioned trends. Among the potentially successful projects in this category it can be called “Respublica Gidnosty”, Synanarchists’ Union etc.

2. Party – Coalition

A coalition of different communities united by common ideological frame and common principles for the coordination of interests. 

Division of the tasks for politicians and party functionaries. Party functionaries fulfill the managerial roles promoting the interaction of interest groups in a coalition party and are not intended to participate in the elections. 

Decisions are taken by participatory mechanisms. 

Not-fixed membership and volunteer network.

Financing through the private supporters’ participation(70% of the budget).

Brazil’s Workers’ Party and the Greek party SYRIZA can serve the examples of successful “Parties – Coalitions”.

Brazil’s Workers’ Party (WP) was formed as a coalition of the trade unions, landless peasants, environmental and other social movements, supporters of liberation theology, the leftist intellectuals, Trotskyist and other Marxist groups. It had an electoral success from 2003 to 2014. At the peak of popularity WP was experimenting with forms of inner organization. For example, the tactical decisions of the Party were taken by the Council of political representatives (from groups-members of WP) while political – at the strategic sessions in territorial communities. A significant role was played by the clubs, which elaborated the ideological discourse and conducted political education.

Over time WP transformed into a social and party holding. The discussion clubs, analytical structures, associations, communities and party alliances were integrated to this holding.The party apparatus played the role of moderator of the operational processes without self-weight.

SYRIZA party was institutionalized in 2004 as an electoral alliance of left-wing and radical leftist groups (from the Maoists, to the green and left-libertarians). SYRIZA’s platform is both democratic and revolutionary socialism, which would be able to avoid the suppression of massive bottom-up initiatives and inherent etatism and social democracy, and the so-called “real socialism”. This concept was developed by the Greek-French sociologist-neomarxist Nicos Poulantzas.

As Ukrainian expert Denis Pilash correctly noted, SYRIZA is distinguished by systemic everyday work in social movements, trade unions and intellectual environment. SYRIZA’s activists lead this work as regular participants without pretending to subordinate them to it “wise leadership” (as Communist Party of Greece wants this). Conversely, they worked respecting their autonomy, but helping them and working on them at the bottom and from the inside (conceptual control). Actually, SYRIZA was not particularly chasing victory at the ballot boxes (did not believe in it) because the main fields of its activity were the squares and streets of Greek cities.

It should be noted that the “Party – Coalition” may be not only left. But there is an important thing – it is the ability to negotiate. Confidence in these parties is generated by simple principles in turn, turnover, functional representation, conceptual control and the presence of the arbitral tribunal from among the recognized intellectuals (this principle is evident in SYRIZA). Sometimes a lot is used, which identifies a particular applicant for a post or position in the party. A lot Institute is used only in equal-competent surroundings.

“Parties-Coalitions”, as a rule, are distinguished by a large ideological flexibility, democratic organization and operating style, the lack of clear boundaries between members and sympathizers. However, these parties also face issues related to the development of the organization and the “institutionalizationof capital”. 

3. “Party – Network”

The concept of the “extended party networks”. Not party organizations + social and community activities, but vice versa – the social activities + party as a member.

Party functionaries and politicians are the agents of the strong minority coalition’s components. The politicians’ dependence on the asset decisions (by Matt Grossmann and Casey Dominguez).

Online membership.

Decisions are taken by the mechanisms of “living democracy” or dynamic delegation of votes to more competent members.

Joint text editor PiratePad and platform LiquidFeedback are used as working models. Nowadays LiquidFeedback has been used as a base platform Pirate Party of Germany, Sweden, Switzerland and Argentina. In Ukraine, it can be the instruments “CIVIL SOCIETY APP” on the platform “Gurtom.mobi”. The main difference between these tools from Facebook – it allows you not to discuss or comment on the remarks, but to act. This tool makes it possible to generate initiatives to create groups of their promotion and implementation, fund these initiatives and assess their results.

Rise the competence and professionalism through the delegation of authority. Every citizen may participate in the public policy process through the Internet. However, the general daily direct participation of citizens in government should not be in conflict with the principle of competence. The contradiction between the principle of equal participation (1 vote – 1 person) and decision-makers competence can be solved by delegating votes to more competent person. We are not talking about the next elections, but to grant the right to decide in this particular case, a person who is an expert in this sphere. At the same time the citizen can withdraw his vote at any time while delegating if he considers that the delegate does not reflect his position. It is not excluded that the norm of political responsibility will become a principle “blockchain”. The automatic protocol to the agreement between the voter and the representative of the party: has not fulfilled a promise to a certain date – automatic elimination of politics (deprivation of the right to be elected for a certain period).

Control through the trust. The deprivation of mandate of the party delegate, who became a deputy of Council, should be resolved through the signing of an agreement on joint activities as a matter of public law. 

Not-domination and plurality. The simple principles adopted in this community (not the cumbersome regulations and statutes) work. It is more practice than the document. This suggests the existence of a “Party – Networks” communities with different values (conservative and libertarian left). The main thing is not-domination of one group over the other values and the recognition of the rights of others to exist. However, they share a common border –- a vision of the future model (even two or three positions). 

Live program. The activists’ co-authorship. A classic example of this position is the Party for Accountability, Competency and Transparency of Canada (PACT), formerly called Online – Party. It is the only federal political party, which allows to any registered voter to participate in the development of the party platform, regardless of political affiliation or belief, offering its members the right to comment and vote directly on each issue, as well as ensuring accountability of elected representatives.

Return morality to politics. Only the most competent delegates with high confidence from citizens will be able to perform the functions of the citizens’ decisions formalization. As noted in the program manifesto of the German Pirate Party, “direct democracy” is a rational management plus the people’s control, guided by moral reflections of the people”. 

It should be noted that the “Party – Network” is basically not left-wing parties. It is complex combination of libertarianism, liberalism, conservatism, nationalism and euro-skepticism. 

For example, Party for Freedom of the Netherlands. It was founded by Geert Wielders. In fact, it consists of one person, but takes an active participation in the political life of the country, creating the support of not-fixing and recruiting party members with the use of online technologies. Welders defends the values of European civilization (Christianity, freedom, the rule of law, separation of church and state) from Islamic values, often going to the camp of radical nationalists. 

Five Star Movement in Italy by showman Beppe Grillo is a phenomenon of the “blogosphere party”. Beppe Grillo blog is among the top ten popular political blogs in the world, and involves users from more than 1,000 cities from 22 countries. 

Poland Palikot’s Movement / Your movement associates itself with the libertarian values of freedom, but includes social justice, solidarity and equality in its ideological baggage.

Party of common people and independent personalities of Slovakia is generally positioned as a conservative party. It professes traditional values of Slovakia, a safe living environment and parenting, responsibility and respect for the freedoms of others, the rights of minorities; it opposes corruption, for the rule of law, responsible governance, without excessive bureaucracy.

Pirate Parties of Sweden, Argentina and Germany. They rather preach ultra-liberal principles. Their objectives are the protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms in the digital age, the reform of the patent rights, support for the information privacy, openness and free access to information.

All three political parties’ types have common characteristics and features. They are as follows:

• Obligatory personal citizen participation in governance processes. The special interpretation of the concept “citizenship” as a conscious rights and responsibilities.

• Mobility and hybridism. These parties show significant ideological flexibility, adaptability in forms of self-organization and receptive to innovations.

• Refuse of representative democracy’s cumbersome and inefficient mechanisms and a multi-stage mechanism of political decision-making in the state.

• Existence outside representative (electoral) democracy. They are able to oppose parliamentary and even against the separation of powers. These parties can exist outside representative (electoral) democracy. And, they can create a different system which will be able to replace representative democracy in their environment.

• Conscious cooperation of contradictions. There are no values but there are principles of dormitory. Framework ideology ensures harmonious cooperation of different values groups.


New type parties which will soon come to the Ukrainian politics, obviously, will not be refined maps of the above classification. Rather, it will be a gradual squeezing of party organization traditional forms and relations within the party system. All will be gradual, but inevitable. 

1. Germination of new actors from within the current party system. The existing parties have already used the new elements (“Syla liudey”, “DemAlliance” etc).

2. Strengthening of anti-political and anti-establishment sentiments. At the same time we should expect a complication of converting this trend by current populists (Lyashko, Tymoshenko and others).

3. Transfer of generating meanings center from parties to a civil environment (expert community, clubs, think-tanks). The ideological exhaustion of the traditional parties.

4. The clubs era. Search alternatives. Formation of the environment which will become a nutritious humus for the future parties’ germination in Ukraine (when this environment achieves a critical mass). 

5. Super-idea. Visionary and practice “new trust”. Great idea implies a new type of relations between members of the movement and different motivations. In conjunction with the principles of non-domination, lots and competence visionary is able to form a new tradition.

6. Formation of the subject(s) of a system and integration of the counter-elite around it.

7. Acquisition of resource.

8. The collapse of the “cartel party” and “oligarchic consensus”. It will happen in the short term.

9. Work in the society’s roots as “midwives” of a new System.

10. Entrance at the political arena and/or electoral success.

And then the fun begins.

The author: Vitalii Kulik, Director of the Research Center for Civil Society Problems


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