Wilson, Frank L. (1995) "The Elusive European Party System". In: UNSPECIFIED, Charleston, South Carolina. (Unpublished)
There are few who challenge the centrality of political parties in the operation of contemporary, representative democracies. Parties are the chief means of linking people with government and the policy process. They are the primary forces producing competitive elections and developing alternative political elites that are at the heart of modern representative democracy. Even as Western democratic parties faced crisis in the 1970s and 1980s, the prospects for their replacement by alternative organizations were slim. They remain the central actors producing democracy and in making it work. As the Union expands its jurisdiction, policy competencies, and powers, political parties might be expected to play an increasing role in efforts to assure democratic control. So far, there has been little evidence of the development of an entirely new party system for the European Union. Instead the trend has been toward adaptation of the existing national-level parties to actions on the European scene. and I argue that the lack of progress toward a European party system is the result of this national orientation: parties that are well designed to work at the national level are not appropriate at the European level. If parties are the key to democracy, there will be a need to develop a new party system at the European level with party structures and orientations that are different from those at the national level.
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