Explaining Non-governmental Organizations in the OECD and Beyond: The Role of Political Parties
27 Pages Posted: 25 Aug 2014
Date Written: 2014
We argue that the historical development of a country’s political system, in particular its system of political parties, should have lasting effects on the nongovernmental organization (NGO) population of the country through the styles of NGO regulation the government adopts. NGOs can serve as substitutes for political parties as mechanisms of political representation and interest mobilization and mediation. NGOs are thus potential political competitors for authority as well as collaborators in processes of service provision and interest mediation (Dür 2008; Beyers, Eising, and Maloney 2008; Steffek, Kissling, and Nanz, 2008). In countries with a single or hegemonic political party there is thus a strong incentive, and the ability, to strictly regulate NGOs in order to limit competition for power (Dahl 1966; Wolinetz 2004). We thus hypothesize that national NGO regulations will be more restrictive in countries with single party systems. In these countries, however, there is strong demand for NGOs to represent interests otherwise excluded from political parties (formal avenues for representation) and thus we expect larger populations of INGOs. In cases where there are a number of political parties representing contending interests within society, we expect to see fewer NGOs, as there are formal alternatives with better access to policy-making already available. Permissive NGO regulation, on the other hand, are more likely in countries with the most political parties (3 or more) as the extent of political competition created by the party system creates a state-society relationship which encourages contestation and thus NGOs do not fundamentally challenge political stability and structure (Sartori 1976; Siaroff 2000; Salamon and Anheier 1998). We expect there are likely to be more INGOs in countries with moderate multiparty systems, as opposed to extreme multiparty systems, as in the latter there will already be a multiplicity of interests represented. We use data on the number of political parties from the Database of Political Institutions (Beck et al. 2001) in combination with data on national populations of INGOs from the Union of International Associations and our original index of National NGO Regulation in order to assess the institutional (legal) relationship between parties and NGOs as alternative mechanisms of interest representation within the OECD. Our research reinforces the fundamental importance of state structures for understanding the shape and size of national INGO populations as well as their behavior. We thus investigate political party competition as an explanation for variations within national NGO regulation.
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