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Today 218,771 card-carrying members of the French Socialist Party (PS) will vote

I assume this is the number that may vote, because unless PS uses Diebold you can not really know in advance the number that will vote.

And launched, at the same time, a vast membership campaign the success of which [70,000 new members -- afew] upset the internal applecart.

These numbers strikes me as a rather small socialist party in a country as large as France. In Sweden all political parties has shrunk the last 15 years (maybe longer, but swedish wikipedia has a good table  of the last 15), and Socialdemokraterna still has 124 789 members. And this in a considerable smaller country. Is the right wing also as small when it comes to membership? Does this has some connection with the french elite system?

Sweden's finest (and perhaps only) collaborative, leftist e-newspaper Synapze.se

by A swedish kind of death on Thu Nov 16th, 2006 at 12:44:26 PM EST
Hard to know how many people are members of the UMP, the other main French political party, but it is probably a little over the 200,000 mark.

In the UK (similar population level) New Labour (Wikipedia) : The party had 201,374 members on 31 December, 2004 according to accounts filed with the Electoral Commission. Does it still have as many, I wonder? The British Conservative Party is given at 300,000 members.

So I don't know :-) Maybe Sweden has a strongly participative democracy because... Just throwing out ideas: it's a small, well-knit society; up to now, it has been able to avoid some of the major dislocating effects of globalisation; there is in fact much less distance between the political class and the people (generally true of the Nordic countries).

The "elite system", by which I think you mean the tendency for top political personnel to come from particular grandes écoles and especially the Ecole Nationale d'Administration (ENA), may well have something to do with the lack of participation compared to Sweden. But there's more largely a general lack of belief in the capacity of the political sphere to do anything against the economic, and more particularly globalising economic, forces in the world.

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Thu Nov 16th, 2006 at 03:15:22 PM EST
[ Parent ]
It's not just Sweden. In Germany, like in Britain, there too has been a massive reduction in the number of party members, yet last time numbers were in the news, the SPD had 567,925, CDU 561,070 members. Even the Left Party and the FDP has 60,000 members each. The country has only one third more citizens than France or Britain.

On the other hand, here in Hungary, the 30-40,000 members of the Socialists (you can't be sure of the exact number, there has been a scandal of fictious party members that is said to be the tip of the iceberg) are in line with the French or British numbers (multiply by six for population correction). Here it is seen as a low number, and interpreted as a weakness of both democracy (lack of committed political activism) and parliamentarism (parties not deeply embedded in society).

I wonder if Migeru can dig up Spanish numbers.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Thu Nov 16th, 2006 at 03:55:34 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Just for the record, I took a look at Germany too (SPD):

SPD – Sozialdemokratische Partei Deutschlands... With more than 600,000 members it is the largest party in Germany.

It is quite possible that smaller countries has larger percentage involved in parties. But the reason I got quite surprised is that the "death of the parties" in Sweden is quite a big subject. Using the numbers provided by wikipedia (my previous comment), in 1962 18% of the population was members of a political party. From there:
1962 18%
1970 17%
1979 19%
1991 7%
2000 4%
2006 3,3%

The big loss during between 79 and 91 was in mainly due to the right bloc governments action in untieing the links between the mayor unions and the socialdemocratic party. Until 1991, if you became member of a union belonging to LO, you also became a member of the socialdemocratic party. But since then all the big parties has lost a lot of members, giving some problems to find candidates for local elections and such. At current rate the political parties will be empty in 2020...

If this is a general trend in western Europe (or a larger area) it is worth exploring.

Sweden's finest (and perhaps only) collaborative, leftist e-newspaper Synapze.se

by A swedish kind of death on Thu Nov 16th, 2006 at 04:05:17 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Indeed the Mitgliederschwund is a big issue in Germany, too (just compare your dated numbers from the English Wikipedia and mine from 1 October), and the low number of party members is a theme all across the former East Bloc countries.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Thu Nov 16th, 2006 at 04:08:33 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The consequences of this might be interesting. In Sweden I think two trends has become apparent as party membership has dwindled:

  1. New parties. There is a lot of local parties (The "place name of community here"-party) and the parties that had a reasonable chance to enter parliament in 2006 was more then ever. 12, I think (7 already in parliament, Sverigedeomkraterna, Feministiskt initiativ, Piratpartiet, Junilistan och Sjukvårdspartiet).

  2. More open parties. This trend is weaker but some parties are making serious attempts at reaching out to their voters. The greens used adds to get candidates for local elections, Moderaterna (the major right bloc party) made limited use of open primaries to get some new and popular candidates.


Sweden's finest (and perhaps only) collaborative, leftist e-newspaper Synapze.se
by A swedish kind of death on Thu Nov 16th, 2006 at 04:52:51 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I guess I've never thought about it, but these numbers strike me as shockingly low, when you consider that the oft-defamed ACLU in the U.S. has over 500,000 card-carrying members! And just in my own little state, which has a third the population of France, there are 5.5 million registered Democrats and 3.1 million registered Republicans.

By the way, can someone tell us how much dues are for a typical political party in Europe? Is it really prohibitively expensive?

by Matt in NYC on Thu Nov 16th, 2006 at 05:14:35 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I pay about $35 a year.

But it's not strange the American parties have many members, after all, you're not allowed to vote if you are not a party member in the US, right?

Peak oil is not an energy crisis. It is a liquid fuel crisis.

by Starvid on Thu Nov 16th, 2006 at 05:39:06 PM EST
[ Parent ]
And I pay about 1 dollar a year to Piratpartiet (but we have had discussions on raising the membership fee).

As I understand it, in the US you are not allowed to vote in the primaries unless you are registered for the party having the primary. In the regular elections you need to be registered, but you can register as an independent.

Sweden's finest (and perhaps only) collaborative, leftist e-newspaper Synapze.se

by A swedish kind of death on Thu Nov 16th, 2006 at 05:43:40 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Although it depends on the state. In a few states, you can just show up on the day of the primary and "declare" yourself a Republican or a Democrat. And in some other states it's quite easy to change your registration back and forth.
by Matt in NYC on Thu Nov 16th, 2006 at 05:49:17 PM EST
[ Parent ]
As said elsewhere, being registered and being party member is different -- the latter involves much more commitment and participation.

I have no clue what's "typical". But I did look up some figures for you.

  • Hungary, MSzP: minimum 100 Ft/month ($0.5), party members pay more on their own
  • Hungary, Fidesz: 500 Ft/month ($2.5)
  • Germany, SPD: the lowest price is €2.5 for students and low-income people, for normal party members, €5 to €245 minimum (increasing as function of income)
  • Germany, Greens: 1% of netto income or more


*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Thu Nov 16th, 2006 at 06:01:09 PM EST
[ Parent ]
for normal party members

Erm, I mean normal earners.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Thu Nov 16th, 2006 at 06:06:13 PM EST
[ Parent ]

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