Decision-making in Swedish political parties

In a doctoral thesis from 1998, Jan Teorell studied decision-making in the two largest political parties in Sweden, the Centre-conservatives and the Social Democrats. More specifically, he has studied the actual influence of the party organization, its opportunity to influence and its possibility to hold the decision-makers accountable:

Teorell, Jan 1998. Demokrati eller fåtalsvälde. Om beslutsfattande i organisationer. Skrifter utgivna av statsvetenskapliga föreningen i Uppsala. Uppsala: Uppsala university.

Teorell’s objective is to test Robert Michel’s so called “iron law of oligarchy”. I quote the following from the abstract in English:

“Both party organizations, however, suffer from an almost complete lack of actual influence over the decisions made by the top-level elite, and the opportunities to influence are relatively limited. What tempers the confirmation of Michel’s thesis is only that the decision-makers usually occupy elected positions within the parties, and that they to some extent provide information on the basis of which they can held accountable.”

This doctoral thesis is interesting because Troell claims that there was no reliable comparative information about the inner life of Swedish political parties, before 1998. He compared his results with comparative data by Kenneth Janda, from 1983. Janda, on the other hand, used data from 1960. According to Janda, USA and Sweden had the most decentralized party organisations of 15 compared western countries (p. 347).

One could further add that one of Janda’s variables was the election of party leader.

– In Sweden, the new party leader in 1969, Olof Palme, was hand-picked by his predecessor, Tage Erlander.

– The successor to Palme was elected by a labour movement committee.

– During the 2011 election of a new party leader for the Social Democratic Party, the final candidate was picked by a nominating board. The party convention then voted for this candidate with no votes against.

It would seem that Janda was an example of an early study of Swedish political life that had little basis in reality.

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