In many Eastern European democracies, the institutionalization of political parties is considered to be weak. This does not mean that political parties are irrelevant or are weakly organized, but rather that Eastern European parties are weakly linked to society.
With the notable exception of the Hungarian FIDESZ party, Eastern European parties seem to be incapable of capturing and building a stable electoral support system. However, other features of party institutionalization indicate remarkable strength. One such feature is the internal organization of political parties. Many Eastern European political parties can be characterized by mass party internal organization, though their rank-and-file members are far less numerous than traditional mass parties. Despite their weak links to society, Romanian political parties have developed complex hierarchical and territorially-based organizations. This is an outcome of the communist legacy on one hand, and of the legislative framework that forces parties to adopt similar structures on the other. It is our speculation however, that the “on-paper” rights of lower party echelons are not enforced. Romanian party leaders wield fantastic power, which indicates weak party organization and a strong dependency of parties on their leaders.
This analysis is more descriptive and exploratory, and concentrates on detailing the most relevant political parties. We will begin with a discussion of the rules that govern the creation of political parties, and follow with a comparative description of the four most relevant political parties, focusing on national, regional, and local organization.
The Creation of Political Parties in Romania
This section will focus on the complex laws providing for the creation, dissolution, and internal organization of political parties in Romania, and will be followed by a description of the political parties selected for this study. We claim that political parties in Romania are highly centralized and dominated by leadership. Recent changes in legislation, as well as experimentation by political parties, are aimed at democratizing the institutional framework and giving a voice to grassroots party members in the decision-making process. In this paper we will focus on the internal organization of four political parties: the PSD; the PNL; the UDMR; and the UNPR. According to a September 2015 survey, these are the parties that would be most likely to cross the 5% vote threshold, if parliamentary elections were organized next week (INSCOP 2015).