The democratisation of party leadership selection: The Portuguese experience | Intellect Skip to content
Volume 9, Issue 2
  • ISSN: 1476-413X
  • E-ISSN: 1758-9509


In recent years, members of established political parties have received increased powers to select candidates and leaders. Several explanations have been advanced to account for this trend, focusing on the evolution of the political system, the characteristics of party systems or intra-party dynamics. The aim of this article is to examine the introduction of democratising reforms for leadership selection in Portuguese parties. Despite the high degree of centralisation and the low levels of internal participation, all governing parties have expanded members' rights during the last decade. The main findings suggest that party leaders have decided to change methods for leadership selection mainly for instrumental purposes in order to consolidate their internal power or gain electoral benefits. Moreover, this organisational transformation has had reduced effects on the internal party functioning. Regardless of these similarities, the data show that there are important differences between parties with regard to levels of participation and internal competition.


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