Party "capacity" in new democracies: How executive format affects the recruitment of presidents and prime ministers

David J. Samuels, Matthew S. Shugart

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


Scholars and practitioners express concern that parties in "third wave" democracies are poorly developed, compared to parties in older democracies. We suggest that parties vary in their organizational "capacity", focusing on parties' ability to select trustworthy executive agents. Capacity is higher where parties can vet potential executive talent by observing future leaders over time in the legislature - an increasingly available option as democracy matures. The key distinction in parties' use of this option lies in the delegation structure between a party and the executive. Parliamentary systems offer a clear line of delegation, which parties control. In presidential systems, parties must recruit executive candidates who can win a popular election, requiring characteristics that may not be well correlated with those that make them good party agents. As parliamentary democracy matures, we find a steady increase in prime ministers' average length of prior legislative service. For presidents, there is significantly weaker growth in prior legislative service. We also theorize about and investigate patterns in semipresidential democracies. Our findings suggest that the institutional format of the executive is more important for party capacity in new democracies than the era in which a democracy was born.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)137-160
Number of pages24
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2014


  • Parliamentary
  • Party capacity
  • Party organization
  • Presidential
  • Semi-presidential
  • Third wave

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