Inside the personal party: leader-owners, light organizations and limited lifespans

Glenn Kefford*, Duncan McDonnell

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Citations (Scopus)


Scholars in recent decades have discussed the emergence of a new leader-dominated party type, variously described as ‘personal’, ‘personalistic’ and ‘personalist’. However, there has been no original comparative research examining whether (and how) such parties resemble one another organizationally and whether they constitute a distinct organizational type. This article does so by comparing the parties of Silvio Berlusconi in Italy and Clive Palmer in Australia. Based on interviews with those in the parties and party documents, we find our cases share two distinctive organizational features: (1) the founder-leader’s dominance of the party and perceived centrality to its survival and (2) the relationship between the party and members saw active members discouraged and organization at the local level was extremely limited/non-existent. Building on this analysis, we then propose three criteria for identifying other personal parties and point to the existence of a possible subtype. We conclude that the emergence of personal parties requires us to reconsider our understanding of contemporary party organizations in advanced democracies.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)379-394
Number of pages16
JournalBritish Journal of Politics and International Relations
Issue number2
Early online date6 Feb 2018
Publication statusPublished - May 2018


  • cartel parties
  • party membership
  • party organization
  • personal parties
  • political leaders
  • political parties

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