Publication | Report/Paper

A Study of Political Party Assistance in Eastern Europe and Eurasia


Under a joint project of the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and the U.S. State Department (EUR/ACE), Democracy International (DI) conducted a comprehensive study of efforts to assist political party development in Eastern Europe and Eurasia. USAID’s Europe and Eurasia Bureau and the State Department commissioned this study as part of an effort to increase the effectiveness and impact of political party development programs in environments constrained by U.S. Government assistance budgets, donor fatigue, and political and structural developments within recipient countries. The purpose of this study is to suggest more effective approaches to political party development based on an examination of constraints and opportunities in the E&E region and current best practices.

Using a comparative research design, Democracy International, USAID and the State Department selected cases to shed light on various approaches to political party assistance (PPA) in different contexts. Before beginning field research, DI prepared an extensive review of both the academic and applied literatures on political party assistance and developed selection criteria for the choice of case studies. Between September and December 2006, DI conducted interviews and focus groups in four case-study countries: Serbia, Romania, Georgia and Kyrgyzstan.

Party assistance strategies can be grouped into three core areas: (1) enhancing the electoral competitiveness of parties, including training in campaign strategy and tactics for parties and candidates, (2) party building, organizational development and internal democracy, and (3) aiding parties in legislatures and governance. The party institutes have conducted election-assistance programs in most countries in Europe and Eurasia, but these programs remain particularly active in Eurasia. Also common throughout the region are party building and organizational development programs, including constituency development, grassroots campaigns, membership expansion, leadership training, policy development, and efforts targeting women, youth and minorities. Legislative programs have been relatively common in targeted countries in Europe but less so in Eurasia; increasing attention to the role of parties in governance would be welcome, particularly at later stages of democratic transitions.

Building on a review of the comparative politics and applied literatures on party assistance, including assessments, evaluations and studies of party assistance of donors and implementers in transition countries, we consider the categories of structure, strategy and agency as ways to conceptualize and identify potential hypotheses for explaining variations in party assistance outcomes.