The International Role of Political Parties

Kay Lawson. Handbook of Party Politics. Editor: Richard S Katz & William Crotty. 2006. Sage Publishing.

What role do political parties play in the arena of world politics? Do national parties have access to that arena, and if so, how? How strong are the few transnational parties that exist? Whether national or international, do parties work openly and democratically in international politics or is their influence indirect, difficult to ascertain, and sometimes undemocratically carried out?

To seek to answer these questions, as well as to place the discussion of the international role of political parties in a meaningful context, it is necessary to begin with a few words about how the traditional role of parties as agencies of linkage has changed. As we will see, these changes strongly influence what parties can and will do at levels above the nation state.

Although political parties still claim to serve as agencies of democratic linkage between citizen and state, this claim, always subject to question, is now more difficult to substantiate. In nation after nation, citizen trust is low, abstention is high, and increasing dependence on funding by large donors (directly or illegally) means that after electoral victory the parties’ programs are sometimes set aside for policies rewarding those who have contributed the most. Major parties are accused of entering into cartel-like collusion, seemingly better linked to each other than to those whom they are expected to serve (Katz and Mair, 1995). Participatory linkage (giving rank-and-file supporters a serious role to play in internal party decision-making) has all but disappeared in many nations, and responsive linkage (paying serious attention to supporters’ policy preferences) is also harder to find once the campaign dust has settled and the real work begins (Lawson, 1980; Lawson et al., 1998).

Linkage by reward continues, but is more selective (and thus less democratic) and, some have argued, more difficult to maintain in modern political systems, as the inexorable process of globalization steadily shifts key decisions away from the state and forces compliance with conditions established by the interaction of the world market and international or regional treaties and rules. Internal redistribution of resources, for fair purposes or foul, is no longer so easily arranged: even corruption has been globalized (Ignazi et al., 2005).

Do national parties therefore risk becoming interesting anachronisms, full of sound and fury, empty of consequence, entirely controlled by others? Are they incapable of serving intranational goals outside national perimeters? Are they hopelessly outperformed at the international level by TNCs, NGOs, INGOs and TSMOs, organizations that serve limited clienteles for limited purposes and that normally make no pretense of democratic linkage to others?

Inasmuch as democracy itself posits connection with—indeed, rule by—the demos, these questions are not trivial. Although arguments that the state remains a powerful entity are persuasive (Reis, 2004), if the trend is nonetheless in the direction of increasing regionalization and/or internationalization, and if no other agency is seriously filling the multiple democratic deficits emerging in the process of globalization, then it is indeed time to investigate the role parties play now and are likely to play in the future at levels of governance above the state.

The purpose of this chapter is to consider how far that investigation has proceeded, with an emphasis on the questions of linkage raised above. We may say from the outset that the investigation is far from complete, a condition that will permit us to raise a number of questions at the end that others may find interesting to pursue in future work. First, however, we will examine some of the information we have regarding how national parties take part in international governance. This will give us the background we need for a second section, exploring the frequent claim or assumption that at the international level it is NGOs in one form or another that now do the work of parties, and do it better. Then we will consider transnational parties: where they exist, how they are organized and perform. A final section will consider the present and probable future role of parties at the international level from a somewhat different perspective, one more tightly linked to the forces of globalization than to international governance.

National Parties in International Governance

Although parties have been seriously weakened as agencies of democratic linkage, and are often controlled by a non-democratic few, this does not mean that they are weak as instruments of power. National political parties are and always have been among the most powerful participants in the international arena. International agencies do not spring full grown from the weary shoulders of Atlas—the decision to form them is made by partisan politicians within nation states. When these partisans win national elections they win control of appointments to such bodies, and they normally appoint their own partisan supporters to represent the government they now control. Any others who win such appointments on the sole grounds of their expertise must always be very careful not to act contrary to their appointers’ partisan plans. Most of the appointments made do not require legislative approval and national parties’ successful campaigners (i.e. elected officials) are thus able to send whom they wish into the international arena, except as they may be constrained by the need to reward their most generous supporters.

Moreover, the capacity of national party leaders to fashion international policies and agreements does not depend merely on such appointments, nor is it exercised only at the time and place such decisions are made. Parties bring their power to bear on international policy-making both long before and far away, within the nation states. Laura Macdonald and Mildred A. Schwartz (2002) have examined the role of national parties in Mexico, the United States and Canada in developing the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), showing in detail how parties in all three nations took pro- and anti-NAFTA stances in election campaigns in the years leading up to the treaty. Particularly interesting were the efforts of the parties out of power: in Canada such parties offered ‘loud and strong opposition’ in the Canadian parliament, while in Mexico the Partido de Acción Nacional (PAN) demanded (in vain) a referendum on the question of ratification, and in the United States the Democratic Party was forced to engage in a long process of intraparty negotiation as its small business supporters rallied to populist appeals for greater trade barriers while its allies in high-technology industries lobbied hard for freer trade. The impact of these stabs at opposition was, however, quite limited. In Canada, even the leftist parties, when in power, ‘appeared powerless to resist the global and domestic pressures toward removing trade barriers’ (Macdonald and Schwartz, 2002); the PAN has not repudiated the treaty now that it has come to power; and of course the Clinton Democrats came out strongly in its favor. Macdonald and Schwartz (2002: 145) interpret this to mean that ‘the leaders of all three governments approached their tasks as though the national political systems in which they operated—including their own parties—would not be an impediment to their goals.’ This interpretation, however, implies a largely non-existent difference between governmental and party leaders in the cartelized party world of today and it is probably more reasonable to assume that, having taken the appropriate and possibly useful electoral stances of opposition and gained power, party representatives in government are often more complicit than supine—free to support the very policies it was tactically wise to oppose prior to victory.

On the other hand, some national parties that are normally not in power (or are very much in the minority within ruling coalitions) have had an undeniable impact on the formation of international policy. The Greens are of course the preeminent example of powerful opposition that does not falter (or at least not much) after election scores are in. Since the late 1970s Green parties in Western Europe have played a major role in bringing environmental dangers to the attention of their own and other nations’ governments, working hard and often successfully to force national governments not only to adopt ecologically sounder policies at home but also to send their representatives to international meetings armed with demands for stronger action at that level—the only level where such global environmental problems as desertification, climate change, and ozone layer depletion can be solved (Richardson and Rootes, 1995).

What constitutes success is, however, relative -and arguable. According to Hein-Anton van der Heijden (2002), the cartelization of major political parties, in particular their tendency to become merely helpful parts of the state, seriously impedes the power of the Greens to achieve the passage of sufficiently strong pro-environment policies, be it at the national or international level. Yet what van der Heijden calls party failure at the international level, focusing as he does on the Greens, anti-environmentalists and leaders of non-Green parties might well term party success: blocking the passage of international treaties and regulations that national governments find unacceptable because harmful to favored domestic economic interests and/or invasive of sovereign power of the state is something that partisan representatives can and often do accomplish at the international level.

In any case, we clearly must be very careful not to exaggerate what parties can achieve—or will even try to achieve—via national governments in order to foster international democratization (never the same thing as winning the adoption or blockage of particular policies). In the first place, most of the world’s governments are not themselves based on free and fully competitive elections. Secondly, candidates for office, with or without meaningful competition, do not normally make the policies they expect to pursue (in person or via appointments) in international bodies a key part of their campaigns. Partisan appointees to international bodies who have been appointed by and/or won office without attention to an international agenda will be highly unlikely to feel themselves strongly guided by public opinion at home.

Or are things changing? The US invasion of Iraq in 2003 against the collective will of the United Nations and the expressed views of many of her traditional allies provoked an altogether unusual measure of public concern and attention regarding US participation in international bodies during the 2004 presidential election season, and helped set the political agenda in Britain as well. Whether this situation has set a new precedent—one that could conceivably contribute to the democratization of international decisions via national parties -or is simply a passing phenomenon remains to be seen.

Another way parties may sometimes work at home to influence the direction of international governance is to focus on implementation. Green parties, for example, often play a strong role in calling attention to violations of international environmental agreements. Parties whose support base is mostly industrial working class or agricultural small farmers may do the same. But here, too, the sword of democratization is two-edged. The same kinds of parties, plus parties serving business interests, may find it more ‘democratic’ to seek to block the application of specific international statutes within their home states than to work to ensure their implementation, thereby weakening rather than strengthening linkages with the international decision-making body.

Do NGOs do it Better?

If parties are so limited in their willingness and ability to use the power they have via national governments to serve as agencies of international democratization, are NGOs any better? A brief detour in their direction seems worthwhile.

To begin with, it must be said that NGOs themselves are not particularly democratic; even the least responsive of political parties will have statutes requiring consultation with its membership and give them at least pro forma attention, but NGOs are under no such obligation. ‘Membership’ usually requires nothing more than sending money once; consultations are almost always advisory only and designed to elicit funds rather than to seek genuine guidance. Green movements are unusual in sometimes calling for nominations to leadership positions, but the list of those allowed to nominate is typically quite restricted. For example, as of 1998 Greenpeace USA had 400,000 members but distinguished between normal members and voting members. ‘The former can if they wish join the activist network [and] take part in mail protests or demonstrations, but only 190 members are voting members; to be such a member you must have at least six years’ commitment to Greenpeace and the decision to grant such status is made by the five member Board of Directors’ (Lawson, 1998).

Even the most enthusiastic defenders of NGOs as agents of positive globalization seldom claim they are or even should be instruments of international democratization. They focus instead on how the web of interactions NGO activists have created among themselves is steadily building a global civil society (Iriye, 1999; Ronit and Schneider, 2000). Although the amazing proliferation of NGOs in the past twenty years and their massive presence in or ‘parallel’ to regional or international meetings on key global topics lend considerable credibility to this claim, it is also true that ‘practically all major NGOs with the financial means to attend regional and global intergovernmental meetings are from the world’s “North”’ (Borgese, 1999: 987). Building the global civil society may be the first step to building representative linkages to international governing institutions, but there is obviously a long way to go to complete that step and little sign that doing so is a high priority for most existent NGOs.

Studies of NGOs often focus on the work they do outside governments and outside conferences: raising international consciousness of the problems of particular groups and populations and gathering funds that permit them to take direct action themselves (such as the work of the Grameen Bank in Bangladesh and of Acción International in Latin America). Such studies often make it clear that when NGOs do become more intrinsically connected to the work of governance, be it via specific national governments or international agencies, any linkage established is at the present time very likely to be from the top down. Michael Edwards and David Hulme (1995), for example, discuss how international aid agencies sometimes funnel their assistance through NGOs they deem especially good at reaching the poorest and neediest. Mark Leonard (2002) urges national governments (especially the US government) to find ways to work with NGOs that have ‘credibility expertise, and appropriate networks’ such as Human Rights Watch or Oxfam. Such state sponsorship sometimes seriously compromises NGO credibility with local populations and diminishes their potential for serving as meaningful agencies of democratic linkage. The US invasion of Iraq has provided some particularly pointed examples. On the American side, the US Agency for International Development gave out ‘humanitarian contracts’ to NGOs with the stipulation that they agreed not to speak to the media and to recognize that they are ‘an arm of the [US] government’ (Klein, 2003). On the Iraqi rebel side, NGO workers were kidnapped and menaced with execution. We may, of course, say that NGOs represent a new kind of democracy, with representation achieved not via elections or binding consultations, but via participation (even merely monetary) in organized groups that represent their members’ most cherished interests, be they humanitarian or selfishly economic, and that in turn bring pressure to bear successfully on international bodies involved in making decisions that affect those interests. Such a truncated and, finally, uncivil definition of democracy, abandoning hope for a wider citizenship in which represented individuals take a measure of responsibility for all the decisions made by a polity, may well be all that can be hoped for at the international level, at least for now.

However, even this rudimentary democratization via the NGO is difficult to find in the work of international bodies. Although NGOs are much more openly present than parties and indeed sometimes quite vociferous at international meetings, their actual impact therein appears to be much less than often imagined. Most of the world’s NGOs are weakly financed and inadequately supported by public opinion. They have no assured place in the halls of global power; they must constantly renew their assault on the consciences or pocketbooks of those who do have the power to decide. They can fail. They can disappear.

Furthermore, even stronger NGOs serving on impressive international advisory boards appear to have little or no real power. Eva Etzioni-Halevy (2002: 207) points out, for example, that although the International Monetary Fund (IMF) maintains contact with a wide range of NGOs, including labor unions, religious and women’s groups, such groups are seen by the IMF ‘first and foremost as targets for communication from the IMF and the dissemination of information about the IMF … a means of engaging and bringing the IMF’s views to a wide range of interlocutors.’ The IMF (1998) itself claims only that such groups ‘provide opportunities for the IMF to listen.’

Similarly, Clark et al. (1998) find that although NGOs ‘are an integral part of UN thematic conferences,’ they are commonly ‘shut out of the most crucial stage of conference planning … and are given subordinate roles in conference documents.’ Such limitations have been demanded by specific government delegations and agreed to by the UN (whose customary practices in any case include a taboo against overt criticisms of member governments at UN-sponsored events). Significantly Clark et al. (1998: 35) conclude, ‘State sovereignty sets the limits of global civil society.’

Nor do even the wealthiest TNCs always prevail via or above the nation state. Leslie Sklair (2002) has argued that a new Transnational Capitalist Class (TCC) is able to work through national governments for effective control of international policy and demonstrates the process with case studies including the global tobacco business. However, Aynsley Kellow (2002), noting the success of other NGOs in fighting international seed companies using new techniques of genetic modification, argues that in fact well-organized NGOs working in global coalitions can and often do hold transnational business interests very much in check.

In sum, although NGOs are in certain respects strong and impressive actors in the international arena and do seek to serve a wide range of interests, they are nonetheless not working as agencies of democratic linkage, and we should not be misled by the glowing encomiums they receive, and often deserve, into imagining otherwise. Unlike parties, their successes are often more visible than their failures or limitations. We often cannot see exactly what the national parties are up to internationally, and they often work anything but democratically, but they nonetheless clearly control the work of international governance much more powerfully than do the NGOs. All the more reason for scholars to hold the mirror of democratic linkage up to them and see what is going on—and what is not.

Transnational Parties and Party Networks

‘Transnational’ is, say Harlan Cleveland and Walter Truett Anderson (1999: 879), ‘a word whose time has come.’ Although so far we have stressed the power national parties have via partisan representatives sent to international bodies, we are not forgetting the more obvious form of party activity at the international level: international and regional parties and party networks.

There are four major international networks: socialist, liberal, Christian democratic, and conservative. Of these, the oldest, best known, and strongest is the Socialist International. This transnational party network traces its roots back to the International Association of the Working Man (founded in 1864) and the Second International (founded in 1889) and was recreated after World War II in its present form, rapidly building up to 125 member organizations from 105 countries. Strongest in Western Europe, it has gained strength in Latin America and Eastern Europe as well (Wells, 1998).

The three other transnational party networks are younger, smaller, and weaker. The Liberal International was founded in 1947 and has members ‘and observers’ from 69 countries. The Christian Democratic International was also founded in 1947 and has 67 member parties. The very conservative International Democratic Union was founded in 1983 and has 70 member parties from 56 countries (Wells, 1998).

All four organizations work to spread the political ideologies to which they are committed by holding meetings, attending the meetings of other parties and groups, publishing books and pamphlets, and so forth. But their best-known and most effective initiative has been within the Parliament of the European Union (Gaffney 1996; Hix and Lord, 1997). There, the first three of these four party families have become the Party of European Socialists (PES), the European Liberal, Democratic and Reformist Group (ELDR), and The European People’s Party—European Democrats (EPP/ED). Conservative transnational party activity in the EU is represented by the Union for a Europe of Nations (UEN), which is characterized as ‘Eurosceptic,’ and the Europe of Democracies and Diversities (EDD), ‘highly critical of the EU and further European integration.’ (Day, 2000: 238). Other EU party groupings are the far left European Unitary Left/Nordin Green Left (EUL/NGL) and the Greens, organized as the European Federation of Green Parties/European Free Alliance (GR/EFA). The 732 seats filled in the 2004 European elections were divided as follows, in order of ideology (left to right): EUL/NGL 36; PES 200; GR/EFA 41; EDD 17; ELDR 66; EPP-ED 275; UEN 27; NA 70, unaffiliated 70 (International Herald Tribune, 2004a).

The EU parties are examined in far greater detail in a subsequent chapter in this book by Robert Ladrech, as well as by other authors (Hix, 2002; Hix and Lord, 1997; Bardi, 2002; Ladrech, 1997). Here, however, it is appropriate to examine briefly whether or not these party groups are in fact fostering democratic linkage at a supranational level.

Once again the answer is complex. In the first place, the institutional design of the EU poses special problems for representative democracy. The European Parliament, added to the European Economic Community in 1967, was a non-elected body with no legislative functions for the first 12 years of its existence. Member nations appointed representatives to it, and the Parliament’s only function was to oversee the work of the Executive Commission (it had the right to approve commissioners and to force the resignation of the entire Commission at any time by a two-thirds vote, as well as the right to approve or reject the annual budget with respect to non-obligatory expenses, i.e. those not demanded by the terms of the founding treaty). Not until 1979 were direct elections held; the electoral system to be used was (and remains) for the individual states to decide. In 1987, the Single European Act (SEA) gave the Parliament the right to accept, reject or amend policies proposed by the Council of Ministers relating to member states’ internal markets, although the Council may, if unanimous, overrule a rejection. Otherwise, the principal decision-making bodies of the EU remained the European Commission, which meets once a week and proposes rules and regulations, and the Council of Ministers, which is the true legislative and executive organ of the EU; the members of both bodies are appointed by the member states.

The limited reforms enacted over the past several decades were not seen as sufficient, and it became more and more common to speak of the EU’s ‘democratic deficit’ and to recommend greater powers for the Parliament as the cure. Finally, in 2003–4 a new European constitution was written that takes much more serious steps in the direction of democratization. If this draft constitution is ratified by the member states, it will mean that no proposition of the Commission can be adopted without the approval of the Parliament as well as the Council of Ministers (Article 33). The draft constitution also calls for the Parliament to be given the right to elect the President of the Commission, the Union’s single most powerful leader, presently chosen by the European Council (the biannual meeting of Europe’s heads of states and foreign ministers) and merely ‘approved’ by the Parliament (Ferenczi, 2004a).

Although these are definite moves toward further empowering the one organ of the EU that is linked to voting citizens, the changes should not be exaggerated. The clause giving the Parliament ‘codecision’ powers over laws is limited to projects that do not concern fiscality social questions or police cooperation. The nomination of the President would still be made by the European Council—the difference is that instead of being expected to approve, the Parliament would have a true right to elect, backed up by the power to refuse: if the candidate did not receive a majority in Parliament a new candidate would have to be proposed within a month.

The constitution also calls for a change in what constitutes a majority within the Council of Ministers. A new ‘qualified majority’ would be required, consisting of at least 55% of the member states representing at least 15 different states and at least 65% of the EU population. (Ferenczi, 2004b). Although praised by the two most powerful EU leaders, Gerhard Schröder of Germany and Jacques Chirac of France, as constituting an important measure of democratization, this must be taken with a grain of salt: as noted, the Council of Ministers is not itself linked to voting citizens; Schröder and Chirac are national party leaders. The relationship between the national parties and the supranational parties in the EU is complex, the division of power between them uncertain, and the capacity of the new constitution to effect significant change in that regard is far from clear (Deschouwer, 2000).

In deciding whether the cup of EU democratization is now approaching half full or still more than half empty, several considerations are in order. First, as noted, the constitution has yet to be ratified. Second, there is certainly good reason to doubt that, if it is, the Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) will begin to exercise their new powers more in accord with the votes their party groups helped gain for them than with their home governments. Hix (2002) has shown that up until now national party policies have been the strongest predictors of how members will vote, regardless of which supranational party group they belong to. Furthermore, many MEPs are responsive to particularized group interests, and take an active part in what are known as ‘intergroups’ dedicated to such matters as language and culture, minorities, consumer rights, animal rights, etc. Although such groups have no formal status, the deputies belonging to them do seek to influence EU decision-making on their behalf (Lequesne and Labastida, 2004).

Another reason to be cautious in predicting greater democratization in a more powerful European Parliament is that, despite the protestations of scholars, European voters themselves have so far shown remarkably little understanding of or concern for the policies candidates for election propose to adopt if elected to serve in Strasbourg. The record low turnout in the 2004 European elections and the very poor showing of candidates ideologically linked to presently ruling national parties were unanimously interpreted, no doubt correctly as a ‘vote-sanction’ against the policies of those parties at home and ‘dissatisfaction with politics in general’ rather than as the rejection of particular EU laws and regulations or disgust with that body’s lack of true democratization. (Service France, 2004; International Herald Tribune, 2004b). The candidates themselves were accused (again no doubt correctly) of having lacked ‘a sufficient consciousness of the importance of the institutions of the Union’ and of having failed to find a way to bring the issues at stake into play (Ferenczi, 2004c). One author says flatly, ‘the citizen is singularly absent from the democratic process’ of the EU (Delperée, 2004). His answer is to call for a change in the political culture of the organization, but it seems reasonable to amend that recommendation to include a call for a change in the political culture of the candidates and their electorates as well.

Overall then, we must conclude that even the best-developed of transnational parties, those active in the EU, do not yet play a stronger role in supranational politics than their national counterparts, nor a more democratic one. However, interesting changes have been made and others are proposed, changes which do have a potential for shifting power to the parties and for permitting their electorates, when they finally awaken to the issues at stake, to insist on more democratic links to them.

For Further Study: Denationalization without Internationalization

Globalization is an international process, but its advance does not always mean the internationalization of governance. We have seen that national parties, while not necessarily following democratic norms, are nevertheless strong agencies, perhaps the strongest, in determining the course of affairs in international decision-making bodies, playing this role via their appointed representatives of national governments. Given the difficulty some still have in accepting the cartel model for contemporary parties (despite ample evidence that it is in fact operative even at the international level, as successful parties work in collusion with national governments on behalf of the goals they jointly set), it is tempting to stop here: recent scholarship goes against the dream of parties as agencies of democratic linkage between citizens and states, and these are hard truths to accept.

However, it is precisely at the international level that we begin to see the glimmerings of yet another disturbing change in the role parties play. National parties may be in collusion with national governments, but to whom do those governments belong and, if they have new owners, what do their new proprietors seek? Can we still be confident that elected leaders in charge of democratic governments always rule on behalf of the popular majorities who elected them?

National parties are formed—or re-formed—in new contexts now and carry out new functions. Their successful representatives sometimes take on a role that is, in a certain sense, against the state, and even against governance altogether. Such partisan leaders do not act against the holders of power, but against the very principles of the democratic state. They do so by subordinating national domestic goals to the imperatives of economic globalization, either because they believe that this will in fact make the nation collectively more prosperous, or simply in order to serve their own interests and those of their most important supporters.

Few would doubt that this is what has in fact been taking place in post-communist Russia, where studies have amply demonstrated that the new parties are at the service of powerful private interests with whom the national government negotiates to maintain its power (Pshizova, 2004; Golosov, 2003). Many perceive the 2003 invasion of Iraq by the United States as an activity undertaken on behalf of powerful oil interests, and some have gone so far as to see the events of September 11, 2001 as themselves the work of such interests. The determination of British and Italian elected leaders to send members of their own military to join that enterprise, against popular majorities of well over 80% opposing such initiatives, has been difficult to understand within the confines of the standard democratic paradigm. No doubt the phenomenon, if phenomenon there be, is not as widespread as some alarmists would imagine. Leaders are, after all, normally accorded flexibility of response in amazing and frightening times, in democracies as in other forms of government, and are not expected to follow the polls on a daily basis. Furthermore, it has never been the case that democratic governments in nation states give unreserved allegiance to the idea or practice of international governance, even in domains where they know themselves to be incapable of effective action. International acceptance of the idea of sovereignty militates strongly against internationalization of governance. Nonetheless, if parties are now more and more often working hand in hand with governments that are fundamentally anti-democratic, privileging the business contract over the social one on which the modern state is supposedly based, and if such parties’ representatives are carrying this perspective into the international arena, then the consequences may be far greater than yet imagined. Indeed, the perils of sporadic acts of terrorism, however dreadful to witness, may prove to have considerably less long-range significance for the human condition than will this ruthless rejection of democratic norms.

It is, of course, hard to believe that political parties, so long considered the key mechanism for turning democratic dreams into something approximating democratic practice, could become dangerous instruments for achieving so opposite a goal. As Leon Epstein (1983) pointed out, those who study parties tend to be strongly committed to ‘a long established conception of the special importance of parties in a democratic society … essential intermediaries for effective representation of a large and diverse electorate.’ He confesses that he himself has never really departed ‘from the intellectual context of [this] continuing commitment.’ Yet he dares to suggest that ‘the context along with the commitment may not be immutable.’ Now, more than two decades later, we certainly no longer believe parties are always effective agencies of democratic linkage between citizens and the state. The context has changed indeed, and the commitment has been shaken. We must consider the possibility that some parties are not only ever less capable of providing such linkage but are not really interested in doing so at all: they have different plans for the use of power.