Political parties are the backbone of any democracy. Nevertheless, the European Union’s (EU) support to political parties in the field of democracy assistance is lacking a rigorous approach. The European Network of Political Foundations (ENoP) underlines that support for political parties in third countries is an essential element of democracy support. This paper argues that political pluralism can only be fostered by going beyond the classical areas of donor engagement such as election support, good governance, human rights and the rule of law.
Three typical approaches in support of political parties will be outlined: the multi-party dialogue, the all-party technical assistance approach, and the peer-to-peer programmatic party development assistance. The multi- and all-party approaches provide a sense of neutrality to party assistance but may suffer in terms of legitimacy, when the international yardsticks of political and civil rights are not respected by a participating party. On a programmatic and organisational level, the peer-to-peer approach develops stronger and more relevant political parties. It includes capacity-building for political negotiations as well as dialogue and coalitionbuilding to effectively contribute to a more functional political party system.
Politically affiliated foundations provide an opportunity to build the plurality of qualified political alternatives, which are essential in a democracy. The political foundations in EU member states have performed this function for decades and possess experiences, methods, skills and operational platforms for the EU and the member states to make use of.