Validity and variation in the parentela policy network: conflict and cooperation between ruling parties and interest groups in Bulgaria
Petkov, Mihail Plamenov
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Policy networks is a body of literature dedicated to modelling state-civil society relationship formats. In this particular relationship, an interest group with privileged (insider) access to the party in power gains advantage in the policy-making process by utilizing party’s ability to make political appointments in the civil service. The parentela (or type 1 parentela) was first discovered by Joseph La Palombara (1964) in 1960s Italy and was documented later again by Greer (1994) in 1920s-1970s Northern Ireland. Still, there has been no parentela research since 1994, save for Yishai (1992), who argued the parentela did not exist in Israel in 1980s. It seems the concept is considered of little utility to the academic community today. At the same time, as a category of policy networks, the parentela is also susceptible to the wider criticism of Thatcher (1997) and Dowding (1995; 2001) that the policy network literature is unable to introduce causal dynamics in its models and distinguish between network features and network independent variables. This study, therefore, addresses both criticisms by studying the party-group-civil service relationship in Bulgaria, for the period 2013-2015, using 26 elite interviews and a number of cases. Results show that this particular policy network is still viable today. They support Yishai (1992) that hegemonic parties have no effect on parentela formation. The study demonstrates that the cooperation between ruling parties, in need of funds, and organised businesses (groups), in need of market advantage, produces the parentela. In a case study on construction tenders, the study demonstrates La Palombara’s parentela, by exposing the process of how ruling parties intervene in the civil service through political appointees to ensure construction projects are granted to their party insider groups. The study also discovers a new parentela dynamic, labelled as type 2 parentela, where the party intervention extends further to the free market by affecting party insider’s market competitors through prejudiced regulatory inspections that disrupt targeted businesses’ operations temporarily or altogether.