The literature on party change has shown how the advent of the digital revolution and the diffusion of new Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) in the democracies of the 21st century have influenced the way political parties communicate and perform their functions. Less investigated, however, is the organizational reaction of political parties to the challenges posed by the transformation of the communications environment. The aim of this paper is to scrutinize whether parties evince a transformative tendency towards virtual models in which new digital ICTs are used as ‘functional equivalents’ of the old organizational infrastructures. To this end, the paper focuses on the Spanish democracy – a paradigmatic case of the political transformations that European democracies have undergone since the 2008 economic crisis – comparing the organizational models of the main political parties: the Partido Socialista Obrero Español, the Partido Popular, Podemos and Ciudadanos. Particularly the analysis – through the use of parties' documents – focuses on whether and how digital tools are used by the Spanish parties in three dimensions: the participants in the organization, the organizational configuration and the decision-making process. The main conclusions are: new challenger parties make a more intense and radical use of new ICTs introducing ‘disrupting innovations’ in their organization, while old and mainstream parties gradually adapt their organization to the new digital environment introducing ‘sustaining innovations’; parties on the left make greater use of ICTs in order to foster greater internal democracy when compared to their corresponding parties on the centre-right.
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