This paper argues that the analysis of democratic national assemblies is not only impossible without discussing political parties, but also incomprehensible without recognizing parties as the most significant organizations within them. Parties have structured political groupings and demands on government even before assemblies were democratically elected. And although parties may be in decline as institutions mediating between society and government in the current era, they remain significant as organizing forces within government. The paper first explains the origins of party organizations within parliaments by exploring why individual members and the assemblies taken as a whole need parties: what are their costs and benefits? It then describes the manner in which party organizations operate in different national assembly chambers. The third section analyses types and sources of party influence, including the role played by party leaders in manipulating legislative agendas, structuring Members’ policy choices and shaping policy outcomes. The final section reviews how politi-
cal scientists have sought to explain intra-party cohesion and discipline across different national assemblies.