The extant literature on clientelism has tended to focus on large parties. This article asks what happens to small parties that operate in an electoral system dominated by large clientelistic parties. Our case study is the Romanian National Liberal Party (PNL). During the last two decades, it has become the second-largest party in Romania. This is unusual because the liberals in post-communist countries are politically weak. The main base of liberal support is typically urban middle classes. By contrast, PNL's electoral base is in the economically underdeveloped rural world. Using electoral statistics, economic datasets, and qualitative analysis, we demonstrate that PNL's success was due to pork-barrel spending and the development of clientelistic networks in which local mayors play a key role. PNL was able to grow by following the example of the dominant parties and creating networks of loyal mayors. In turn, this opens perspectives for research about clientelism in small communities, as well as comparative studies based on small parties.

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