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True power are those that move markets whether it is in the financial world, or the affiliate world.
To get at your point if you control a huge segment of any affiliate market, you can bounce numbers of off competing programs and get the terms that are best for you.
If the merchant does not have a hot offer then the publisher will obviously have the power because the merchant will have to convince (persuade) a publisher to run their offer.
Ex: Look at the recent growth in the online poker industry.
4 yrs back hardly anyone knew about it, today everyone is becoming an affiliate for them due to high returns they offer to affs and also value for money for the players.
the merchant will always have the power as he drives the industry and affiliates are like distributors or networking channel.
If you are a smaller affiliate you have no power whatsoever, you have to be very careful.